Kids and Art: How to Teach Your Kids to Create and Appreciate Art

A young child uses markers and pens to create a drawing on a sheet of paper.

Kids and art go together like milk and cookies: It’s a natural fit! But many parents struggle with teaching art appreciation for kids in a way that really connects with them.

The problem is a simple one: Trying to teach a kid about art in the way you would teach an adult usually won’t work. Most kids bore easily when they are made to focus on something that is low energy, doesn’t have obvious goals, or is overly abstract. You need to make sure they have fun doing it!

Today in the FrameStore Blog, we are looking at how best to bring kids and art together.

Very Young Kids

For very young children who aren’t yet old enough for school, art is mainly an extemporaneous activity. There may be very little deliberate intention, no “goal” or “vision” that they’re striving for. Any creative intentions they do have may fade out as the child becomes absorbed in the act of making. For many young children, it is enough simply to paint (or draw, etc.). For them, there is no need to complicate this with an object: “to paint what?” Letting children have free rein can be great fun. It lets their imagination flourish, and it can be a great outlet for pent-up energy. Finger painting or Play-Doh sculpting can be some of your child’s favorite activities.

During these formative years, the relationship between kids and art is mainly about introducing them to the instruments and physical motions of making art. While their young imaginations may sometimes be capable of briefly holding artistic ideas, it’s too early to try teaching “art appreciation,” for kids at this stage in their lives are still deeply engrossed in the journey of figuring out the basic laws of reality. Holding a paintbrush is as much about building motor skills and problem-solving skills as it is about creating drawings. The relationship between kids and art at this stage is a very basic one.

But by letting them play with crayons, pencils, and paints, even when they have no particular goal in mind, they will learn what these objects can do. This sets them up to recognize, in the years to come, that these objects enable willful self-expression, contemplation, and conceptual abstraction. Today’s chaotic cacophony of crayon scrawls may become tomorrow’s works of everlasting beauty.

You can give your kids ideas for what to draw by creating your own simple drawings. Creating art together can be a great bonding experience! Reading to your children, with picture books, is also very helpful. Books are the perfect fuel to help kids and art work together smoothly.

And don’t forget that art isn’t just at the end of a crayon or a paintbrush. “Sculpture” is another excellent outlet for expression, whether it be with mud, Play-Doh, rocks, or blocks. It’s important to expose young children to media like these that they can manipulate.

  • Tip: Children develop differently. If your child has a clear knack for making deliberate art, whether it’s any “good” or not, this is a gift that you should encourage. By the same token, some children simply will not be interested in the activities of creating art. Observe your child’s development, and strategize how best to engage them with art at the stage they are in.

Elementary-School–Aged Kids

By the time your kids enter kindergarten and grade school, most of them will be ready to take the next steps: making deliberate art and learning the most basic forms of art appreciation. For kids and the art they produce, straightforward motivations are still the rule. A kid’s “art appreciation” isn’t ready yet (in most cases) to resemble an adult’s art appreciation. At this stage in their development, appreciation is more about cultivating personal satisfaction from the activity of making art and from achieving success in producing the images in their heads. 

At this age, kids will be able to set goals and be purposeful in their art. (It’s fine if they still sometimes prefer to create art with no end goal in mind. Some kids never grow out of it!) They should continue to have access to plenty of books, including visually rich books like science and nature books. This is also a good age to start taking your kids to children’s exhibits and workshops at museums and galleries.

Remember that enjoyment is key to instilling a lifelong love of art; encourage your child or children to pursue art mediums that give them joy. Kids and art are all different, so pay attention to what excites your kids and what doesn’t, and let them develop in directions that are natural for them. Don’t try to force any particular style or medium of art on them.

Adolescent Kids

As they age into their tweens and adolescence, art appreciation for kids begins to become more technical, analytical, and objective. This is a good age for most kids to begin learning about the elements and principles of art and to begin receiving detailed technical feedback for improving their own art. As their minds coalesce into something more definite and their adult personalities begin to take form, kids and art will grow together.

This is also the age when most kids can begin to become art aficionados. Whether or not they like creating art themselves, many will begin to take an interest in the fine arts, the performing arts, and other various arts, beyond the realm of kids’ entertainment.

Encourage Your Kids with Rewards for Their Achievements

Positive reinforcement can help your children enjoy the creative process and internalize the value of art, building up the relationship between kids and art. Their artistic achievements should be met with rewards of tools and resources to advance their art further: coloring books with more challenging images, fancier pencils or paints, and sketchbooks.

Teaching art appreciation for kids also means teaching them just how much is possible for them, if they want it. Many parents also like to frame some of their kids’ best art, both as a keepsake and as a way to reward their kids and give them a sense that they can continue a life-long engagement with art, if they keep working at it.
FrameStore Has You Covered: Encourage your child’s imagination with a custom picture frame for their art. We are currently offering a special 50% off coupon! Give your kids, and the art they produce, a boost with one of our amazing frames!

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