Art in early childhood: Engaging children about their art

Talking to children about their art can expand on their learning, encourage their efforts and inspire them. Learn how to engage with children about their art.

Talk with children about their art.
Talk with children about their art.

Giving children the supplies and opportunities to engage in art activities is great. It lets them express themselves as well as learn and practice new skills. We can enhance the experience for them if we as parents or caregivers engage with them about their art.

Michigan State University Extension has some tips and tricks for engaging children about their artistic endeavors, as explained by Johnson and Johnson-Grafe at the National Association for the Education of Young Children Annual Convention and Expo in 2005.

  • Ideas. Talk to children about their thoughts and ideas. Tell me about what you were thinking? What made you choose to draw/write/make this?
  • Process. Try asking them about their process, how they made it their art. Tell me about how you made this? What techniques did you use? Did you have a plan or did you figure it out as you went? Did you have any problems while you were making it? How did you solve them?
  • Materials. Engage children about the materials they used in their creation. What tools did you use? Tell me about how it worked? Would your art be different if you had used a different tool? Could you use the tool in a different way to get a different result?
  • Knowledge. Talk to children about what they know about their artwork including concepts, vocabulary, etc. Try relating any knowledge you’ve learned at home or in your classroom about art or artists. I see lots of different shapes/colors/lines. Tell me about the shapes/colors/lines you used. I notice some colors are dark and some are lighter, tell me about that. These lines are thick/thin/straight/wavy, etc.
  • Reflection. Art is first and foremost a form of expression, so engage your child about how they feel about their work. What is your favorite part? Is there anything you would do differently/add to/subtract from your picture? If you made this again, would you change anything? How does it make you feel? How did you feel when you were making it?
  • Future. Help them practice their critical thinking skills by considering their next masterpiece. What do you think you will make next? What kinds of art do you want to learn about or try?

For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the MSU Extension website.

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