Children and Art: Creativity, Empathy, and Cultural Awareness

Children are highly intuitive, especially when it comes to art and emotions. They may be unable to express everything they see and feel with words. But exposing children to art is a fantastic way to enhance creative and social-emotional development. 

My sons @ Museum of Natural History, Washington D.C., 2017

I am a firm believer that children and art go hand in hand. From the youngest age, I took my children to museums to explore and experience art, culture, and artifacts. 

As a preschool teacher, I incorporated art into my lessons regularly.

One of my favorite ways to combine children and art was a lesson I would do on artistic interpretation.

I chose twenty to thirty famous pieces of art. They ranged from Dutch Baroque with Vermee’rs The Girl with the Pearl Earring to Impressionism by Mary Cassatt to modern art by Jackson Pollack and Picasso.

Each child was asked to choose their favorite from two or three paintings. Then they created a story about the picture. I would write their stories down verbatim. Then type them up and create a book with their stories to keep on the classroom shelf. 

It was one of my favorite lessons every year. And it was one that received the most feedback from parents. So many of them never considered exposing their preschoolers to classic art. 

Interpreting Art Develops Creativy, Empahty, and Cultural Awareness

When young children are exposed to art, it automatically sparks creativity. They may wonder how the art was made and want to recreate it themselves. They may marvel at the colors and textures present or invent their own stories to explain the pictures.

Art makes people feel. Therefore children exposed to art are provided with the opportunity to experience and express a wide range of emotions.

Art exposes children to different cultures and ways of life. Viewing art from other cultures increases their awareness that not everyone lives as they do. They’ll see different styles of dress, homes, families, plants, animals, and more!

Cultivate Creativity at Home

There are many ways to cultivate creativity at home with children and art. Here are some fun and easy ways to bring more art into your child’s life.

  • Pull out your favorite famous images from your high school or college art classes. Supply them with crayons, paint, and paper, and let them reinterpret. 
  • Create a museum in your home by hanging your child’s artwork. A laundry line and clothespin along the hallway or in their room are all your need!
  • Read books about artists at home. Then follow up with a trip to a local museum or view paintings online.
  • Take pictures of 3-D art created with Play-Doh or sand. Turn the pictures into an album.
  • Keep an art area stocked with a variety of art supplies.
  • Look at picture books with few or no words and have your child create a story.

Think Beyond Markers and Crayons

People often think of crayons, markers, and paper when picturing children and art. But I encourage you to think beyond markers and crayons. Art is about the process of creating something. Therefore the more supplies you can provide your child, the more creativity will occur.

Create a loose objects box with feathers, buttons, scraps of fabric and paper, colorful straws, felt scraps, sequins, stickers, and more! If you’re unsure how to get started, buy an arts and craft supply kit. Supply glue, paint, scissors, playdoh, LEGOS, stamps, ink, glitter, etc.

If you’re worried about the mess, place a drop cloth under your art station and or take art outside on nice days. The good thing is there is no wrong way to do art! To learn more about doing art with young children, check out my book 50 Things to Know About Crafting with Preschoolers.

May 22, 2023, by L. Elizabeth Forry

written by

L. Elizabeth Forry 

L. Elizabeth Forry is an Early Childhood Educator with fifteen years of classroom teaching experience. She earned a Master of Science in Early Childhood Education from The University of North Dakota and has a Bachelor of Arts in English and one in Music from Lebanon Valley College. She has taught children in Japan, Washington D.C., Chicago, and suburban Maryland. She is trained as a reading therapist, has a TEFL certification, and has done extensive work with children regarding mental health, social-emotional development, gender development. She has written curriculum for children and educators and has led training sessions for parents and educators on various topics on early childhood development. She is the mother of two boys and resides outside of Annapolis, Maryland.

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