Woman and two young children in kitchen with art project smiling

What is Child Art?

CHILDREN love art because it’s fun and provides them with authentic self-expression, but how important is art to a child’s healthy development? Children’s art is many things to many people. To a parent, art is a display of a child’s imagination. To an educator, it’s a teaching tool. To a psychologist, art is a way to understand a child’s mind. To a grandparent, it’s a way to feel connected. To a librarian, it’s a way to enhance book knowledge. To a child, art is a way to have fun, make decisions, and express choices.

Are children more creative than adults?
Perhaps Picasso was simply impressed by the spontaneity of children’s art. Child art, like most child behavior, is direct and uncensored. A young child doesn’t critique his work – he paints freely and with pleasure, enjoying the fine and gross motor experience of moving paint over paper and watching lines, shapes, and colors come to life. Art puts a child in the “driver’s seat” and provides freedom: the freedom of choice, thought, and feeling.

Art is a Language:

Do you remember seeing a photograph that communicated a whole world of feeling? Perhaps it was a famous photograph or simply a family snapshot that captured the richness of a special moment. A picture is often worth a thousand words. Visual images communicate emotions and complexities in a way that words cannot. The ability to communicate non-verbally is particularly important for children. Art is a powerful tool that gives children the ability to express their thoughts and emotions long before they can fully express themselves with words.

Once you acknowledge that art is a language, the importance of respecting a child’s artwork becomes obvious. Yet too often adults praise art before really looking at it, offering routine comments like, “What a pretty picture!” Comments like these can actually be damaging to a child’s self-esteem, causing him to feel misunderstood. Pictures sometimes communicate sad or angry feelings that are not “pretty” at all. It’s far better to view a child’s art slowly and with quiet interest before making any comments. Over time, with authentic and respectful support from adults, children will use art as way to express real feelings.

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