Art and preschoolers go hand-in-hand. If I want children to feel excited and inspired by art, it must begin with me. I recently visited the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire and… oh my!
Let me back up. I want to talk about real with young children. This is important. Learning and joy come from playing with real things; tree stumps for building, tools at a workbench, cooking, forging through snow without sleds or shovels, live animals, musical instruments. When I introduce something real, every child instantly wants to ‘be there’. Art is no exception.
I was struck by this painting, a view of Mount Washington in 1880, by Gamaliel Beaman. Then I looked closely. This is what I saw:
Every brush stroke. Raised paint. Light. Intense color. I was inches away from a masterpiece. Real.
Art. I need to share all of these real elements with the children in my class. I need to fill their hearts the way mine is filled. I want children to not only become excited, but to want to explore the world of painting. That’s what I do. Here is how:
This 1940 painting by Hans Hoffman has the colors and brush strokes and fascination that will excite preschoolers. I have no doubt. Similarly, this 1996 Michael Mazur has color and form, but in a very different way. Oh, this will definitely excite children.
When children are introduced to art that has no borders, and is simply beautiful to look at, it fires the imagination and they become engaged. They want to paint. They explore with big brushes and little brushes. Art is now fun! Often, I can’t put the paper out for painting fast enough.
What next? I make art experiences real. Artist paints, water colors squeezed from a tube onto a palette becomes the medium for painting. We talk about major pieces of art and learn techniques. We study artists. Most importantly, I teach children that art is valued. Therefore, their art is valued. It takes multiple days to work on a piece of art. Yes, children return to their art over and over again until they are satisfied. Then at last, their finished work of art is deemed a ‘masterpiece’.
The lesson here goes far beyond art; every child feels empowered and worthy. That in itself is a great thing. The foundation for confidence and self-worth comes from experiences that are real. Art does just that.
Count both me and the children as inspired.