A Day at the Art Museum – Inspiring Children

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.

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

Jennie

About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
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51 Responses to A Day at the Art Museum – Inspiring Children

  1. reocochran says:

    You are absolutely an art mistress of the best kind, Jennie. (Maybe being politically correct I should say “art master”?) Bringing “real art” in paintings to display is awesome! I think I remember your using “real easels”, too. . .
    The use of “real tools” are an important way you teach your classroom children and their parents to appreciate these items and their processes.
    Although you have students who return years later, your impact spreads wider, more than you can ever know. ❤

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you so very much, Robin. You are my great cheerleader. And, your words are understood and appreciated more than you know. This post may be part 1 of part 2. Anything real is huge for young children, art included. Somehow art really reaches a child and becomes the banner for his/her accomplishments. It’s a wonderful thing. And YES, ‘real’ makes all the difference.

  2. And after reading your post, I am inspired too. 😊

  3. I want to back to school and start again with you!

  4. Norah says:

    Anything that makes children feel worthy and empowered is wonderful in my books. Your art classes and the children’s masterpieces sound amazing.

  5. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    This post is a very important piece on the importance of art for children. And I should add, for all people.

  6. Doris says:

    This is a wonderful blog & how luck those children are to have such an inspiring teacher.

  7. Oddly, it was a trip to the movie theater when Bambi came out that did it for me…we got there late and had to sit in the first row…and I remember as a seven year old staring up at the huge screen filled with ART and falling helplessly in love with color and texture and the beauty made by hand. Too bad an art professor from Berkeley totally ruined art for me back in college… But then Art’s loss is Horror’s gain. (As for the professor, I fed him to a beast with uncountable eyes and slimy tentacles years ago. Seemed an appropriate place to banish such ego.)

    • Jennie says:

      I love this story! How satisfying to feed the professor to a beast. Life does take interesting turns in the road. Art was not in the cards for you, yet it may come through in your stories. Good thing for horror.

  8. beetleypete says:

    I loved school trips as a child, but we didn’t go on them at a young enough age. Great to hear how your enthusiasm translates to your teaching. Schools definitely need more teachers like you!
    Best wishes, Pete.

  9. Darlene says:

    What a great way to get children enthused about art. Teachers like you are what make a difference in children’s lives. Keep up the good work.

  10. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Jennie Fitzkee with another post on education of young children and today the wonder that they can feel when learning through art.

  11. Amy D. says:

    Hi Jennie,

    As an early childhood educator still quite new to the field, I feel so fortunate to have found your blog. Thank you for the inspiration. I look forward to learning from you!

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Amy! I write about so many things in my classroom. Over 30 years, and I feel as excited as I did my first year. The difference is how much I have learned. And how it’s about the children.

  12. srbottch says:

    Terrific, Jennie. I have two new grandchildren, when can they begin your class?🎨😉

  13. srbottch says:

    On second thought, when can I enroll? 😂

  14. This is a wonderful post. I want to leave work and go home and paint!

  15. paulandruss says:

    Thank you for sharing your astute insights to these stunning works of art. I think your whole philosophy is probably ensuring there’ll be new geniuses in the future. Inspiration never dies in a child, it takes seed in minds and hearts and is passed on through the generations.

  16. This post makes me want to take out my paints and play! You’re so inspiring, Jennie. I can see why your kids love to paint. 🙂

  17. L. Marie says:

    It’s wonderful that you help instill an appreciation of the arts in your students, Jennie.

  18. Tina Frisco says:

    Outstanding post, Jennie. I think art is a fabulous way to engage children. It’s colorful, alive, has no boundaries, inspires creativity . . . It exists outside of time and space. It’s one of the few places we can easily meet our true selves ♥

  19. Love this! 🎨 Beautiful post. Inspiring children with art…completely agree. Engaged. Empowered. Confident. ❤

  20. This is wonderful, Jennie. I know how you feel, when I step into a gallery, library, or even see street art I get all tingly, like my imagination is soaking up, for when I can create. Such a beautiful thing that you can bring this into the lives of these children.

  21. ❤ what you say about REAL! Your ongoing enthusiasm is such a blessing for your students and for all of us who get to witness your approach to teaching.

  22. I know little about art having had no exposure. Your students are lucky to be exposed so early. I do know I like art I can feel with my fingers as I’ve always been visually impaired. Touching brings it to life for me. I think that is why I like Mixed media and textile arts. I run my hands over everything. Can’t do that in museums. 😦

    • Jennie says:

      Marlene, you absolutely know art. Maybe you aren’t familiar with paintings, but art is so much more. Like textiles. I went my first quilting show two years ago. Wow! It was art I had never seen. I watch Antiques Roadshow to try to learn about pottery, jewelry, all kinds of art.

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