appreciating childrens art

Recently my son (3.5 yrs) and I were drawing on our easel.   After drawing the image in the above right side of the picture, his comment was, “Momma, I think that you look like a chicken in that [picture].”   In my daftness I had originally assumed it was a chicken, not a picture of me. How should we respond to a child’s drawings even if we cannot see what they are in the child’s eyes?

Tips for appreciating childrens art:

  • Look at it through the child’s eyes.

Children don’t yet have proficient control over their hands and fingers like adults do.   Children also see things differently.   An adult looking at a family portrait may see the dad as a large giant.   But when looking at him from a 3 year old’s perspective, Dad does seem quite large.
  • Avoid labeling the artwork with what you think it is.

Automatically labeling a drawing as a dog or a chicken (in this case) may send the child the message that their work is not recognizable.   By asking the child about their picture it shows that you are interested in what they are doing, feeling, and thinking.
  • Ask questions regarding the child’s color choices and methods.

By asking open-ended questions, it allows the child to express their thoughts without being forced into yes/no answers.   Questions like “Can you tell me about all of this red?”, “What feelings did you have when you made this picture?”,   or “These swirls are interesting.   Why did you use them?”
  • Give specific feedback.

Comments such as “Good job!” or “What a beautiful picture!” are generic and say nothing about the specific artwork or the child’s efforts.   While many of us mean it to bolster the child’s self-esteem and make them feel good about their creation, this can have the reverse effect.   It may be a picture the child created was of a scary monster.   If the comment made on it was “What a beautiful picture!”, the child may feel inept or misunderstood.
  • Appreciate their efforts.

Art has long been a popular means of self-expression.   Creating images through free art allows children to express their emotions, work through issues, or use their imagination.   By reflecting on the motivation and feelings the child had while creating their “masterpiece”, we are allowed a glimpse inside their minds.

Every child is an artist.   The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.

-Pablo Picasso

Check out these other art posts from the Quirky Mommas:

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  2. These are such great tips Andie. I have read time and again that “good job” etc is not the best response but sometimes it is really difficult to come up with something else. You’ve really provided some useful info on other ways to respond. Thank you!

  3. Wonderful tips! So often we want to put our own perspective on the pictures when it’s more important to listen to our child’s perspectives.

  4. Great tips, Andie! I especially like how you talked about giving specific feedback. That is so important and yet often hard to do. With practice, it can replace the sometimes automatic “great job.”