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Teaching Art to Children

Teaching Art To Children. Part 1 - Should We Do It?

Like all healthy pre-schoolers, my little son was a genius.

Because education experts warned us parents not to teach our kids to read before they entered school, I refrained from doing so. But I used to put rag books in his crib along with the other toys. Nothing could stop him from associating the pictures of animals with the names printed beside them and then recognising the same words when he saw them elsewhere. Sound familiar?

While he cuddled on my lap as we listened to my record collection of classical music, he would tell me about the pictures and stories that came into his mind. When we took the dog for a walk, they'd both stop to inspect every interesting creature we met on the way. But the child tested my knowledge of natural history to its limits, and soon progressed from a magnifying glass to his first microscope. Any child does the same, if encouraged. And, of course, he drew.

His father had painted a piece of wallboard - 4 feet high by 8 feet long - with green blackboard paint and attached it to the little boy's bedroom wall. Along its bottom edge we nailed a length of curved frame moulding, to hold a supply of multi-coloured chalks and catch their fall-out. (This was one child who, despite his other little-boy devilries, never scribbled on the walls!)

Part of that board was devoted to an on-going and ever-changing panorama of some imagined War, usually complete with sound effects. And there were animals of every kind, natural or fantasy critters. You could almost see the movement of his fishes' fins. His cats stretched elongated necks and waved eloquent tails. I never tried to 'correct' these vivid drawings, nor did I give him those dreaded books of pictures to be coloured in, always keeping 'within the lines.'

Then he started school. One day he came home and showed me how the teacher had instructed the class on the proper way to draw a cat. You know what it was, don't you? A capital letter Q for the body and tail, combined with the letter M for ears. I had to go away in private and weep. And sure enough, the wonderful cats were never seen again on his blackboard.

By now you'll have gathered that I'm saying I think the best line to take on teaching art to children is: Don't!  Very young kids can be given big sheets of cheap butcher's paper and pots of washable poster paint, big soft brushes and a place where they can spread out and make a mess without getting scolded. It's neither necessary nor helpful to show them how to draw. Just leave them alone to have fun. It may help you to know this:

Scientists studying the origins of language have reported that elements of drawing and painting by very young children, anywhere in the world, are universally the same. So it seems possible that these early attempts are a preparation for speech rather than the expression of artistic talent, as we parents fondly believe. Interestingly enough, the same scientists have observed a striking resemblance between children's art and the marks made by certain 'gifted' chimpanzees, tamed elephants and even parrots who were provided with art materials.(c) Dorothy Gauvin

*Information in this post was previously published by Ezinearticles in an article Teaching Art To Children - Should We Do It? [Humanities] by Dorothy Gauvin

Read the second part of Teaching Art to Children - Is Your Child Talented in Art?

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About the Author
Dorothy Gauvin shares art knowledge from her careers as painter and gallery director in her 'ArtLife' blog. Her paintings and 'Life-Story' portraits in oils are displayed on