girl child artist paintingMaking art comes naturally to children. From the time they’re old enough to hold a crayon, they’re eager to make their mark—even if their 
canvas is the living room wall. Their creative eagerness and enthusiasm usually continue as they enter school.   

Art education serves many purposes. In addition to helping children develop artistic skills and the ability to focus, art instruction fosters an appreciation for the creative process. It also allows children to express their feelings. After Hurricane Andrew in 1992, for example, art teachers in Florida asked schoolchildren to draw pictures about their experiences as a way to convey the feelings they couldn’t express verbally.  

The overriding goal of elementary school art is to lay the foundation for a lifelong enjoyment of art. If your child shows an interest in drawing, painting, and working with clay and other materials, you can offer opportunities to pursue these interests at home. Your child won’t have the time limitations she faces in school and may enjoy 
having a long period to work on a project. 

Develop an Artitude

Try to set aside an area for art in your home. Consider having some of the following supplies available: paint, crayons, markers, colored pencils, children’s scissors, construction paper, tissue paper, paste, glue, clay, and collage materials. Set up the area so your child can work independently and experiment, but also insist that she participate in cleaning up. 

As your child gets older, she may take special pleasure in doing crafts projects (for example, weaving, jewelry, and pottery). Show interest in her work. Ask her to talk about what she has done, but rather than ask, “What is it?” say something like “How did you do this?” or “Tell me about your work.” Praise her efforts, but curb your impulse to tell her how to do it better. Consider framing her best efforts; find areas of the house beyond the refrigerator to display her work.   

Exposing your child to various media and styles of art is the key to enhancing his appreciation. Take him to one of New Jersey's wonderful museums, but keep the visits short to avoid museum burnout. Elicit her thoughts but don’t tell her how she should be thinking or feeling. Also consider enrolling your child in art classes that will offer instruction and an even wider assortment of materials than you have at home.

Keep in mind that art is all around us—on billboards, in commercials, on magazine covers, in the layout of a park, in the design of a building. Point out to your child aspects of art that might have eluded her, perhaps noting how color, shape, or texture enhances the work. If you’re involved in any aspect of art (for example, photography), invite your child to participate or at least observe while you explain what you’re doing. Then let the creativity flow.

Dr. Shore, a psychologist, teaches part-time at Rutgers University in NJ. He has authored six books and created a film series on bullying. Email him at

How do you expose your child to art? And what type of art does he/she love to do?