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Talking to Children About Their Art

A few years ago, I was asked to guest blog for S&S Worldwide. I wrote about talking to children about art. You can view the original post here!

While I didn’t really set New Year’s resolutions, I did re-commit to a goal of blogging more… or at all, really. Since we are halfway through January and I’ve not blogged, I figure I’d start off by sharing the content of that blog with a few updates. I hope you enjoy and I would love feedback!

My favorite picture EVER of the first time my daughter painted. Somewhere there was a canvas!

I once overheard a teacher in a classroom I was working in say to their student, “You’re using too much green. Why don’t you use another color?” I didn’t say anything at the time, but I kept thinking to myself “Too much green? Is there such a thing as too much green?”

Prior to this experience, I hadn’t given much thought to how I spoke to my students about their art. As an artful minded person, it’s easy for me to embrace and encourage creativity. To be honest, I’m often envious and inspired by the creativity children display. They’re typically uninhibited when it comes to their art, which is something the majority of us have lost by the time we are adults. As Pablo Picasso wisely said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

As adults, it’s natural to want to project our own ideas and beliefs onto children. We are their teachers, after all. I know that particular teacher was trying to criticize her student’s art. In fact, I would guess she simply wanted the student to explore other colors beyond green, but how we respond to a child’s artwork is important. We should choose our words thoughtfully and, most importantly, we should avoid judgement.

So, how do we do this?

We can start by simply commenting on what we see. “Oh, I see you’ve started by making little red and green polk-a-dots on your paper.” Keep your comments non-judgmental and specific. Don’t assume a child has made something, unless you are certain.

We can also comment on the way the child is making the art, rather than the art itself “I like how you’re moving your brush slowly and carefully as you paint!”. Use your comments as an opportunity to give them the vocabulary words they may not have acquired yet. For example, you may tell a pre-schooler, “Look, you’ve made a triangle here. That’s a great shape for the roof.” or “I see lots lot tiny lines on the bottom of your page. That gives your painting such great texture.”

The more you describe what they’re doing with excitement and without judgement, the more the child will become confident and excited, feeling free to continue on their creative path.

As the child describes their art to you, ask them questions about their subject. For example, if a child has drawn a monkey, you could ask the artist the following questions:

Child: “Look, I made a monkey.”
Teacher: “Have you seen a monkey before?”
Child: “Yes, I saw one at the zoo.”
Teacher: “Who took you to the zoo?”
Child: “My mom. My cousin came with us, too.”
Teacher: “What were the monkeys doing when you saw them?”
Child: “I remember some were sleeping, but two of them were cleaning each other’s fur and eating the bugs they found.”

Beginning a narrative, such as the one above, can help the artist recall details they may not have thought of prior to the conversation. These details may later be reflected in their artwork. In addition to helping them recall details, a conversation could help them to evaluate their own work, allowing them to make any adjustments they feel necessary, without influencing their artistic choices or making suggestions yourself.

Process Art for Preschool

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Clear glue, glitter and washable paint on canvas at 6 months old!

A phrase I find myself repeatedly saying during Together Time is “Remember, it’s about the process, not the product.” Over and over again I say this to parents, so I figured it time to give a more in-depth explanation as well as some fun ideas on how to explore process art at home!

What is process art? It is defined as ‘art created primarily as a physical record of the creative process.’ When we talk about process art as it relates to our children, it is simply an art experience where the focus is about the process and not the product. If we think about it, when it comes to children, their desire to approach art this way is innate. We as adults are the ones caught up in the product – especially in this Pinterest age.

So, what defines a process art project? First, there are no step-by-step instructions and no sample for children to follow. If you’ve attended Together Time, you will likely be used to this idea. While it might seem like a crazy ‘free-for-all’ at times, I assure you there is a method to the madness! With no sample, there is simply no right or wrong way to create the art. There is no correct or incorrect way to explore the art materials presented and no standard of perfection to live up to!  This allows focus to lie only in the experience and exploration of techniques and materials/tools.

While this idea may seem stressful to us as caregivers, it’s actually quite calming for children (and adults who participate, too).  It gives children a rare opportunity to have freedom, full control and complete ownership over an experience and their creation. If you stop to think about a toddlers day, this is something they do not have very often!

Sounds great, right? (scary and great is okay, too!) So, let’s get started. My first suggestion for home is use a tray. Any tray. Most art stores carry plastic art trays, but you can also use a baking sheet or dollar store serving tray – it doesn’t matter. Highchairs are a great place for toddler process art, as is outside or even in the bath. Wherever you feel comfortable with a potential mess (and I guarantee, your comfort level will increase with experience).

Next create a simple set-up or ‘invitation to play’, which is another phrase you may hear from educators! This is simply a presentation of art materials and tools.  Sometimes I will do this before my daughter wakes up, so she goes right to the tray instead of the tv (works every time, too). It doesn’t have to be complicated. A few plastic figures/cars, three blobs of paint on a paper plate and some paper will keep a toddler busy for a surprising amount of time! Here are some invitations for play/to create from Pinterest!

Invitation to create with snow and watercolors!

If you are worried it could get too messy – set them up in the bathtub or on a drop cloth outside!

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Exploring washable paints outside – 6 months old.

Once they’re engaged, you can let them be or join in! If you need the time to prepare a meal, take it. But if you feel like joining in grab your own piece of paper and do so. Parallel art is a great way to bond and learn together. Try asking THEM for suggestions as to how to create – “what color should I use?” or “where should I add more paint?” and make comments about the experience “I really like making art with you!” or “I love how you’re using the brush that way!” as they work.

A while back I wrote a blog for S&S Worldwide on talking to children about art – you can read it here for more ideas!

If you want to make process art ‘giftable’, I love the wooden frames from Michael’s (they’re $1!) or keep some small canvases on sale.  Also, clear glue on a dollar store frame makes a beautiful stained glass piece!

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Clear glue, food coloring, toothpicks and a dollar store frame!
stained glass creation

I believe that introducing art materials in this way at a very early age has instilled a sense of confidence and mastery of art materials in my now 3 year old daughter. She has a true love for all things art and writing, which I feel is partly a result of easing her frustration  and doing away with limitations or result-oriented expectations early on.

If you want some process art inspiration, check out our Process Art board on Pinterest or follow us on Facebook to keep up with our Playgroup and Together Time classes!


Snow Day Play

It’s not easy being snowed in with a toddler. And if  you’re like me, you would prefer to stay in your pajamas and consume a lot of coffee on a day like this.

With that in mind, I want to share some ideas we’ve tried  for indoor snow play, so kids can get creative and caregivers can stay warm.  With a tray (cookie sheet works fine), a towel, water-resistant toys and some sand or kitchen utensils the possibilities are endless.

1) Snow People:

Making faces is a daily occurrence in our house. We make faces with ALL sorts of things (see our Making Faces Post for more ideas!). My daughter was thrilled with the idea of making faces in the snow using her Mr. Potato Head Parts.


Don’t have Mr. Potato head parts? Get creative and gather other things. We actually prefer to use small plastic toys to use as facial features! Think Lego, plastic play foods/utensils, small toys, marbles, etc. – the possibilities are endless!


2) Snow Art:

Let me start by saying, there is no wrong way to create art with snow. I  would simply set out paint, brushes, paper and snow and let your child explore the materials as they see fit. It’s a great early STEAM activity.


The snow can be used to wet the watercolors or watercolors can be used to paint the snow. Either way it’s about the process, not the product.

If you have ice on hand – icicles are great, but so are ice cubes – this is another fun way to explore liquids and solids. Add salt and liquid watercolors (or food coloring) and watch a colorful ice sculpture take form.

Ice Painting
Ice Painting

3) Sand Toys:

Sand toys are another great way to explore snow indoors (so are cooking utensils, if you’ve packed summer toys away). You can bake a cake, scoop and mix and build with snow, just as you would sand. Again, lay a towel down and fill a large container or tray and let kids explore. Add vehicles and plastic figures to extend this activity – the possibilities are endless!


4) Snow Hunt:

You can bury anything in the snow and have your child dig for it! It amazes me how this activity entertains over and over again. Take advantage of their interest level by hiding items for any target concepts. Above is a hunt for the /d/ and /c/ sounds, but you can easily hide letters, numbers, shapes or even sight words!

Helpful hint: Gloves are still necessary when inside! And if you don’t like messes (though it’s just water) the bathtub is a safe place to take these activities.

For more ideas, check out our Indoor Snow Play Pinterest board!

And please share with us some ideas you may have!




The Creative and Curious Playgroup

With the buzz of back to school in the air, I wanted to share some information about the Creative and Curious Playgroup. It’s a unique opportunity for toddlers ages 2-4 years to socialize and engage in creative play, while their parents take a much needed break. This small group meets on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9-11 am in a safe, diverse learning environment with the goal of generating a self-guided curriculum that allows each child ample opportunities to think, respond and learn in their own way.

Here is a peek into what our morning looks like!

9:00-9:20 Arrival, hellos and invitation for sensory play/free play.

An invitation for play consists of materials set up at a small table for children to explore. This can be sand, play dough, water beads, etc., but each invitation is related to an interest or theme we have been exploring together.

9:2o-9:35 Morning Meeting

Together on our button rug, we sing songs, do yoga and share a story together.

9:35-10:00 Art/Free Play

Our art projects have consisted of clay, watercolor resist, oil pastel, collage, print making and much more! Projects tend to center around a story read or theme we’ve been exploring together. Emphasis is placed on the process, rather than the product and children are free to participate in the art project for as long as they wish.

As each child completes their art, they are invited to explore our playroom and sensory bins.

10:00-10:15 Second Meeting

Calendar,  music, story or discussion – depending on the day’s flow/theme.

10:15-10:45 Art/Free Play II

10:45 – 11:00 Goodbye Circle

Above are the ‘bones’ of our time together, but we are also flexible with timing, allowing the children to move and explore materials and activities at their own together.

Please check this gallery for some of our favorite explorations so far.

We are happy to answer any questions you may have about our Playgroup and Together Time, so please feel free to visit our Facebook page or send us an e-mail (wearecreativeandcurious[at]!


Me! Exploring self-portraiture.

One of the themes we’ve been exploring in our Playgroup lately is self-portraiture. The idea came about when I noticed a few children declaring, “look it’s me!” as they described their drawings. Below are some of the ways we explored the basics of portraiture together.


A trip to the library brought us Let’s Make Faces by Hanoch Piven. It’s a an excellent book with illustrations made completely of loose parts! It quickly became a favorite in our classroom, providing great inspiration for a variety of fun activities.


Light Table

I used a dry erase marker to draw a face shape on our light table. The children then used various objects to add features. It was great practice before making our clay faces!


Clay Faces

This is probably my favorite projects we’ve done so far! I set out a bunch of random items and provided each child with a ball of clay. The children rolled the clay flat, using their self-portrait mats as a guide (You can download the template here from Picklebum). They then selected loose parts to personalize their faces with features. It was such fun watching them try different faces and the final sculptures were just lovely and really reflective of each child’s personality!


The Creative and Curious Playgroup

February has been a busy month for our Creative and Curious Playgroup kids. In addition to getting to know one another and settling into our new space, we have been establishing new friendships and exploring many fun activities. Here is a peek into what we have been up to.

Through our author study of Eric Carle, we’ve been discussing concepts of print and learning important literacy skills. We’ve shared many stories together, but our favorites have been The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? and Little Cloud. These are stories we have retold many times through song, our felt board and in our art!


During art, we have discussed Carle’s illustrations – pointing out the colors, textures and shapes we see within his work. Through a series of painting and collaging activities, we created our own Eric Carle inspired art.


After reading Little Cloud, we explored clouds in a few different ways. The children were most excited exploring how rain clouds work in a fun science experiment!


We also made our own puffy paint and created a cloud mural together.



We have been learning about the letter C – it’s shape and the sounds it makes. Using  our surprise ‘c’ bag as a prompt, we sang about items beginning with C and even created a C shaped caterpillar!


In the playroom, the children are most excited about the light table and having daily tea parties! We share cupcakes and tea daily as we learn about our friends. We’ve made play dough and ice paintings and much much more!

To keep up with Creative and Curious’ classes and events, follow us on Facebook!