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.


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!


“Curiosity is More Important than Knowledge!”

(c) creative and curious 2015

You can thank Albert Einstein for those wise and truthful words. It’s no secret that curiosity is crucial to learning. One of my favorite things as a parent and a teacher is just how curious kids can be. It’s inspiring. The longer children stay curious, the more driven they are to learn and discover. As parents and educators, it’s our role to support this curiosity. If we’re smart, we’ll use what they’re naturally curious about to teach the skills we want them to learn.

Unfortunately it’s easy to diminish creativity, without even realizing it. We all say things such as, “don’t touch that!” or “you can’t get that outfit dirty!”. I know I am guilty of phrases along those lines, especially after a long day or too little sleep. We are far from perfect, but remaining conscious of our responses to a child’s curiosity is key in supporting their creative exploration and  learning.

I remember during my student teaching, a professor told us “a child who has just been yelled at, will never retain the lesson you were teaching, only the fear of that moment.” I have always kept that phrase in the back of my mind. Let’s think about it for a second. Even as adults, it’s a very valuable idea to keep in mind. How constructive is a conversation where people are yelling? How effective is a boss who screams at her employees? If a child is afraid of an educator or placed in a chaotic learning environment, he will fear creativity and exploration. Novelty and discovery will not feel safe. He will likely choose to stay in his comfort zone, not pushing boundaries towards exploration and learning. Without a safe environment to experience new things and feed our curiosity, we would all have fewer opportunities to succeed, to learn, to make friends and so forth.

But a child (and adult!) whose curiosity is supported, will want to repeat that curious moment, continuing to explore, to learn and build upon it. They’ll want to share it with peers and teachers and to be praised for their discoveries. They’ll become secure in their learning and seek further exploration and knowledge. I believe that’s what Albert Einstein meant when he said the above.

What can we as parents and educators do? First take a deep breath. I know these moments of curiosity can often come at the worst times or disguised as bad behavior. My daughter once poured an entire cup of coffee on the kitchen floor. Did I want to scream? Yes. Did I? Almost. But I stopped and reminded myself that she was exploring. She’s a one year old. She was curious. She didn’t understand or care that her action was not a socially acceptable (or convenient) thing to do! My initial reaction was frustration, but I tried to view it as an opportunity. She was showing me what she was curious about.

Instead of yelling, I filled a bucket with water and brought it outside. I added some food coloring and gave her some old cups, letting her pour water into various containers, on the floor, on herself. Refilling the water as she demanded “more water, mommy”. Instead of a tantrum from a one-year-old, because she didn’t get her way/got yelled at. I got about 40 minutes of uninterrupted computer time and she got to do something she enjoyed. Win. Win.

But there is more! Through her exploration she was also internalizing pre-concepts of basic science (mass, volume, liquid) and language (lots of new vocabulary). I was busy, so I continued to work at my laptop but I occasionally peeked over and gave her some useful vocabulary while she played independently – wet, float, sink, liquid, cold, empty and full – all terms I’ve now seen her generalize in other play. How cool is that!?

To build on this curiosity, I set up water play for her regularly, in hopes of avoiding upset and additional spilled drinks. By recognizing it was a current interest, I gave her the opportunity for further exploration. I began to give her tools to expand upon her exploration, such as foam letters and shapes. Her strong curiosity for water also provided an opportunity to teach things that mattered to me such as shapes (hello math skills) and letters (more literacy) as well!

If you think about it, your child shows you the things they are curious about on a daily basis. How can you give them additional opportunities to explore the things that interest them? Once you’ve done that, try adding to the activities – setting them up for success in expanding their discoveries while building off of their natural curiosity!