Kitchen Table Classroom: Art Appreciation, Preschool Style


Teaching kids to love art is simple!

The most obvious way to teach our children to appreciate art is by giving them as many opportunities as possible to experience and create art in various settings and all different mediums. Kids are expressive, imaginative, and creative by nature, so arts and crafts come naturally to them. Art gives children many different textures to explore, exposure to colors, and allows them to practice those fine motor skills that lead to writing.

Charlotte Mason, a 19th century homeschool pioneer, was a huge proponent of teaching children {even very young children} art appreciation. No, this isn’t like that boring class you took in college with slides and a droning professor. Art appreciation with kids isn’t about forcing them to memorize names, dates, and influences. It’s about instilling a love of art in children and showing them the multitude of ways to express oneself creatively.

Some homeschoolers like to focus an entire unit on just art, while others break it up into segments throughout the year, ensuring that during that time, children are exposed to a variety of arts and artists. I prefer the latter approach because art can be incorporated into any lesson you could imagine!

Some Helpful Resources

For starters, I’d like to share with you some books I recently landed on that I am absolutely loving! Author Laurence Anholt has a series of books written and illustrated for children called the Anholt Artists Books for Children that feature various famous artists in each book and help children understand the artist’s style, influence, and famous works.

I recently purchased these three books for our home library, and they are absolutely beautiful:

Van Gogh and the Sunflowers, by Laurence Anholt

Van Gogh and the Sunflowers, by Laurence Anholt

The Magical Garden of Claude Monet by Laurence Anholt

The Magical Garden of Claude Monet by Laurence Anholt

Leonardo and the Flying Boy by Laurence Anholt

Leonardo and the Flying Boy by Laurence Anholt

Aren’t those just gorgeous? The illustrations in each book are done in the style of the featured artist, which was the first thing that drew me to this collection. Eventually, I’d love to own all of his books and expose Little to a huge variety of great art and famous artists. I want to expose him to a world rich in textures, colors, culture, and vibrancy.

Hands-on Learning

The best part about art appreciation at this age is how hands-on children are. Kids love to get dirty. They love putting themselves right in the mess of things and experiencing new activities. Arts and crafts are a perfect forum for this natural creativity. If you haven’t seen my post about the “essential” {in my opinion} list of craft supplies to keep on hand for little ones, go ahead and check it out. That’s a great place to get started when building your craft closet. I think it’s good for any parent -not just homeschoolers- to have these supplies on hand for a rainy day activity.

If you’re right brained {like me} then the subject of art should come very easily to you. If you claim that you lack in creativity {which I don’t believe anyone does}, that’s okay. A good supply of crayons, colorful paper, fingerpaints, stickers, and glue are really all you need to help a child understand the beauty of art.

To take the lessons a little further, I love the idea of teaching about an artist {possibly using one Anholt’s books} and then creating a hands-on activity for your kiddo. For instance, in the pointillist style of Seurat, a child could color in a picture using paints and a pencil eraser to make the dots. A Picasso lesson could be a fun activity for littles to cut and paste from magazines to create a one-of-a-kind self portrait. You get the idea.

Don’t Feel Intimidated

Art is not one of those subjects we teach our children so that they may master it. Instead, I teach art so that my son can develop an appreciation for art, artists, and different cultures. I want him to appreciate art museums and develop an artistic preference of his own. My goal is not to make him an artist. Sometimes we create a craft that just fails. Big time. That’s totally fine! For toddlers and preschoolers, artistic activities are more about the experience than the end product. 

Allow the activity to take a different turn! Allow the kids to explore new things. Perhaps you had intended to create a collage using magazine cut-outs and your little one has completed his project and is now requesting finger paint. Bring it on. That’s what I say! Giving children the artistic liberty to add to a pre-scheduled activity is exactly what education is all about. Our goal should be to create a spark that leads to a wildfire in their little minds.

They Aren’t Too Young- I promise!

As I stated before, in a traditional Charlotte Mason curriculum, a child would be taught about famous artists and famous works of art even at the elementary age. Mason believed that all too often, adults assume that children are too immature or too ignorant to be able to appreciate or comprehend great art, so rather than exposing them to great works of art, we instead give them “picture books” full of images of babies, puppies, balls, and trees. Why not allow them to soak up the things we also find beautiful? From a very young age, never hesitate from exposing them to rich colors, beautiful art, famous pieces, and a variety of textures.

If they hate the artwork you expose them to, that’s totally fine as well. There is nothing wrong with them forming opinions about particular artists. I don’t quite “get” Picasso, but I have always loved the flowing, romantic images created by Monet. Each person is different, and so is my son. Even if he’s only four. He’ll like and dislike the things I put in front of him. It doesn’t matter whether he memorizes who painted what. What matters is that I create a rich learning environment for him to thrive in and give him as many opportunities as possible to grow in his knowledge of the world around him. That is art appreciation.





Filed under Activities, Kitchen Table Classroom, Learning at Home

2 responses to “Kitchen Table Classroom: Art Appreciation, Preschool Style

  1. Thanks for the book recommendations – they look fantastic!

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