“Hang it up in the living room, mommy,” your child suggests when she
brings home her latest masterpiece
from school or day care.
You know it doesn’t go with the decor, but what do you do with the
incoming flood of art that
your little Picasso or Mary Cassatt brings home?
A child’s artwork is an expression of her joy. Children - especially younger
children - do not usually
spend a lot of time planning artwork. These pieces are
spontaneous and lively.
The art is generally an accurate picture of what is going
on in the child’s mind.
For this reason, children have some emotional
attachment to the work because
it is an expression of their sense of self. By
extension, your acceptance
and enthusiasm about the art is interpreted as
acceptance and enthusiasm
about the child herself.
My years in the classroom have taught me a crucial thing about the
process of talking with
children about their art. I have learned not to assume
that I know what the subject
is. Too many times have I remarked by saying
something like, “I really
like this picture of your dog playing in the field,” only to
hear something like, “That’s
Godzilla attacking the planet Neldor.”
For that reason, my approach to looking at children’s art is a lot more
general. I might say something
like, Thanks for showing this to me. Tell me about
it. And then I listen, which
provides me with information to use for other
Adults can also say many other things to show that we are paying
attention to the art --
and, in turn, to the child. Think about statements such as
these: You really have a
good eye for color. I love the way this blue swirls into
the green. You sure are
learning a lot about using watercolors. What a field of
flowers! Looking at the
rainbow you made makes me feel happy.
And then, of course, you show your appreciation by finding a good place
to display the work so your
family and visitors can enjoy it with you.
This column has been incorporated into Teach Your Children Well: A Teacher’s Advice