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Authentic Art Experiences | Your Questions Answered!

Written By: Ginny Norton

Publish Date: Sep 30, 2014


Dawn-BraaWe were thrilled to have Dawn Braa back again for our #HatchExperts webinar series! We had a record number of folks register and attend her 9th webinar--over 1800 in all! I think this is a testament to what a great presenter Dawn is and what a great topic she picked to speak on. I know I learned so much from listening in.

As usual, we had so many questions we couldn't get to during the live presentation. Dawn has kindly answered a few of the questions that we were hearing the most, as well as sharing some of the images she received from the art activity during her webinar! We are posting a sample of the questions here, so I would encourage you to visit Dawn's blog for the full story! You can find her blog here

Now, on to the questions!

1. What types of supplies would you recommend providing for an authentic art experience when working with different age groups? Specifically, what would you recommend for infants and toddlers?

Infants and toddlers can benefit from art materials that "do something" based on children's actions. Using colors (crayons or markers) and paints are generally the few art experiences children may have. As the child develops more skills, they may enjoy finger-painting, using a paint brush, collages, and printmaking.

There are many variations of printmaking that allow children differing experiences: bubble wrap prints, vehicle track/wheel prints, stampers, sponges, etc. Consider providing assorted materials for the children to paint (e.g. cardboard boxes, mini wooden blocks, keenex boxes, etc.) or paint with and explore (e.g. different types of paper, sponges, paintbrushes, and other painting tools). Another idea is freezer baggie 'painting'. Put paint into a freezer baggie and allow the child to manipulate it. This can be a great option for the children that want to engage in finger-painting but don't care for the "mess."

It's also important to offer art at different levels or positions. By that I mean that some art may be done sitting at the table while other art might be at the easel. Only have one or two easels that take up space? Consider trying out the Beeasel. Remember, art can go outdoors as well!

Tissue paper and other items can be stuck onto contact paper to create a magnificent collage. Another alternative for creating collages is to give the toddler a chunky paintbrush with a small bowl of glue to 'paint' the paper with glue and then stick the collage papers/items onto their paper.

Don't forget that you can paint with water! Painting outside on sidewalks/walls with water and paintbrushes (all sizes).

Finally, remember to talk to children about their creations. Reply with more than just an insincere "I like it" or "That's beautiful." Provide them with specifics about their individual artwork. This is a great opportunity to build their 'art-esteem' and teach vocabulary.

"There are many dots in your picture."
"You filled up the entire paper."
"I can see you worked hard on that."
"You used blue, green and yellow in your picture."

2. How can educators incorporate art (as opposed to crafts) when trying to teach specific concepts or ideas?

There are many ways to teach specific concepts throughout the day in ways other than art. When it comes to art for young children, my opinion is that it should be inspired (true art comes from within). If it's horse week and the child doesn't draw or paint a horse, does that make it a failure? Consider what the child did do and all of the skills that were required to accomplish it.

One way to inspire art is to show "originals" by artists. That doesn't mean the child needs to copy it, but might possibly be inspired by it. It you are hoping that the children learn about horses and their body structure, include artwork samples of horses, toy horses, books about horses, etc. all around the classroom so they have plenty of ways to become inspired. Ultimately though, it's their decision what to create and if they'd like to participate. We want to stay away from forcing art. Be an encourager, not an enforcer!

Some schools are using the TAB approach for art. "Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB) is a nationally recognized choice-based art education approach to teaching art. Choice-based art education regards students as artists and offers them real choices for responding to their own ideas and interests through the making of art."

These articles have some great tips for open-ended art experiences:
Open Ended Art Activities from
Here's another:
Promoting creativity!.

3. How would you recommend encouraging children to visit the art center if they are not interested in art?

Some children might not participate in the art center due to lack of confidence in that area. One way to encourage him/her is to sit down and try art together. Share positive messages of support and explore the materials open-endedly. Remember that the child may not seem interested in art because perhaps in the past there were negative feelings associated with art. There's no right or wrong way and the child is in control. Art should be a no-pressure, low-risk experience. Hopefully the child's art-esteem will build over time and if art is relaxed and fun, the child may begin to enjoy it and therefore desire to participate more. Remember that offering different mediums and tools to explore with may also entice the child to explore and create. You can also be a role model by showing your excitement about art and creativity.

4. Would you advise, in an ECFE parent/child time, that the teacher offer BOTH the parent and child the activity so the child can create their own art because the parents are more interested in doing the project themselves?

Doing so could provide a nice opportunity for them to experience the creative process together, but individually as well. I'd suggest providing the parents with a few tips at the beginning of the year/class so basic expectations are known. You might also consider posting "I wonder..." questions for the parents to repeat to the child or statements about the process to use. This could be a fantastic opportunity for parents to practice some of these ideas in a safe and supportive environment (with reminders!)

5. What are your feelings on teachers writing on a child's art? For example, a story or statement that the child has given.

A child may initiate wanting writing on his/her artwork by using pre-writing him/herself or telling the caregiver about the picture. It's okay for the child to "write" on their paper even if it's unrecognizable. As true artists, they get to call the shots about their artwork. You might also ask the child, "Do you have a story that you'd like to share with me about this picture?" or "Would you like me to write something on your picture?" This reinforces the idea of communicating with others about their work and sharing their ideas verbally.

For more on creating a creation station on a limited budget, how to convince other teachers about the importance of art, attendee submitted art work, and much more visit Dawn's blog

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