The kids who are successful in school are those who remain curious even after the last bell rings, who notice the world around them, and who make connections among subjects and ideas. There are millions of ways to keep minds of all ages active and engaged outside the classroom.
The following article is part of a Noodle series about how to integrate learning into everyday life in order to instill a love of knowledge in your kids.
The Visual Art Edition
The study of art can be broken into three steps — observation, imitation, and creation. To help your child explore and create at any age, bring some of these artistic activities home.
Read books about art.
There are plenty of wonderful books about art. “Art Fraud Detective” by Anna Nilsen encourages children to observe paintings closely. As they try to figure out which version is the forgery, they get to know famous art!
The “I Spy” series from Lucy Micklethwait is wonderful for younger children to get to know classical art while learning about shapes and letters.
Getting to Know, Inc., a company that has won various ALA awards, has a wonderful children’s collection that explores the lives and works of famous artists through photographs and funny comics.
Engage through questions.
Choose an artist, and lay out samples of her work. Ask your kids questions like: - Which one is your favorite? - How do these works make you feel? - What are the people in the painting doing? - What shapes do you see? - What’s happening just outside the painting? - If the people could talk, what would they say? - If you could ask the artist a question about the painting, what would you ask?
Go to museums.
Art museums are wonderful for exposing kids to the great artists, but keep in mind that they are definitely geared toward adults — very quiet, very big, and very clear about no touching.
If there’s an exhibit you would like your kids to see, prep them on the rules first; go for a little while; limit your wandering time; and reward them afterward with something a little more active, such as a trip to the park.
Some museums may have events for kids to enjoy, so check the websites of the ones close to you. Libraries are another great resource for kid-friendly art activities. Older kids and teens can even choose which exhibits your family will see.
Try some artist-inspired art.
RedTedArt.com has a list of more than 30 art projects that kids can imitate and expand on themselves.
Lay out paints, clay, or scrap paper, and just see what happens. Many parents are tempted to get their kids started on a project with a defined end-result, but you can be amazed by what kids will come up with on their own! This freedom to explore will not only allow the creation of something totally unique; it will also give your kids confidence to think outside the box. They will also develop the understanding that even if a project doesn’t work out the way they’d hoped, exploration itself is the fun part.
Have one person do a random scribble and the other try to turn that scribble into a drawing. Start with simple shapes at first, and then move on to more complicated scribbles. Want to see a pro in action? Check out Mary Doodles on YouTube!
Discover apps for artists.
Draw Something is like digital Pictionary — and an addictive way to doodle competitively with friends. Mini Monet is ideal for younger kids, as it allows them to create their own drawings, experiment with symmetry, and store their drawings in an art portfolio. And there are so many more! Start with this list of the best art apps from Education.com.
Take photos — but set parameters.
Digital photos can provide instant artistic gratification, but it’s a little too easy to snap a few shots, slap on a filter, and call it art. Challenge your child or teen to take only five shots, with no filters, and watch her observe the world a little differently as she tries to capture something beautiful.
A quick disclaimer if you’re a parent of teens: Get ready to disagree.
As teens learn to branch out and form opinions independently, they will probably start by choosing art at the opposite end of the spectrum from wherever you are. Just smile and nod, ask them questions, and be patient.
Try to understand what they find compelling about a piece of art they enjoy. If you find it offensive, make sure you have an adult(-ish) conversation about why, and ask for your child’s input. Teens may strongly identify with a particular artist, and a rejection of that person’s artwork can easily feel like a rejection of them, as well. You absolutely have the right to reject offensive materials from your home, but your adult-in-training will be much less likely to bring in similar art if you have a real conversation and ask her to see your perspective. And you get bonus parenting points for teaching empathic thinking.
Want more ideas on how to cultivate a love of learning in your child? Check out other parts of this series: