Raising An Artistic Child, Part 3: Helping Your Child to Really “See”

By Gail A. Stivers in Art Business Advice > General Art Advice

If your goal is to raise an artistic child, you must take part in showing your child how to “see” like an artist. This doesn’t happen on it’s own. . . but with your help, your child will learn to be aware of what is around them, and to understand what it is they are seeing.

You’ll find that all children except for colorblind children understand the concept of color. . . but take that concept a few steps further and show your child how to actually look at color. Take them outside and show them that “green” is not just “green.” Point out how greens can be green with a little blue in it, or with yellow in it, or even green with a little gray or brown.

Show them leaves that look green at a distance, then at closeup have added spots or other colors that aren’t visible until you get close.

Help your child understand what happens to an object like a rock, or ball, when direct sunlight hits it. Talk about light and shade, and once they’re a bit older, reflection and absorption of light, too. Ask them what they see happening to any colors found in the shade of another object. Better yet, let them create examples of it with crayons by adding white or black.

You don’t have to go far to find things to look at, but at least take walks around your home. I started my son out on walks around the family property. At each step, look for things that are different, such as small flowers in an expanse of grass. Talk about the color of the flower, the number of petals, the shape of its leaves. . . teach that it’s not just a flower, it’s a collection of interesting shapes, colors, and textures.

Most kids are natural rock hounds, too. You may find rocks in the strangest of places—in pockets, beds, shoes, etc. Look closely with your child and show them the texture, and the facets of colors within the rock. A gray rock may actually have white, black, silver or opalescent coloring that makes up the overall gray tone.

Whenever possible, help your child create memories of these walks, or other parts of their day. A great tool for this (when they are young, especially) is a disposable camera. The very act of taking a picture encourages a child to look more closely at things. Then ask your child to explain what was interesting to them in each picture.

When your child is a little older, start them on their first journal. Show them how to draw or add pictures from a magazine to depict adventures they took. A collage is a kid-friendly way of creating pictorial ideas that is difficult to mess up. Be sure to have some ribbon, bric-a-brac, and etc., handy for them to add to the journal pieces.

Inside the home, allow your child to choose how they’d like to decorate their room. Young children will often go through phases, such as a “dinosaur” phase, but you can help them to take it further—for example, paint a mural on one wall.

Murals can be as simple or as extensive as you would like. For younger children, draw the outlines, then show them how to stay in the lines the best they can. Allow little mistakes to make it more personal and less manufactured.

On another wall, paint an area with chalkboard paint and get big colorful pieces of sidewall chalk to draw with. Or, put up large meeting sized Post-It easel pads to use with crayon, paint or pencils.

Hang any creations your child makes with the agreement that they will be replaced with new ones after a certain amount of time, so that the walls don’t just become a confused jumble.

When it comes to clothes, let your child pick out his or her own outfits. If a gentle suggestion doesn’t help when putting colors and textures together, then allow them freedom to innovate.

You may occasionally find yourself put off by their combinations, but look around at artists, designers, stylists, etc, and see what they wear. Look at fashions in magazines and see if your child’s combinations are really that bad in comparison. What may seem a little odd for a young child may mature into a truly self-expressive personal fashion.

Whenever possible, add artistic expression to even the most mundane everyday tasks. Get a variety of colored and designed plates, and let them set the table in different ways each time.

Make cake batter for cupcakes and let them add color to part of the batter. Have them use one or two drops in the cup and swirl with a toothpick. The will love opening the baked cupcake to see what happened inside.

Whenever you and your child meet a new person, and then are alone again, ask them to describe the person. Was the person dark haired, blond, or somewhere in between? What was their skin tone, eye color, and shape of mouth? What were they wearing? Ask about colors, textures, buttons, and how the clothes looked.

During changes in the seasons or change in weather, look closely at what happens. In the springtime, look at the new buds and plants just poking out of the ground. Over summer, show your child how to dry and press flowers to keep in their journals.

Is is foggy one morning? How does fog change the colors and values of objects within it? Ask your child to give all the adjectives they can to describe fog, then work at making a creation showing a foggy day.

No matter what your surroundings are, help your child notice the world around them, not just by glancing, but by truly “seeing” what the world is made of. As your child grows into an artist, this ability to both visualize and observe will help them when creating any kind of artwork—realistic or abstract.

Perhaps most importantly, at a very young age your child will learn that there is never a reason for boredom. . . the world is filled with too many fascinating things, big and small, to just sit by and not create something.

For other articles by Gail, please visit her blog, Abstracted Perceptions.


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