You don’t need to be an art expert to talk with children about Art! The most important thing is that children realize their ideas, thoughts, feelings and opinions about artwork matter. It should always be LESS ABOUT YOU TALKING, and more about what the children have to say. So if you are ready to look, ask lots of questions, and listen to their thoughts, you are ready to lead and art exploration.
Steps for Talking with Children about Art
These steps are based on the work of Dr. Edmund Feldman, “Varieties of Visual Experience” and re-worked specifically for young children by Catherine Ewer.
- Initial Response: Ask, “What do you see?” This open question prompts children to respond to the artwork and share their initial reactions. It is also useful because many little ones will have ideas and thoughts they want to share right away!
- Description: Encourage the children look closely at the artwork to describe all the different elements. What colours do you see? How many different shapes can you find? What about different lines? What is the art made off? Help guide their exploration by asking questions.
- Analysis: This seems a bit steep for preschoolers but for our purposes you can use this step to explore the artist’s choices. Consider if the artists has used a repetition of colour or shape. Maybe the artist makes us feel cold by using a lot of cool colours.
- Interpretation: What does it mean? Now that you’ve talked about the “bones” of a piece of art it’s time to explore possible meanings. Does the piece have a “mood”? What is happening? Is the artist telling a story? Don’t feel you have to figure it out, just explore ideas together.
- Information: After the children have explored the artwork this far you can feel free to give them more information that might be relevant and of interest. Children may ask who made the piece, or how a piece of art was made, and this is the time to explore this. If a piece is carved of wood, for example, you may wish to have some wood on hand for them to touch.
- Personalization: It is interesting to see how initial ideas about a piece of work may change after all this careful looking! Now take the time to ask children what they think of the piece of art.