Frederic Frobel, the founder of Kindergarten, believed that children should be involved both in the making of art and the enjoyment of others art.
Children learn art appreciation by doing it. Children learn art appreciation by looking at it. And children learn art appreciation by discussing it. Art is about the process and not the product. Although it is o.k. to do product activities occasionally, it is important to think of the art area in your classroom as a place for the children to explore, experiment, and discover the process of doing art. To be process art it must be open-ended allowing for the children to explore the materials and make their own unique creations.
This means that as the teacher, you model a technique but not a finished project. Children should be doing art purely for the process of experiencing the materials.
Stock your art shelves with a variety of paper, writing tools, collage materials, paints, scissors, glue, tape, etc.. Your children should have access and choice to what they want to use. It is important for children to have many experiences with art materials. Art cuts across all domains and is a fun and natural way to teach.
For many preschool children, art is their first experience at truly making their own choices. They are deciding how they are going to use any given material as well as when to call a piece of work “finished”. We as teachers need to remember to accept a child’s work of art complete, even if it is only one dot or line on a page. Children are learning to problem-solve when they must figure out real life issues such as how to make their sculpture stand without falling or how to mix the primary color paints to make a secondary color. They are learning how to handle use art tools and are gaining in coordination and dexterity. And art lends itself well to science with color mixing and investigating materials.
By preschool, children are beginning to use art to represent objects, events, or feelings. This will role over to letters as symbols and symbols as writing. Children use art to express ideas or thoughts just as adults use writing. So encourage your children to illustrate stories that you have read or a unit of study. There are many art activities that focus on fine motor skills. Hand-eye coordination as well as hand strength and dexterity are needed for children when they begin to write. Scissor expertise will be important upon entering Kindergarten, so please allow your preschool children to use scissors and glue sticks often.
Having art experiences as part of your daily curriculum helps children learn to share, take turns, and negotiate over materials. For children with limited vocabulary art can be a way to self-express. Art can help children express emotion and mood. If a child is having an angry day, encourage him/her to go to the easel or pound on play dough. Art relaxes the soul.
Art can become very mathematical as children learn to see how shapes fit together into the whole piece, reproduce shapes, and to make patterns. As children do art, it can be a good time to talk about the names of shapes (quadrilateral, octagon, diamond), the features of shapes (angle, corners, parallel) and types of lines (curved, wavy, zigzag). Art shows the children the definition of 3D and 2D objects.
Art can also be very scientific. To help the children connect to the earth, find natural materials to use for painting and sculpting. Give the children opportunities to mix colors, sample textures, and to experiment with viscosity and absorption.
Children need more than to experiment with art materials and processes. Children need to see finished art, both theirs and those of artists. This will help the children to better understand diversity, as not everyone sees the same thing the same way. By viewing works of art, children are becoming more aware of the environment and the world at large. Hang reproductions of art throughout your classroom and look for books that have beautiful illustrations. Talk to children about their works of art. Ask them to tell you about it or comment upon what they have done. Try to avoid asking them “what is it?” as a child can interpret this, as it is not finished or not good enough. Children and teachers spend the majority of their days within the classroom walls. Children and teachers need to see beautiful things. It lifts the spirit and helps make human connections.