For young children, art is not about creating masterpieces. It is about experimenting and making discoveries about the way things work together. It is about touching and feeling textures, playing with colours, shapes and designs, and making something out of nothing.
You can encourage your child’s artistic endeavours by keeping a well-stocked art box available. It may contain items such as paints, crayons, glue and paper, but there are many other things you might find around the house to inspire your little one to create.
Buttons, old puzzle or game pieces, sandpaper or scraps of fabric are fun to touch, paint or glue. Used envelopes can be stuffed or decorated. Boxes of all sizes, from food packaging to a refrigerator box, can allow your child to design and play with his own homemade toys.
Children often love to paint, and you can go beyond brushes by providing your child with sponges, cotton balls or yarn to push, pull and spread paint. Take finger painting to a new level by using whipped cream or pudding instead.
Gluing is another favourite. Save old greeting cards, magazines and flyers for cutting and making collages. Make your own glitter glue by putting some white craft glue in a small container and mixing in a bit of glitter. You can use a brush or craft stick to dip into the glue and spread, or you could put it into a squeeze bottle. You can also make coloured glue by adding a bit of food colouring.
As with any other toys, if your art box contains small pieces that may present a choking hazard, store it out of reach.
Always supervise as your child experiments with art, and offer encouragement without giving too much direction.
The most important thing to remember is that, while the finished product may not resemble anything you can recognize, during the process your child made discoveries, made decisions, and gained confidence in her abilities.
When asked, "How do you like it?", you can give the power back to your child by asking, "How do you like it?"
Instead of simply saying, "It’s beautiful!", be more specific. "You were able to make some new colours by mixing your paints." "You have used lots of shapes to make this picture!"
It is very empowering to a child to realize there is no right or wrong way, and that the enjoyment is in the creating.
Shawna Munro works at the Elspeth Reid Family Resource Centre, a facility of Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba that offers parenting information and support.
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 13, 2012