How to Teach Your Kids to Love Art When You're Not an Artist was originally published on Cultivate, a blog from Seedling, and is being reprinted with permission.
I’ve absolutely loved art my whole life, or at least as far back as I can remember. I am not an artist in a professional sense. But it’s a big part of what makes me happy. Whether it’s going to a museum, painting a Rothko-inspired piece in my uncle’s living room, creating watercolors, or simply doodling, I am a big fan of spending my free time this way.
So, it's no surprise that I relished every minute of my son’s preschool studio session. Before heading home one day, he had to show me something. He led me by the hand to a pint-sized table where he pulled out a chair and said “Mommy, sit!” I happily obliged and eagerly awaited what was in store.
He surprised me with a tray of pastels and small sheets of paper. He covered those papers with big circles, small circles, curlicues, and squiggles. And he did it over and over and over again. He didn’t want to leave because he was really enjoying this artistic moment.
I caught sight of his teacher and asked if he normally selects art as his self-directed activity for the day. She told me, “No. He usually likes to clean, especially with the broom.” I nodded my head in recognition because this is what he loves to do at home. We head out to the garage for painting, but his interest wanes rather quickly and before I know it he’s sweeping the concrete and watering our lawn. (I very much appreciate his sense of responsibility and help, by the way. As a busy parent, I’ll take any help around the house I can get!).
Thinking back, I know my love of art certainly stems from my parents. They’re artists, which made it easier to communicate about art movements, techniques, color relations, and object dimensions. But even if they didn’t have this academic background, I think the most important thing they did was open the door and expose me to art (even if that meant I had to give up a day at the roller rink against my better 10-year-old judgment in exchange for an afternoon at a gallery).
Now, I know art in its many forms can be intimidating. And you might wonder how you can inspire your children’s interest in art if you don’t have an MFA like my parents. Despite growing up in a household of artists, I’ve also wondered the same thing.
How do I encourage art exploration, especially when my son didn’t previously demonstrate an innate interest in the activity or at least not with the level of joy he recently showed me at preschool?
The good news is that we don’t have to be experts in cubism, sculpture, or photography to make art accessible to our children. In fact, we should take solace in KinderArt creator Andrea Mulder-Slater’s words: