Childhood education experts agree on the importance of exposing kids to art early in life. As parents and caregivers, the importance of encouraging kids to experience and explore artistic expression cannot be overstated. Early school age experiences in art creation and appreciation foster exploration, self expression, logical thinking, self-esteem, imagination, and, of course, originality. Part of that process is to have readily available and varied art supplies, including, but not limited to crayons, washable paints and paintbrushes, markers, modeling clay, construction paper, glue, colored tissue paper, shoe boxes, paper towel tubes, sponges, empty water bottles, chalk, paper plates, scrap paper, fabric, buttons, sequins, glitter, pom-poms, felt, colored tape, cotton balls, ribbon, yarn, string, feathers, leaves, twigs, etc. Even oddball items that we might not readily associate with art can be useful tools to a child. Think of empty and washed out roll on deodorant bottles filled with washable paint, or an old toothbrush, or cotton swabs. Any and all of these can lead to non-traditional painting experiences. Don’t be afraid to let kids make a mess! Lay out a drop cloth or newspapers over a table or a section of floor and let kids create with abandon. Even children younger than school age can be presented with shaving cream with a few drops of food coloring added on a cookie sheet. The tactile and visual stimulation of “playing” with the foam lets youngsters experience the process of making art and cleanup is nothing more than a quick rinse.
Another important factor in childhood art experiences is art appreciation. Even five-year-olds can enjoy discovering the treasures in adult art museums, and though the Metropolitan Museum of Art might be a mite intimidating to a young child, smaller, more local museums and galleries can be only a short drive and a short investment in time away. Follow the child’s lead—literally! They may not move in a logical fashion viewing the artwork sequentially as an adult would, but dart around from one piece that catches their eye to another. They may not want to view everything and may not have the patience for a lengthy visit. Be sensitive to when they need a snack or potty break—the exhibit will still be there after a short rest. Be sure to ask open ended questions about the art to encourage free thinking. “What do you think is happening in the picture?” “What do you like about this picture?” “What don’t you like about this picture?” “Can you pose like the figure in the artwork?” “What do you think the artist was thinking about when he/she created this?” “What colors do you see?” “Why do you think the artist used these colors?” “What do you think will happen next?” You just might find your child sees things you’ve never noticed or sees art in an innovative way, without the pressures and preconceptions of adulthood. Below are listed a few local (and not so local) museums and galleries to get you started.
Stepping Stones Museum for Children
303 West Avenue
Norwalk, CT 06850
While not specifically an art museum, they do have a new permanent exhibit focusing on creating art and music.
From their web site: http://www.steppingstonesmuseum.org/Exhibits/ExpressYourself/tabid/450/Default.aspx
“Our Newest Permanent Exhibit on Social-Emotional Learning
“To help children and families acquire the social-emotional learning skills to be successful in an increasingly complex world, Stepping Stones developed Express Yourself. Through art, music, cooperative games and more, children, families and groups will practice expressing themselves and exploring their own emotions. They can act out their feelings on camera and explore how creating artwork, listening to music or dancing can affect their mood. Children can learn how to overcome frustration as they cooperate with other visitors to successfully move a ball through a maze. Express Yourself is filled with fun and effective tools and techniques for children to use in their everyday lives.”
258 Main Street
Ridgefield, CT 06877
Ridgefield Guild of Artists
34 Halpin Lane
Ridgefield, CT 06877
134 Jay Street – Route 22
Katonah, NY 10536
Connecticut Children’s Museum
22 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT 06830-7157