Creative art is an important part of the child care curriculum that helps children explore their feelings, practice creativity and problem solving, and develop fine motor skills. Creating art can foster a child’s feelings of self-esteem and success. Art is a great way for young children to improve motor skills and strengthen pathways of connections in the brain, which can help them succeed at academic skills later.
Child care providers need to be sure to make art available to all children. Because creating art can help enhance children’s skills and abilities, it is especially vital for all children to participate. The following are some common challenges to making art available for everyone.
Don’t Use Art as a Reward
Sometimes in classrooms for preschoolers or school-age children, art is used as a reward for good behavior or getting work done. If art is only provided as a reward, some children will not have the opportunity to participate in creative art activities. Be aware that creative art can be an important area where some children can succeed, even if they are struggling in other areas. Making art a reward for other types of success may keep those children who need opportunities to succeed from participating in art.
Encourage Children Who Don’t Choose Art
Some young children completely avoid art activities if given free choice. Although children should be allowed to make decisions about where they will play during discovery times, there are other ways to ensure that all children have opportunities to create art. Designing a creative art activity for a small group of children, adding materials that interest children who do not typically try art, and making art activities available in unusual settings — such as outdoors — may encourage children who do not typically prefer art activities. For more ideas, check out Ways Child Care Providers Can Encourage Children Who Don’t Like Art.
Make Creative Art Available in Many Areas
Although you should never force children to create art when they are not interested, there are many ways to set up an environment that encourages creative art. Here are some tips to help ensure that creative art experiences are available to all children in your child care program:
- Provide art-related materials in various centers, such as drawing tools and paper in the library.
- Set up art materials outdoors.
- Integrate creative art into other content areas. For example, use shape sponges and paint to make prints in the science area.
- Provide a wide variety of materials so children have choices of how they want to create:
- Scissors, with the option of tearing.
- Items for binding — glue, tape, stapler.
- Various textures of paper — construction, computer, cardboard.
- A wide variety of painting tools — plastic forks, yarn, cars, marbles, sponges.
IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTE: Be sure the art tools you choose are safe for children. Avoid giving small items, such as marbles, to children likely to put items in their mouths.
For More Information
To learn more about young children’s art, check out our section on Art in Child Care, or take a look at the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles:
- Planning a Successful Art Center
- Planning Creative Art Activities for Multi-age Groups
- Creative Art Activities for Children with Special Needs
- Balancing Process and Product in Creative Art Activities
- Praise Effort Instead of Product When Discussing Children’s Art
- Avoid Activities Masquerading as Creative Art in Child Care Settings
For specific art activity ideas to use in your child care program, check out the database of Hands-On Activities for Child Care.
Photo by Diane Bales / CC BY http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/