Ways Child Care Providers Can Support Children Who Have Trouble Getting Started with Creative Art

Child finger painting

Sometimes children in child care settings can have problems getting started in creative art experiences. They may not know what to make, want an adult to do a project for them, or copy another child’s work. Here are some suggestions to handle those situations.

Children Who Do Not Know What to Make

  • Situation: A child asks, “Teacher, what should I make?” You wonder how to respond.
  • Suggestion: Respond with, “Ray, that’s a good question. What should you make?” If the child still doesn’t come up with anything, try to get him to think by asking more questions, such as:
    • “Imagine if you were going to get a nice surprise today. What would you like? How could you paint that (make that out of clay, etc.)?”
    • “Try putting your pencil on the paper and just letting it run around. Maybe you will get a good idea!”
    • “Did you notice that we have a new color today? What could you make with that color?”

Children Who Want an Adult to Do Art for Them

  • Situation: “Teacher, make one for me. I can’t do it.” Does that sound familiar?
  • Suggestion: Say, “Carol, this needs to be your picture (collage, or whatever). Sometimes I have trouble making animals too. The important thing is to try. Just do your best.”
  • You might also say, “How about if you keep working on the cat (collage, wire pieces) and I’ll add the puffy clouds (frame, Styrofoam pieces). I like making things with you. Together it’ll be awesome.” And then next time, when she asks again, “I’d love to work with you Carol, but right now I’m reading to Jung Yu. I wonder if Carlos would want to create something together with you? Let’s ask.”

Children Who Copy and Imitate

  • Situation: Children often resent others who copy their work; children who copy are missing out on creating something of their very own.
  • Suggestion: Say, “Annie has spent a lot of time making her picture. Let’s everyone come up with their very own ideas. Remember, it’s yours – your idea, your way, and your very own special picture.”
  • Another suggestion might be for the adult to say something like, “Wow, Annie, Jorgé must think you did a really great job if he wants to make one, too. I wonder if, when he is done, it will look exactly like yours or if we can spot some differences.” etc.
  • You could also try give children first-hand experiences to use as a jumping-off place for art. For example, the class could walk around the playground and look for birds. Then the children could draw or paint what they have seen – the colors, birds, or other objects on the playground.

For More Information

To learn more about creative art in child care, take a look at the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles:

Art Activities for Child Care

For specific art activity ideas to use in your child care program, check out the eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care Hands-on Activities Database.