Ways Child Care Providers Can Support Children Who Run into Problems Doing Art

Child's artwork

Children in child care settings can sometimes run into problems while they are doing creative art activities. They may finish early or want to work longer on their projects, they may get stuck in an artistic rut, or get frustrated because the activity is too simple or difficult for them. As a child care provider, here are some suggestions you might try if you run into this dilemma.

Children Who Finish Early or Late

  • Situation: Some children finish early while others want to keep on working with their art projects.
  • Suggestion: Ask children who finish early if they can think of anything else they might add to their artwork. For example, if Beth has been painting cats all week, ask her what other animals she might paint.
  • Children who finish early can clean up their area of the room, can help with other chores, or can be excused to look at a book or join another activity.
  • Try to allow children who are deeply engrossed in an art activity to keep working. When you must move on, give the child a few minutes warning and help the child put the work in a safe place until the next opportunity for art. Congratulate the child on working so hard.

Children Who Are Not Progressing Artistically

  • Situation: Artists, both young and old, sometimes get stuck in a rut and keep making the same things over and over.
  • Suggestion: Suggest a new activity. “Sue, would you like to try using watercolors today? You have been painting at the easel for days, and I think you might enjoy these new watercolors I have brought in.” Or, “Sue, I see how much you enjoy painting cats. What other kinds of animals could you paint? Let’s try to paint something different today.”
  • Maybe the child has a good healthy reason for repetition, for example refining her skills or feeling unsure of herself in other areas of development. In the art area, she finds comfort in doing something well. It is not unusual for children to want to repeat the theme in their artwork over and over.

Children Who Get Frustrated Doing Art

  • Situation: Some children get frustrated when they do creative art projects.
  • Suggestion: Sometimes children are critical of their own projects and other times the activities may not match their age or ability. To encourage creativity and reduce frustration in child care, match art activities to the child’s abilities and interests. Rather than give preschoolers pictures of insects to color and cut out, why not ask, “What might a butter-bug or an ant-hopper look like?” There is no one right answer but lots of creative possibilities. All kids can have success.
  • Try to provide a wide variety of materials for children to create what they want on their own. Sometimes teachers have a specific product in mind and try to direct children on what to do. Children can then get frustrated because they can’t make the product look like the teacher’s. But if they are given a variety of art materials to experiment with, there is no end product and no right way to do it.

For More Information

To learn more about art in child care, and ways to make young children’s art experiences effective, 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.