How to inspire your child’s appreciation of art

Exploring the nature of art will expand the way your child thinks about their world

How to inspire your child's appreciation of art

Children are naturals when it comes to art

After all, your baby has probably turned a variety of meals (and your kitchen) into a Jackson Pollock-style masterpiece at some point, and a blank wall and a few crayons are all the inspiration a toddler ever needs. So how can we encourage this passion for chaos, colour and creativity to continue?

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“We often stifle creativity as our children get older because we think that what they are doing is messy or that it’s not ‘right’,” says Helen Cordey, the National Gallery’s family and out-of-schools officer. “At family workshops, it’s usually the parents who are self-conscious and feel that there is a right way and a wrong way of doing art. There’s not.

Children just need to be exposed to ways of looking at art and be allowed to express themselves freely. For example, if a child paints a picture where the sky is green, ask her why she chose green rather than tell her that the sky is actually blue – she probably knows that quite well.” In a study at the University of Nottingham, toddlers not only differentiated between colours, but also demonstrated preferences. So don’t cramp their style!

We often stifle creativity as our children get older because we think that what they are doing is messy or that it’s not ‘right’
Helen Cordey, the National Gallery’s family and out-of-schools officer

The non-linear nature of art also encourages higher-level thinking in children.

“They always surprise us with their insights about art,” says Helen. “When visiting a gallery with your child, the best way to nurture this thinking is to ask your child what they see in the picture; explore the painting together and ask why the artist might have painted that subject or used those shapes.”

Art also offers the opportunity to develop storytelling skills.

There is a story behind every work – even the most abstract. You can ask your child to create a story about the painting, or talk about the artist who made it. Learning as a family is a really important way to demonstrate that you value art as a way of seeing the world.

Essentially, the more you allow children to partake in creative activities, the more likely they are to think about them when there’s choice in downtime. The same, of course, can be said for any activity. So normalising an appreciation of art, creative industries and even music, all come down to leading by example.

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[This article previously appeared in a printed issue Junior magazine}