Creating art and learning how to appreciate art take place at school, of course. Why not help children unleash their creative abilities at home?
Art is an important part of a child's world. Art is a way for children to express themselves and it also helps them develop their fine motor skills. Learning how to mix two colors to create another color is magic to them. As adults, we are product driven. Children are working to develop themselves and so the process is more important than the final product.
Paint, clay, glue, pastels... Does the thought of having these art supplies near your just-mopped floor scare you? You're not an artist yourself? You don't have an extra room to devote to art? Have no fear. You don't need to be the next Andy Warhol or Georgia O'Keefe. All you need is a little time and effort.
You don't need an extra room in your home to set up an art "studio." Any small nook or cranny will do. Easy access, child-size tools and supplies, and well-organized materials are the key to success.
Group supplies children are likely to use together. Montessori teachers start with two or three options, then add new materials and supplies or rotate whole activities on and off the shelves often.
Paper and Collage Materials
Options for drawing and writing
Supplies for sculpture and three-dimensional collage
Teach your children how to respect and care for theirs. In the Montessori environment, cleaning up and taking care of all classroom materials shows respect for the materials and ensures they will be ready for the next use.
Before your artist begins expressing herself, she'll need to know basic skills. Teach each skill separately. For instance, one day start by helping your child properly hold a pencil. Another time, demonstrate how to safely use scissors. When it comes to using glue, a little daub will do you!
Using paint containers and tempera paint? Demonstrate how to get the drips off the paint brush: Dip brush into the paint and wipe excess paint on the paint container. "Dip. Dip. Wipe. Wipe." Ready to paint!
Using an easel? Before you start, remember to demonstrate clipping the paper to the easel. Also demonstrate how to carefully carry the paper to the drying rack. Practice with a blank piece of paper before your child paints on it.
As always, safety comes first. High-quality materials are so satisfying for children to use but many materials should be allowed only when children show you they are developmentally ready to work safely with them. To ensure your child's safety, adult supervision is always necessary.
Once your child knows the basic skills, give him a chance to create on his own. The sky's the limit. Let your little artist go. As in all activities, make sure you give your child plenty of time to create and work at his own pace. Beginning an easel painting five minutes before it's time to run to big sister's piano lesson will put stress on the whole family.
Remember, give your child open-ended projects that don't require "copying." When your child shows you an artwork, respond by talking about the part that is important to your child—the process. "I can see you were really concentrating" "You mixed a beautiful shade of blue!" "It looked like you had fun rolling the clay!" "You made a lot of big circles."
Try not to guess the subject of the painting—you can be sure your child will share if it is important to him. Start a dialogue with "Tell me about your painting." Be as proud of his ability to create as you are of his creation; a few words of encouragement go a long way.
For activities, always demonstrate from beginning to end first (don't forget to tidy up at the end!). New materials that are really variations of familiar supplies (a different pasta shape or a new kind of paper) can be added for the children to find and explore independently.
Supplies: mat; one marble (in a small container); cake pan (or similar container); construction or bond paper cut to fit the bottom of the pan; paint (in a small container); water (in a small container); a small sponge.
Supplies: mat; sponges cut in different sizes and shapes; tempera paint (in a small, shallow container); paper; sponge for clean-up.
Supplies: mat; yarn, string, or cord; found objects (from nature or recycled containers); dry pasta and beans; small pieces of paper (save scraps from other projects!); glue (in a squeeze dispenser); large piece of heavy paper or cardboard; sponge for clean-up.
Art is a wonderful way for children to express themselves, to develop their fine motor skills, to increase their concentration, and to learn how to care for their materials. A Montessori-style art area stocked with related supplies gives them plenty of opportunities to explore—just add children! Who knows, watching your child create may even inspire you to pick up a brush or a pencil yourself!
—by Pamela Personette, M.Ed., Montessori Educational Consultant, for Montessori Services. Fully committed to Montessori education, Pamela earned an AMS Montessori Primary Credential and a Master's of Education in Early Childhood, Montessori Education, from Notre Dame de Namur University. Pam's passion for Montessori has taken her from head teacher for more than a decade to a unique consulting business that uses Montessori principles to teach the art of superior customer service to adults in the retail trade. Pamela continues to serve children by teaching at Montessori schools.
—Originally Published 2011