Bringing art into children’s lives is extremely important. Engaging in the visual arts is as important to mental health, reading comprehension, and critical thinking as playing an instrument is to math and language skills. Therefore, introducing it to children at a young age is crucial to intellectual growth. The earlier you initiate participation in the visual arts, the better the long-term results will be for the child. However, it can be challenging to inspire your child’s interest. Clearly, unless he or she is a prodigy, a 5 year old will not understand the concepts of shading, stippling, and airbrushing. You can also forget potentially dangerous tools like carving knives, scissors, clay tools (those will hurt going up the nose), and anything else that is too small, too pointy, or has a sharp edge. For now, I would recommend sticking with the Crayolas, acrylic paints, and play dough (or non-toxic clay). Unfortunately, this can limit the number of projects available, but hopefully the following ideas will give you ideas for a starting point.
” Finger Painting – this is a very basic way to acquaint children with painting. Pour several colors of non-toxic, acrylic paint into separate plastic plates and stand back. Your child can either create a very Jackson Pollock-esque painting or you can teach him to make shapes from his painted fingerprints. This fun activity is carefree and an excellent way to acquaint children with paint.
” Gingerbread Houses – this fun and festive activity combines food and art for a win-win situation. This will teach children how to build, and the decorations will help children develop a discerning eye when it comes to the space and placement of those decorations.
” Paper Bag Puppets – all you need is a couple sheets of paper and a brown paper lunch sack. Help your child cut out the arms, face, and (if applicable) tail of her favorite animal. The child can color the animal’s body parts or mix and match pieces of colored construction paper. Glue the pieces onto the bottom of the bag (the part that creates a flap), and you have created an adorable puppet. Have several children do this and then allow them to put on a puppet show. This is the perfect activity for a rainy day afternoon.
” Puppet House – an extension of the puppet-making activities (which can be done with practically anything from pipe cleaners to paper plates), the children will need a house from which they can perform puppet shows. Find a huge cardboard box, cut off one of the four sides, and cut a window into the side opposite of the one removed. You can spray paint the box a color of the children’s choosing and let them do the rest. They can paint anything they want on the box. A great idea is to spray paint the box black and let the kids paint fireworks on the sides and front. Before the paint dries, throw glitter over it for a charming, sparkling playhouse.
” Decorative Pine Cones – these are beautiful decorations for fall and winter. Have children forage for pine cones, which you can spray paint gold and silver. Allow the children to dip the pine cones into glitter colors of their choosing. These look beautiful in a big, decorative bowl and make an excellent holiday present.
These ideas are just the beginning. If you go online there are some great sites that have arts and crafts ideas, and other sites that actually sell kid’s art supplies to help you start a supply cabinet. These activities are so fun, kids will have no clue they are learning. These projects will also stimulate a long-term interest in art and give you an excuse to bond with your child.
Cristina LaFontaine is a kindergarten teacher who stresses the importance of art to her students’ parents. She advises parents to encourage development in children by creating a space specifically for art supplies that includes easels and kids art supplies.
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