Express Yourself

Eat your heart out, Pollock!

Eat your heart out, Pollock!

At every stage of life, nothing can quite soothe the soul and foster creativity and imagination like artistic expression. For children, this is especially true. Many therapists use art therapy as a means to understand someone who is too young to express him or herself with words. There is not one person who cannot create something in an artistic form, whether it’s with sketching, painting, sculpting, writing, poetry, music, singing, dance, or drama. I believe that parents who limit or neglect artistic expression in their homes are doing a huge disservice to their children. It’s not about talent. It’s about expressing oneself. Children often feel like they don’t have a voice in the world and art can help them speak.

As a 24 month old toddler, this is the perfect time to introduce the Monkey to different art forms. The best way to do that is just let the little one create. I put some newspaper or a vinyl tablecloth down on my kitchen table and lay out different supplies. We use playdoh, clay, and a small amount of different uncooked pastas, which is a great way to introduce little ones to different textures and the art of sculpture. We will go outside and use chalk to graffiti our fences, driveway, and sidewalk. We use crayons, markers, and stickers to create masterpieces. Like most children, the Monkey is really quite good at abstract expression.  We’re working on portraits, but we’re not quite there yet.

In addition to creating our own art, we often venture out into the world of art. The Monkey was born in San Francisco and we started visiting museums with him before he was even a month old. Sure, he slept through most of the trips, but when he was awake it was quite a stimulating experience for him. We moved to another area of California that is filled with museums, many of which cater to children. It is something I greatly enjoy doing with him. He might not be able to understand the different periods of art or tell me how he interprets a certain painting, but I know he is taking it all in and expanding his creative side.

You don’t have to only go to museums to introduce children to art. Just step outside and look around. I love architecture and looking at buildings or unique houses. Point out unique homes or interesting old cars to children. Drive by an old church and point at the steeple or beautiful stained glass windows. Look up even further and point out different cloud shapes or the different colors of leaves on trees or flowers in the garden. Art is truly all around us and incorporating art and nature is one of the best ways for children to grasp a basic understanding of art and the world around us.

I loved taking art history classes in college, but I wished I had learned more about it much earlier. Here are some book recommendations for parents who want to teach their children more about art, different periods, and various important artists. I own these books and have read through them. My Monkey is not quite ready for these books yet, but I have them ready for him once he is old enough. If people express enough interest, I may just do a book give-away for some (or all) of these fabulous books!

The Art Book for Children: Books One and Two Amanda Renshaw, Alan Fletcher, and Gilda Williams Ruggi

How to Talk to Your Children About Art Francoise Barbe-Gall

Great American Artists for Kids: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great American Masters MaryAnn F. Kohl and Kim Solga

Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters MaryAnn F. Kohl and Kim Solga

If you have any other recommendations on how to introduce art to children, please share them in the comments section!