Kids Artwork: 4 ways to comment on it

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Do you compliment your child’s artwork? (I’m sure you do)

Do you tell them how beautiful it is? Is that a good thing? What could be wrong?

There are so many ways to help a child grow through his or her artwork. We can send them to classes, teach them ourselves, give them many materials to experiment but, believe it or not one of the best ways to help children grow through their art is by  how we react to our children’s artwork.

The formula for relating to a child’s artwork is quite simple but, let me begin by describing the 4 types of comments that are not valuable.  I will then give you 6 ways to react and then put those comments into action with the artwork displayed here.

There are 4 ways that most adults relate to children’s artwork.

COMPLIMENTING:That’s beautiful…” “That’s very good…” etc. Of course, we all do this and think we are doing what is best for the child.

However, telling a child their work is beautiful all of the time is overused and pat. They are compliments that lack sincerity and really don’t address the child’s efforts. A child may well begin to wonder how it is that his representational man and his sister’s scribbles elicit the same reaction, and will begin doubting your sincerity.

VALUING: “I like that”.  Children’s art should not be done to please adults. This shows a value for the product over the process.

QUESTIONING: “What is that?” Many young children who are just making scribbles and free art  cannot verbalize what they have made or are not even ready to make representational drawings. Unless they are making a predetermined project it is best to just ask them to tell you a bout it.

CORRECTING: If the point of educational arts is to  have the child do art according to his/her level, it would not be appropriate to guide them to do things a “right” way.

So what is the right way to react to children’s art?

The answer is that basically in a nutshell…..

Notice that artwork but really notice it and comment on it. That’s it.

To help you out with this seemingly overly simplistic concept I have  listed 6  attributes of artwork that  you can comment on and we will then relate those comments to some of the images we have here.

  1. Color
  2. Space used
  3. Lines and how many
  4. Amount of materials used
  5. Pattern and placement
  6. Use of paintbrush or other materials

Comments  like “Oh I see you used 3 colors” or “You left a lot of space around that shape you make” does a few things.

  1. It makes the child feel like you really notice what he or she did.
  2. It makes the child start to  think  about what he did.
  3. It gives real importance to her artwork.
  4. It makes the child feel good about herself.

As an example, this is what I would say about the painting above. “Oh! I see you were using a lot of  primary colors and you filled in all the empty space”.  OR “Isn’t it amazing how  colors can look so different when surrounded by other colors”. “Can you tell me what you did to get the colors to look so bright?”

Or about the next picture

Flowers with pom poms

” I  see you decided to make 2 flowers. You used one large pom pom for the middle and 4 small pom poms for the inside of the second flower”
Or What about this one

I see you used very soft colors. You made some yellow and orange shapes in the middles and then you put some curvy lines around those shapes. I could tell you were moving your wrist around  a lot when you were making this painting”

The point is for you to STOP and really notice what the child did and comment on it.

Now of course you don’t have to go crazy with and think that if you tell your child once in a while that their picture is beautiful, they will  be damaged  for life and you will have to pick up the pieces of their life. (lol)

The point here  is just to help you understand the best ways to react to children’s artwork in the most developmentally appropriate manner.

No one is perfect (except maybe you) and we don’t bat 100% all the time.

Leave a Comment:

Maia says February 22, 2011

i enjoyed reading this particular post! i am a clinical social worker and have worked with kids during my 10 yrs as a therapist. the comments you gave as examples leave out the judgments of adults and allow the child to be free in his/her expression of art. the child doesn’t have to worry about pleasing anyone; about his art being right or wrong! and i think that is a beautiful way to nurture the little ones’ creativity and self-love. thank you.

gary says February 22, 2011

Thanks Maia

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