A couple of years ago, I decided to take my students out on a museum visit, and I found out then that it was their very first museum visit ever! While I was surprised, even a little saddened that those kids have never visited an art museum before, the experience was quiet eye opening and amazing. I was blown away by the insights and ideas these kids had. Viewing and discussing art with children is not only an important activity, but one that can make for a wonderful and memorable way of bonding with them. Personally, one of my favourite activities to do with my young niece is to read stories about artists and their work. It amazed me just how much she remembers about the artist and the names of the paintings and how it inspires her in life. So, what do you do when you don’t have the art knowledge that allows for an intellectual discussion with your children? Or what if you do have the time and knowledge but don’t have the museums to visit for said discussions? Below are a simple ideas and suggestions on how you can have wonderful art discussions with your children, developing their critical thinking skills, broadening their horizons and allowing their imagination to soar free.
Talking to children ages 5-7
At this age children are attracted to bright colours. They connect with pictures of familiar elements and things related to their lives like people, houses, cars, the beach and so on. They’re also attracted to images that show clear emotions like laughter, crying, surprise and so on. Encourage children to look at and connect with the artwork by invoking their imagination and love for stories. Picture of someone crying for example, you can encourage the children to invent their own stories as to why the person is crying or why they’re happy and so on. With more abstract artwork, help them connect the colours and shapes to familiar objects. For example, a yellow spot or line can represent the sun or a flower. Children at that age have short attention spans and will likely find a visit to an art museum boring. They will, however, love looking at the pictures in books that they can hold and touch. Alternatively, if you have a particular artist you like or a movement you think is interesting, you can google it and have a brief discussion with your children by asking as many questions that evoke curiosity and imagination as you can. Simple questions like “what do you see in this artwork?”, “what else do you see?”, “What do you think is happening here?”ow does that make you feel?!
Talking to children ages 8-10
Children this age are also attracted to bright colours and contrast, and they particularly love artworks with stories behind them. They are attracted to clearly defined character types, good guys versus the bad guys for example and you can relate their personal points of reference, for example characters from superhero movies to characters in paintings with mythological subjects. This age is the best age to visit a museum with children and have an insightful discussion of the artworks you’re viewing. One way to get children to connect to the artwork is to start a discussion about the materials and techniques used in the artwork rather than just discussing the subject. This is a great way to help them form a connection between the artwork and themselves if they are already taking an art class in school or elsewhere. Again, a great way to have a discussion is by asking questions such as “what do you see”, “what do you think is going on in this artwork?”, “what do you see that makes you say that?”
Talking to children ages 11-13
At this age, children tend to jump to conclusions about what they see and the best way to engage them is not by correcting them, but rather by asking for their opinions, sharing information and asking questions. They’ll be more interested in the story of the artist, the techniques they used to convey a feeling or an idea than in the abstract nature of art itself. Engage them with interesting facts about the artist, their life or the artwork you’re viewing. Looking into symbolism used in the artwork together and discuss how the artists use it to give their artwork a deeper meaning. Compare works by different artists that deal with the same subject for instance and see what similarities or differences you can come up with
Discussing an artwork can be a fun, educational, and memorable bonding activity you can share with your children. It doesn’t have to involve a lot of work or take up a lot of time. You can make it a weekly activity you do together for half an hour and it can be a great way to connect with your child and what they’re learning in school. The most important thing is to be open to ideas, ask questions and have fun