Training your Child to Appreciate Art

I’m a firm believer in children being exposed to great works of art and also creating their own art.

When was the last time you actually chose to visit an art museum on your own, let alone take your child to one?  I must confess that I was not an enthusiastic museum visitor as a young parent.  I did not know how to explain some of the art displayed and I simply didn’t know how to introduce them to the great works of art.  So I avoided art museums.

What I did do however, was to sign my children up for art experiences in our area, (and I have a complete set of coil pots to prove it).  I chose wonderful art teachers who inspired them to replicate great works of art, explore different styles of art, and to create messages through the visual arts.  My parental experiment was a success!  Both of my adult children are fearless when it comes to a creative project (probably to the dismay of their spouses…), and I am convinced they both will do a much better job of walking their little ones through MOMA and the National Portrait Gallery.  I believe with all my heart that my children benefited from the art lessons, and art appreciation (thank you wonderful art teachers).

I hope you will be encouraged to create opportunities for your children to view and create art. After all, everyone needs their own set of coil pots!

Art Appreciation and the Young Child

Parents can initiate young children’s appreciation of art by letting them view and make art.
For young children, visiting an art gallery or museum can be a great introduction to art. Here are some suggestions to make your trip a success:

The Sisters of Charity by Charles Burton Barber

Start small. Choose a theme that relates to your child’s interests, such as ballet or animals, and look at just three or four pieces to see how different artists represent the subject.
• Pay attention to the artwork’s message. Artwork that shows people gathering food or nurturing a child or that highlights daily activities in other ways carries powerful positive messages.
• Listen to your child’s response to artwork. Children may find some work frightening, such as Georgia O’Keefe’s Horse’s Skull with White Rose. Experts say toddlers respond to scenes of daily life and abstract art like that of Picasso or Klee, but show little interest in landscapes.
• Watch for art in progress. Children are fascinated to see art in the making so watch for people who are sketching or painting.
• Learn when to lead and when to follow. A child will let you know when he’s ready to look at a piece of art more deeply.  The goal is to help your child to acquire an appreciation of art…follow their lead when possible.
• Find something for everyone. Having at least two adults with a family group allows you to split up and accommodate everyone’s interests.
 Find creative ways to keep little hands off. Touching an object related to the artwork makes it easier for kids to accept “hands-off” policies. When looking at a sculpture, for example, bring a smooth stone for kids to touch.
First Steps

Look at the winter scene above.   Keep in mind your child’s developmental level as you begin to discuss artwork.  Practice designing questions that will engage your child in the discussion of art.

Questions about The Sisters of Charity might range from “How many deer are in this picture?” to “Why do you think the artist titled his art, The Sisters of Charity?”

Share your questions as well as your child’s unique responses with us in the comment section below.   Discuss, explore and enjoy ART!

Deni Corbett



  1. I love that I know your children and can see the proof of you art experimentations! You are right–it worked! 🙂 We really enjoy the A First Discovery Art Book series. They are great for exposing preschoolers to fine art.

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