How do I talk to my child about art? (looking at and interpreting art)
Updated: Jul 30, 2022
You will notice that in several of the "Grab and Go Packs", that the projects relate to art history subjects. On an intuitive level, that makes perfect sense. Shouldn't kids look at art in an art class? However, research suggests that looking at and interpreting art can build important cognitive skills as well empathy. In addition, knowing art and artists is, in my opinion, and important part of being a well-rounded person.
I used art as as inspiration for my lessons, because I found it helped my creative process of creating projects. Also, many children truly enjoy looking at and talking about art, but some wouldn't give two hoots if it wasn't connected to actual art creation.
I had a process for how I look at art with kiddos, which did vary with the age of the child. I added links to videos to help you and/or your child become more familiar with art vocabulary.
*Just so you know, these are linked with QR codes on the instructional materials provided in the "Grab and Go" packs, I have included them here for clarity and to help you get an overview.
With kindergarteners and first graders: we would start with these questions:
What did you notice about this work of art?
How would you describe it to someone who couldn't see it?
What details do you see?
Second grade and older we would start with these questions:
Is it a painting, drawing, sculpture?
What is the subject? (landscape, still life, portrait, scene, or design)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxJSK45h6DA -to review the types of art
How has the artist used line, shape, color, pattern, texture, or form? (depending on the work, if the painting is mainly about color, I would ask about that)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0OeaZptITA -to review the elements of art
How has the artist used his/her picture space? Is it balanced or imbalanced? Did the artist use depth (close and far?).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ci_SEPp-Cxs -to review design
How does the work make you feel? Why?
What do you think the artist's purpose was in creating this work of art?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfokezwAx8I -to learn more about why artists create art
4th grade and older we would continue:
How would you describe this work? Realistic, imaginary, surreal, abstract, stylized, non-objective? (this, of course, depended on what they were viewing for example, does this painting seem realistic or dreamlike to you?)
Does it have a mood or feeling? (happy, sad, gloomy, whimsical, scary, anxious, angry, excited...and so on)
What do you think the artist could be trying to say to us?
Sometimes, I would guide them along by telling them a bit about an artists life. Sometimes learning about the artist really clarifies what the artist was expressing with their work.
*For some projects I added links to videos on the cover sheets in the "Grab and Go Packs" that discuss an artist's life. I hope that helps you and your learners.
I also find it very helpful to have kiddos compare two works of art that are similar in some way, but have important differences. For example, comparing two works that have a similar subjects or types of art, but have differences in style or purpose. I also like comparing two similar works and ask them which one is a better work of art and why they think so. I will sometimes let them know after which one is considered better, but I always remind learners that there is no right or wrong in preferences.
*I created this reference sheet for you to use with your kiddo when looking at art. It can be downloaded free of charge from the arted4kiddos store.
Visiting the Art Museum:
Visiting and Art Museum:
Finally, I will add a little note about preparing a child for an art museum visit. I think exploring art in this way is so important. I strongly recommend going over some behavioral expectations with them ahead of time. Remind them to: talk quietly, walk only, do not touch the artwork, and be respectful to the museum employees and visitors.
A fun thing to do is to make a list of questions for them to think about while there such as:
What is your favorite work in this room? Why do you like it?
What is the work you like the least? What do you not like about it?
Is there a work of art you feel like you would like to learn more about...that you maybe found interesting, but didn't understand?
Finally, do prepare them for seeing images that they may find embarrassing, disturbing, or upsetting. Remind them that artists are gown ups and some art is not really meant for kids. Encourage them to try to deal with art that challenges, embarrasses, or upsets them in a grown up way.