How to Introduce Art to Preschoolers

The best way to introduce art to preschoolers is simply to let them create some of their own.  The average two year old already has a definitive relationship with color by the time they start marking on paper with crayons and he (or she) is essentially an artist so to speak.  Introducing art as a formal concept, however, only requires exposure to art via images and objects in the classroom as well as trips to museums, and the reading of books by and about art and artists.

Museums generally have lesson plans for major exhibits and their permanent collections and often will hold a teacher night.  During these events educators will be able to tour the museum and collect lesson plans, postcards and artists biographies that they can then take back to the classroom to use with their students.  Some museums supply teacher packets for museum exhibitions that include coloring sheets, art activities, and additional information that might not be included in a standard lesson plan.

Field trips to museums allow preschool students to interact with art up close and personal and the institution’s education coordinator can work with a teacher to plan interactive activities to allow students to become more engaged with their environment on the visit.  Connecting books read in the classroom prior to the visit further cements the concept for students.

The incorporation of books that focus on art or art related topics in classroom reading is one of the best ways to familiarize children with art.  As they are read to, students can begin to transition from being entertained by the story to learning new vocabulary words.  When they make their own art related to the story that has been read to them they unconsciously build tangible connections between concepts they have heard and their own tactile world.  Similarly, when they create their own art reflective of a museum visit they are making connections to what an artist does and the materials the artist uses.

Addressing art in the classroom, or more specifically the making of art at the preschool level should start with color.  As students learn to identify colors by name they can create art work based on the things they discover in their world which exist in those colors such creating collages from precut pictures of things in a given color.  At this age they can also experiment to learn what happens when they blend one color with another.

Without even being able to draw students can be encouraged to create art with crayons, finger paints, bits of colored paper or air-dry clay.  They can also begin to learn simple concepts such as how the words cool and warm apply to color as well as to identify images as either real or abstract. 

It should be noted that the exploration of color should not be restricted.  If a child chooses to make the sun in his or her picture pink and the trees orange they should be given the artistic license to do so.  Children live in the real world everyday and they know that the sky is blue and the grass is green.  Forcing them to create art in any image other than their own is defeating the purpose. 

Another concept that can be introduced at this level is texture.  One of the earliest senses children develop is touch.  Being able to experience various textures firsthand such as smooth, bumpy, fluffy or furry, capitalizes on vocabulary building while making further connections to the tactile world.  Using items with different textures to create art such as simple prints and collages expands the child’s awareness of art and allows them to associate to what they see with what they can touch and experience.  

Introducing art to the preschool classroom is basically quite simple.  It is a matter of exposure and engagement.  Helpful books for bringing art to the preschool classroom are “The Room of Wonders”, “Harold and the Purple Crayon”, “Why is Blue Dog Blue?” and the Dover “Paint Your Own” series of famous painting coloring books.