Exploring Art with Children – Artistic Stages

What to expect at each developmental stage

Always keep in mind

Be flexible.
Children have their own ideas about how materials can be used. Sit back and let their creativity lead them (and maybe you) in new directions!

Variety is good.
Introduce new materials to children, but do it a little at a time. It is very easy to overwhelm a young child with too many options. Give them enough time to master materials before bringing out something new.

Encourage individuality.
Supporting creativity will help children gain self-confidence with problem-solving. Art is the only area where there is no right or wrong, but many viable solutions.

1. exploration
Very young children are fascinated with the concept of making marks, when little hands holding a brush or marker hit the paper and leave a stroke. This process is a discovery in hand-eye coordination.

At this stage, children enjoy:
• mixing all the colors together
• covering the entire paper with paint
• using both hands to paint
• wearing through the paper
• playing/eating/feeling the paint

They are learning:
• coordination and fine motor skills
• how to create marks
• differences in art mediums

Encourage their exploration by:
• giving them plenty of discovery time
• talking about the scribbles they make, the colors they use, the feel of the paint

2. experimentation
During this stage of development, children attempt to draw pictures of actual things. Although not well formed on paper necessarily, these images are real in their eyes.

At this stage, children enjoy:
• working quickly to create a picture
• cutting paper
• naming and renaming the same pictures
• utilizing new coordination skills
• vocabulary words like mark, line, dot
• better use of paper space
• making glue puddles
They are learning:
• new coordination skills
• vocabulary words like mark, line, dot
• how to use paper space

Encourage their exploration by:
• allowing them time to experiment with different mediums
• letting them learn to figure out an
obstacle instead of being told how and what to do
• introducing new tools, textures,
• asking about the art process, not about the final result

3. expressionism
Children begin interpreting events as unfolding stories. Images play a major role in interpreting what a child deems is important– small images or ones with missing parts– are seen as less significant.

At this stage, children enjoy:
• telling stories about what their artwork represents
• knowing exactly the materials they want to use
• using inaccurate colors and sizes
• drawing strange, imaginary creations

They are learning:
• art does not have to reflect reality; they have the power to make it as they iiisee it
• how to make their own decisions
• the limitless possibilities of their imagination

Encourage their exploration by:
• suggesting themes if they are stuck for a starting point
• supporting their individual work styles

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