Visual Arts

Art I Can See

Visual arts for young children include anything they can see and create.


Traci and Mom have just come home from a new art exhibit at the children’s museum. Mom wants to give Traci an opportunity to create her own art, so she goes into her office and comes out with a very large piece of white paper. Mom places the paper on the highchair in front of Traci and tapes down each of the four corners so the paper will be secure. Next Mom gives Traci a bit of yellow paint in a cup and puts the cup on the tray of the highchair next to the paper. Traci begins to dip her hands in the cup and then slaps her hands down on the paper. Then after Traci puts her hands in the yellow paint again, she starts to touch her clothes and her face. By the time Traci is done, everything is yellow.


Mom does not mind that Traci gets so messy. She is more excited that Traci is able to explore the paint and experiment with all the different places she can put it.

Visual arts can include scribbles on a piece of paper, a painting, her hand or footprint, as well as coloring a picture, just to name a few options. Visual arts reflect the world your child is in.

Engaging in visual art supports your child’s experience with different textures (e.g. crinkled paper or glue on paper) as well as developing fine motor skills, because so many art creations are done using hands (painting and coloring). Your child is able to express herself by making choices such as what colors of paint to use or by combining different mediums. When you give your child visual art experiences, you will help her gain a better understanding of her creative abilities.

Give your child experiences that are focused on the exploration of materials and textures.

Experiences should include some of the following examples:

- Finger painting, which supports not only the development of visual arts but also understanding cause and effect.
- Shaving cream painting on a cookie sheet to support the development of the senses when she experiments with the texture of the shaving cream.
- Taping a large piece of paper to the table and leaving it there for a couple days. This gives your child the opportunity to engage in visual arts any time by being able to come and go as she pleases.

Visual art includes not only things that your child creates, but also art your child can see in a museum or outside at the park. Take a trip with your child to your local art museum. Seeing the works of other artists will open up your child’s creative thinking. Support those skills by talking about the different art you see together at the museum (e.g. “Do you see the bird in the picture? It looks so shiny and like it is f lying.”)

Remember, no matter what your child does on paper, you do not need to insist on calling the image something or identifying it in any way. At this stage, she is only exploring, and the picture is not meant to represent something.

When your child is finished creating a picture, talk about the colors she used (e.g. “I see you used yellow paint. It is very bright like the sun.”). You can also talk about the different marks that were made on the paper (e.g. “I love your circles. Did you see you made a circle shape?”).

At this age your child may not verbally say much about her creation, but by talking to her about her art, you are supporting her self-confidence and encouraging her to believe that she has the ability to create anything and do it well.