Celebrating Early Arts Education

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen, Mar 18, 2013 3 comments

Kristen Engebretsen Kristen Engebretsen

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." - Pablo Picasso

As the mother of a four year old daughter (Sofia), I have seen firsthand how natural it is for young children to communicate and express themselves through singing, drawing, and dancing.

These mediums allow youngsters a chance to express thoughts, ideas, and emotions that they might not have the words for. They also help them explore the world around them through their five senses—one of the primary ways that young children learn.

As my daughter’s first teacher, I have tried to provide her with materials and experiences that will nurture her innate curiosity and foster a lifelong love of self expression through the arts.

Sofia and I love to do what we call "projects.” The projects usually involve art, music, or nature, but more importantly, they involve discovery, exploration, and a focus on process over product. You’ll see through the pictures below some of the projects that Sofia and I do together.

For example, one project might involve multiple days’ worth of activities: 

1) mixing our own paint from household ingredients,

2) exploring the color wheel by mixing colors,

3) using our homemade paint to create a picture,

4) discussing the project, and then

5) displaying the project or sending it to a family member as a card or gift.

I help Sofia explore the color wheel through paint mixing. I help Sofia explore the color wheel through paint mixing.

Sofia creates a painting by squeezing the mixed paint onto paper. Sofia creates a painting by squeezing the mixed paint onto paper.

However, I must admit, that I regularly turn to experts to know just how to engage my preschooler with the arts, without focusing too much on technique and final products.

There are many people who have excellent programs for early childhood education and even more websites with fantastic tools for parents and educators alike.

In honor of March being Youth Arts Month, I’ve rounded up about 18 leaders from across the country who will share their best tools, ideas, and case studies about the arts in early childhood education.

They’ll tackle some heady topics on this issue:

What can parents do to encourage exploration and learning by discovery? What specific activities or experiments will cultivate creativity and a lifelong love for the arts? What benefits do young children gain from engagement in the arts?

Sofia and mom during one of our jam sessions - no discussion of proper notes or finger patterns, just exploring the cause and effect of touching the string and making sound. Sofia and mom during one of our jam sessions - no discussion of proper notes or finger patterns, just exploring the cause and effect of touching the string and making sound.

What is developmentally appropriate for our youngest learners (ages 0–5)? How is this different than arts education in elementary school? How do we ensure that our programs are developmentally appropriate for our youngest learners?

Notice in the picture below what a huge difference there is in Sofia’s technical abilities in just a year!

Sofia, age 3,exploring painting with a brush (instead of her fingers). Sofia, age 3, exploring painting with a brush (instead of her fingers).

Read along this week (March 18–22) as our experts tackle these questions and more during our Blog Salon on early childhood education. And you can use #earlyartsed on Twitter and Pinterest to find related content.

We hope you’ll find this collection of early arts education resources helpful!

3 responses for Celebrating Early Arts Education


Mr. Gregory Fiedler says
March 18, 2013 at 12:24 pm

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."
- Pablo Picasso

One way we can foster the growth of young artists is to support their education at all ages.

April and May are exciting months here at Greater Flint Arts Council in Flint, Michigan. It is the time of year that we celebrate, promote, participate and collaborate in activities that showcase the wonderful arts education programs and opportunities we have here in Mid-Eastern-Michigan.

We begin in April by exhibiting works made in the pre-school art program at Alpha Montessori School, downtown Flint. This creative and colorful display has been a favorite of gallery hoppers for more than 20 years. This lively show, featuring works by the Andy Worhals and Georgia O’Keeffes of tomorrowland, opens during ARTWALK on Friday, April 12, 6-9PM. Alpha Montessori Director, Dee Glynn says: “Art is a multi-sensory experience for children. By exploring a variety of methods, from sculpting to painting and materials, from plaster to watercolor, our students make discoveries about themselves and their world. Through our collaboration with Greater Flint Arts Council our young artist’s “works of art” are showcased in a professional art gallery in downtown Flint. Students, families and the community are brought together and celebrate the creative spirit of the young child.”
April 2, we open the Tri-County High School Art Exhibition at the Flint Public Library. High School art teachers in Lapeer and Genesee Counties enter what they feel are the best works from each of their classes. This show is judged and sixteen awards are presented including a best teacher award for the one whose students win the most awards. The awards reception with be held Wednesday, April 10, 5:30-7PM, award announcements at 6:30 PM. This exhibition will run through April 30, 2013.

In May we host the annual University of Michigan-Flint Art Department Student Exhibition which opens during ARTWALK, Friday, May 10, 6-9PM. This show is juried by UM-Flint Professors and is judged for awards including purchase awards. This collaboration provides many adult students with their first exhibition in a professional gallery. Over the years, many students have come back and worked with GFAC as professional artists. This exhibition runs through June 7, 2013.

In addition to these exhibition and competition opportunities, GFAC will be sending artists into schools K-12 through our ARTSHARE program, encouraging creativity among youth using a variety of artistic disciplines.

Greg Fiedler

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Leanne says
March 19, 2013 at 6:53 am

every child is an artist...Indeed, every child has this innate gift that requires adults to provide hands on open ended materials to explore new possibilities of the processes. Unfortunately, society seems to value cute projects that hang on refrigerators and are smiled upon. If we want to nurture creativity, early educators must be called upon to value and advocate for exploration of processes, provide and extend children's in depth discovery of the potential of materials, how they feel, smell, move across paper or other media and to hold at bay the pressure to produce cute projects. Art is not just about production, but a way of seeing, noticing elements of art everywhere in our daily lives...light, shadow, lines, textures, patterns. Our work provides the foundation for a lifetime of taking risks, trying new ideas and learning to problem solve. This month and always, I wish early educators to ...be present to the possibilities of the extraordinary in the ordinary.

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Kristen Engebretsen says
March 19, 2013 at 8:41 am

Thanks, Leanne, for the comment. You'll definitely enjoy several of the upcoming blogs on this topic, as they will provide tips and ideas for parents and educators to do just what you've described. I hope you'll follow along and continue to comment this week!

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