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Art Education: How Parents Can Help

APPRECIATE your child's artistic endeavors. This seems rather obvious, but children's scribbles are not necessarily wonderful. As a child grows, perceptions and drawings improve. When you see inaccuracies in a child's perception of, for example, how a hand attaches to an arm, have the child look at an arm and pay attention to the way it attaches. Questions as to what the child sees or feels when touching a wrist can be helpful and will enhance the sense of discovery.

DISPLAY your child's art and make a folder to keep it in when "exhibit" time is over. The child should periodically clean out the folder and discard those things that no longer are important to him.

PROVIDE A WORK AREA where the child can work on an art project. Parents have to teach the child that where, when, and on what one uses the material is very important. By the time a child is ready for art classes, crayons, at least, will be familiar. Working with crayon or pencil can be done at a table. Later, working with water paints, which are messier, it may be better to work near a sink or outside near a faucet.

Use art projects as an opportunity to TEACH GOOD WORK HABITS. (See the list of Basic Rules for Good Work Habits with materials) Preparation, clean up, and maintenance of materials are important steps to take.

Preparation requires clearing a space, collecting materials to be used and putting on appropriate cover-ups if the work is messy.

Clean-up means putting materials away, wiping up the area, and doing something with the art produced.

Maintenance of materials means, for example, putting crayons back where they belong, being sure caps are replaced or closed, and washing paintbrushes properly.

PROVIDE MATERIALS. Choose a storage area. This can be a big box (purchased or found), a shelf, or cabinet space, etc. Start collecting materials (see lists). Other materials may be substituted for those suggested in a lesson. Newspaper pages with less print may be used, as a background if purchased newsprint is not available. Cardboard from boxes may be used. Be flexible and creative in the use of materials. Most children love having a fresh box of crayons. The crayons eventually lose their wrappers and pointed ends. Actually, many creative crayon lessons require broken and peeled crayons. If you can't tell purple from black without trying it out, that may be the time to experiment with using a broken crayon on its side or trying different colors next to or on top of one another in creating large shapes.

Some Basic Rules for Good Work Habits with Materials

• The more neatly you work, the easier it is to clean up. A big mess can be worth it, but you do have to clean up.

Artists care for their brushes:
• Dip the brush into the paint only halfway up the brush so the paint doesn't collect at the base of the bristles.
• Don't push the brush into the paper so the bristles get flattened.
• Wash the brush thoroughly when finished for the day. Use soap. Rinse well. Fill the brush with water. Bring the bristles to a point with your fingers and leave the brush to dry with the bristle end up.
• Keep the water for painting clean. This is why it's good for the work area to be near a faucet. Yellow paint, for example, changes color if the water is dirty.

• Cut almost to the tip of the scissors, but not all the way to the tip. Cutting to the tip causes a small horizontal tear.
• Cut a shape by turning the paper, not the scissors.

Glue or Paste
Use as little paste as you can and still have the paper stick. The paste spreads when you put the piece you're gluing on to the other piece. If there is too much glue, it will squish out at the side.

• Art Classes for Children Ages 4-12 >

• Materials >

• About Kay Alexander >

• Developmental Skills >

• At Home with Art: Art Lessons >


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