Parents, did you know your response can either guide a young artist to try to please you or reflect on their endeavor?

How often have you responded like this cartoon?


Here are typical responses modeled by adults.

Complimentary Responses:
"That is a beauty."
"Oh, how lovely."
"Yes, very nice."

Valuing Responses:
"I like that"
"Oh, I just love it"

Probing Responses: "Please tell me about this" " What would you like tosay about this art work?"

Judging Responses:
"That is really good."

"That is great work."

Questioning Responses:
"What is it?"
" What is that supposed to be?"

A Correcting Response: "Wh at is a nice tiger, but next time draw the black stripes because tigers have stripes."


Why we should seek a different way to respond to child art.

When we say things like the above, children tend to be influenced to make art for approval. The endeavor of creative expression in a small child is a exploritive discovery type of endeavor. Encouraging a young child to reflectupon anart expression will lead him or herto develop strong visual literacy skill. And let's face it, we are not living in a world becoming less about imagery.

Technology is truly shaping our time to be an imagery age. Imagery than can be said to be as important in communication as letters and numbers. Children therefore, need strong direction in thinking skills to get meaning from images and have ability to create messages through their own images.

We can helpby encouraging them to describe, analyze and interpret images through our own modelling of these skills. We can easily do this when we respondto images, especially theirs.

A better way...

Like letters are the building blocks for reading and writing, Elements of Design:

  • Line
  • Shape
  • Color
  • Texture
  • Patterrn

are basic building blocks for our "picture language". Looking for and pointing out the elements of design that a child has used is a better way to respond to a child's art.

Look for these:


"You have filled your paper with straight lines and oval shape."

"I see very bumpy lines that are red"

"I see onle long line which frames your drawing" (Point this outby tracing the line with your finger.)

"You have used purple, blue, pink and a little bit of red in your painting."

"You used blue to make a patern of pointed digagonal lines near the bottom." (Schirrmacher, 1986.)

AR T is...for every child, not just the talented."(Wilson)

AR T is ...a way of experiencing the world and growing creatively. Art is not simply a product."(Wilson)



Engel, Brenda S. (1996). Learning to Look: Appreciating Child Art. Young Children. 51 (3), 74-79.

Getty Trust, J.P. (1999). The Power of Images in Education. [On-line] Available:

Hohmann, Mary, &Weikart, David P. (1995). Educating Young Children. Ypsilanti, Michigan: High/Scope.

Ohler, J. (1996) The Four Rs: Preparing Kids for the World of Work in the Age of Multimedia. [On-line] Available:

Schirrmacher, R. (1986). Talking With Young Children About Their Art. Young Children. 3-7

Wilson, E.L. Art is... Forum Thoughts to Share. Lemovne, Pennsylvania: West Shore School District.