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Celebrating Early Arts Education

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!

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