Wednesday, October 9, 2013

How I Teach Art Appreciation to Classical Preschoolers

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Art appreciation is a great thing to work into any homeschool child's studies, even preschoolers!  One of the best things about art appreciation is that it can be a completely no-pressure subject.  It is a nice break from the routine of math, spelling, reading, (repeat).

This year my kids are 5 and 3 years old.  I am trying to incorporate art appreciation into our studies once a week.  My goals are simply: exposure to great art and increased observation skills.  Perhaps these goals will change as my children grow, but for now this is a wonderful, simple activity for us.  I hope you will give it a try too!

We use the Grade 1 Overview Year from my sponsor, Harmony Fine Arts, for our art appreciation.  It offers lots of great options for you to do as little or as much art appreciation as you want!

First of all, in my theme of trying to keep the paper clutter down this year, I made a Fine Arts notebook for each of my kids.  I'm in love with my super-simple spiral binding tool and honestly use it every chance I get.  I have a post dedicated to it, so hop over there and check it out if you need a simple {and cheap} way to keep your kid's work together too!

The notebook consists of all the pieces of art that Harmony Fine Arts includes in their curriculum, printed back to back with one of the notebooking pages that is included in the ebook.  Each two page spread looks something like this:

Ok, now on to how we actually do art appreciation...


The first step is observation.  I simply set the picture in front of my kids and ask them to look at it quietly for a minute.  For little kids, a minute is seriously all they need.  I find that my kids have a hard time keeping their thoughts in their head, so this simple exercise takes discipline!

I ask them to look at things like colors, shapes, what is the picture of, and what is in the background.  After they look quietly, I ask them to share what they say.  Usually they will say simple things like "There are apples in the picture." or "It was red and brown."  I usually like to take the picture away when I have them tell me what they saw.  This makes them think and remember, not just look down again and say what they see.

Barb, from Harmony Fine Arts recently shared {free} Printable Art Question Cards to use along with her curriculum or any art you are studying.  The are simply a series of questions that help you ask your child about different aspects of the picture they are looking at.  Sometimes I just don't know what else to look at in a picture, and these cards are really helpful.


Next is imitation.   As you can see above, I actually print two of the same picture on each page in the notebook.  One is in full color, and the other is in a lightened black and white (I just change this is Word under 'format picture').

Preschool aged children are most likely not able to draw or paint anything that would resemble the original picture.  This black and white picture lets them feel like they are re-creating the original work.  I treat it like a coloring page, and ask my kids to pay careful attention to try to coloring in the right places and with the right colors.

My son really doesn't have the time of day for coloring, so I don't make him color the whole picture.  I just want to see him exert some effort =)  My daughter is a little more of a free spirit, so it's harder to contain her to using the right colors and using them in the right places.  I don't sweat it.  Art appreciation is meant to be fun and inspiring, not tiresome and aggravating.


After that I have my children do a simple narration.  Once again, I make them do this without looking at the picture.  Narration is hard in general.  It is a skill to be learned, and using this skill while thinking about art takes some extra thinking (in my opinion).  I use this time to help my children learn to describe things in complete sentences and to use their recollection skills again.

The picture above is what my son had to say about the art he had just looked at and colored.  He speaks his narration and I write it down.  I try to let the kids say whatever they want, without critiquing it or making too many suggestions.  I will just chime in if they say things like, "Ummm...she had a green and baby....washing feet." and try to help them form good sentences.

Just like in the imitation portion, this narration shouldn't be frustrating for the child or the parent.  It is just to get the child thinking about something they might not otherwise think of.  Let the child speak his thoughts and you capture them on paper.  My kids always love to have me read back to them what they 'wrote.'  It's like their own little story =)


Last is replication.  Let you child become the artist!  I ask my children to try to draw the picture themselves.  Of course their replication won't be much like the original, but it helps them learn to pay attention to detail and practice getting messages from their brains to their hands.  As long as I see effort, I am happy.

In the example above, I had my kids just replicate the part of the picture with the basin of water.  The round part is the basin and those things sticking out to the right are the little girl's feet.  Looks good to me!  I can tell that he even tried to show the rim of the basin and the water inside.  Good effort, son!

Of course every child is going to be at a different ability level for each of these exercises.  Maybe my son's work looks amazing to you...or maybe it looks awful!  The great thing about art appreciation and preschoolers is that it doesn't really matter =)  Let your child explore great works of art.  Help them learn to pay attention to detail and learn to express what they see.

Trying to copy great works of art (no matter how simply your child does it) is a wonderful exercise for a classical education.  The thrust of the grammar stage is soaking in information and learning from what has already been done.  Observing what other artists have created will give your child the tools they need to one day create masterpieces of their own!

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This post is a part of the "How I Teach" link-up at the iHomeschool Network.


  1. Amy this is great! I wish I had a preschooler, but actually I learned something from your post about how to help my youngest with art appreciation. AND, Barb's plans are really beautiful, aren't they? Thanks for this post!

    1. Thanks, Mary! Glad this post was helpful to you =)

  2. I LOVE the idea to print one copy out lighter. I think my littles would love that! Thanks for sharing all of these great ideas!

    1. Yes, I think it works perfectly for the preschool age. I hope you kids enjoy it too!

  3. I just posted recently about how I don't do art appreciation until first grade, but this is so simple that I might have to change my mind! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Haha! I definitely don't make a big (stressful) deal about it. I think it's just a great time to get used to looking at great art!

  4. I love this idea! It's one that I'll have to save for later (my baby is not yet in any way capable of holding a pencil ).

    1. Thanks for the comment! It's fun gathering ideas, isn't it?

  5. I agree!! I love the idea of printing out the original in a greyscale tone so they can color in the details. GENIUS Amy!!

    1. Well thanks, Kristen! I suppose I am a genius ;)

  6. Great ideas! Thanks for sharing at Mom's Library!


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