When To Introduce Art To Children

When designing our living spaces and choosing the artworks that exist within them, we rarely ask the question, “What does my child think of this piece of art?” But, should we? We explore this topic with artist, art-teacher and tutor, Zory McGrath.

It's easy to think that children won't have much of an opinion when it comes to art, and certainly if questioned about the already-existing items in a child's home, most children may not offer any thoughts. For the child, the house and it’s contents are simply there and are the comfortable, familiar background that make up the child’s home environment. But take a child to a museum, art gallery, art fair etc and you will begin to hear that children do indeed have opinions on the artworks, and often make strong connections or have negative reactions based entirely on their own thoughts. So when should we begin having these conversations about art and how much do we ourselves need to know about it? We sat down with Zory McGrath to find some answers to these tricky questions.

Zory McGrath is not only an (amazing!) artist but has taught children art in childcare settings, currently teaches in primary school and delivers workshops to adults of all ages. Who better to ask about the right time in a person’s life to begin an art education? So we asked, “When is the optimal window for a child to learn about art?” It turns out, the answer isn’t simple. For Zory, learning about art isn’t purely a viewing experience. She says, “Children should be introduced to art from a very early age to help form their cognitive understanding of the world.” She believes there is no age too young - everything around children, right from birth, has the opportunity to be an artistic impression or expression. Zory is a great believer in experiential-based learning pedagogies and says that children learn an appreciation for art through their own interaction with materials and opportunities to be creative. “The purpose of teaching children art is not for them to become an artist or in the pursuit of developing an ‘artistic side’, but as a vehicle for them to express themselves through a visual language. It is not the outcome but the process that is important”.

Must we then, become art teachers and scholars to effectively support children’s art, cognitive and experiential development? The short answer is no, however there are things we can do and can be aware of. Luckily, we are most likely already doing them.

Providing children with materials for creative use is Zory’s ‘Number-One’. They don’t even need to be art-specific, simply anything that children can use in a creative way to continue their expression through visual form. Modelling creativity yourself encourages children to make attempts - again, it is the process not the outcome that is important. Taking children to museums and galleries is wonderful (at any age!) however merely looking at art can quickly become boring for little ones. Immersive, interactive sessions at specialised art centres are amazing, but don’t forget there are are opportunities for (free!) hands-on art experiences with outdoor sculptures, mosaics and murals. And lastly, your own enthusiasm towards creativity is the best art-education a child can have - the rest can be taught in schools, art classes and through the wealth of knowledge found online, depending of course on each child’s their level of interest. So, in short, when to introduce art to children? As early as possible, as much as possible, through opportunities to interact with materials in a creative way.

We thought we might be able to help out with some interactive activities: we know with kids at home, inspiration can start to run low for mind-stimulating activities. The Vernissage Art team have created a brand new part of our website - the Young Creatives area, where kids can access free printable pages, watch videos and connect with artists. Plus, we are keeping everyone motivated with competitions for the young and young at heart - because art, fun and prizes are for everyone! So why not head on over to our Young Creatives page and check it out?