We all know that feeling when your child presents you with their art project, and you have no idea what it is they’ve drawn. You want to encourage them with some feedback, so you probably said something like “Wow. Incredible Job! I love that giant pink cloud.” The child’s response was something like “That’s not a cloud, that’s a drawing of myself.”
Don’t feel bad. At a young age, children are still developing their skills, so it’s not uncommon for us to misidentify their results. However, treat this as an opportunity to help with your child’s development.
Do’s and Don’ts when your child shows you their work
1. Don’t be a praise junkie.
The first thing we usually do is to praise the work. It’s natural to want to encourage your child, and it’s the easiest response, but becoming a praise junkie can be destructive in several ways. Too much empty praise can compromise a child’s motivations. Children may begin performing just to get reactions from other people. They begin to choose their work based on what others say, rather than for the enjoyment of the process.
Do: Try asking the child to tell you about their work. This can be your best go-to response, especially when you can’t think of what to say. You can also say things like “You clearly worked hard on this,” or “I can see you really dedicated yourself to this art,” or ask them what they like best about their work.2. Don’t attempt to identify the subject
The child didn’t create their work to make a guessing game out of it, and besides, there’s a huge possibility that you will incorrectly label what you see. Also, don’t ask them what they’ve drawn. That indicates that you don’t know. Instead, ask them to tell you about their work.
Do: Talk about the colors, textures and lines you see. Make observations without judgement, about colors, lines, and shapes you see. For instance say “I see lots of blue here. Why did you chose blue?” This helps the child to begin an analysis of their process, and helps to enhance critical thinking skills.
3.Don’t focus only on the results.
Much of your child’s development happens during the creative time spent making the art, and that process is actually much more important than the end result.
Do: Talk about the process and encourage the child to recall and reflect their motivations for color choices, line choices, position of elements, and allow them to explain to you how they arrived at their product. Be careful not to turn the conversation into an interrogation. Request from a position of curiosity, a description of the process. Show that you are interested in what was going through their mind while they worked. All this reinforces the child’s ability to verbalize concepts, as well as articulate their processes.4.Don’t say “Let’s put it on the refrigerator.” This is a missed opportunity for them to create some suggestions.
Do ask them if they want to display their art somewhere, then ask THEM for suggestions. The more opportunities to make choices that you allow them, the better children become at decision-making. Give them every opportunity to make choices. This will further enhance their cognitive skills.
5 Don’t Push Try not to rush the child’s progress. This will only cause anxiety for both of you, and remove the joy from the process.
Do: Allow the child to work undisturbed in a quiet environment at their own pace. If you share the room with them, be a still presence. Visit their work invited, or at the conclusion of the session.
6. Don’t compare a child’s results to others. Lots of parents feel anxious when a child’s art appears to lag behind their classmates, and they attempt to pressure the child by comparing their work to others. This pressure is not only unnecessary but can cause anxiety and compromise a child’s motivation rather than have the intended effect.
Artistic development proceeds independently of other developments, and does not impact development in other areas such as reading and writing.
Do: Allow the child to develop at their own pace. Everyone develops at a different rate, and the best thing you can do is create an environment which encourages rather than coerces the child. Instead, compare their work to their own early efforts to illustrate how much they have improved over time.
Always remember that the goal of the art making process is to help foster confidence, and enhance creative thinking. That, along with enhanced communications skills will help prepare your child for a happy and fulfilling life.