Sharing art with toddlers: Using their interests to foster art appreciation

Althea is extremely taken by ‘stars’ and ‘moons’ at the moment. She will keenly point them out in her environment; she sings twinkle, twinkle little star (loudly and with actions); she is drawn to books with illustrations of moons and stars and requests that we make stars with her play dough and star cutter.

I thought that this current interest was a good opportunity to ‘follow the child’ and introduce a little Montessori inspired art appreciation. Maria Montessori encouraged parents to expose children to art right from birth. In order to foster a natural appreciation of art she recommended hanging famous pieces of artwork at children’s eye level.

Every part of the home influences the child’s developing sense of beauty and balance, shape, and color. .. Reproductions of great masterpieces inspire an appreciation of beauty at any age. Great plant and animal art collections can be made from old calendars. These can be hung at the child’s eye level in any part of the house—bedrooms, bathroom, even the laundry room and garage. – Michael Olaf 

You can buy some really beautiful art postcard sets and this is something I may consider doing when Althea is a little older, but for now I want her to be able to actually use them without me fretting about them getting damaged. I also want to select pieces of art that align with her current interests, so I am simply making my own. You can print your chosen art on to paper or card or you can send them off to the photo printers like I chose to do.

You can also pick up postcards and posters from art galleries and museum’s; use pictures from old calendars or sheets of wrapping paper.

Here are some of the pieces I chose for our star theme

+ How we use our Art Cards

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  • Display them attractively at her height
  • Display her own art work alongside them
  • Provide a second set for matching
  • Talk about them together

Artwork is a great way of introducing new vocabulary and encouraging children to use vocabulary they already know. Initially if the vocabulary is new to Althea I might ask ‘Where is the star?’ Or ‘Can you see the star’. This sort of questioning usually encourages none verbal communication such as pointing and is a great place to start with young Toddlers.

When I know that she understands the word and can use it herself I might say ‘What can you see?’ Or Point to something specific and ask ‘What is this?’. I try to make sure I allow enough time for her to process the question and come up with a verbal answer. It can take young children a little longer to respond to a question so I try and avoid jumping in too soon and endure the sometimes uncomfortable silence. I find it helps to count to 10.

With toddlers you’ll find the main focus will be on objects, colours, shapes and people but as children get older it is a great way of weaving in a broader range of topics such as history, geography and literature.

If you are interested in following a ready made art appreciation curriculum for Young Children then I recommend ‘Sharing Art with Children The Montessori Way’, a philosophy, a method and a curriculum by Julie Karlonas that runs all the way from Toddlerhood into upper Elementary School. You can learn more about her Toddler Materials which include an introduction to art exploration comprised of 36 lessons, The Language of Art – a resource to use with toddlers and a visual art matching material HERE