How to Ask About Your Child’s Art

Dad and son painting at home

How to Ask About Your Child’s Art

If you ever feel like your house has been taken over by piles of children’s artwork, that’s actually a good thing! Even though all those finger paintings and crayon doodles may seem like clutter, research shows that every piece of artwork your children create helps them to develop lifelong skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving and self-expression.

Parents can play a significant role in nurturing children’s creativity early in life. One easy way to do this is something you’re probably already doing: asking questions about their artwork. But not all questions are created equal. Asking the right questions can make all the difference, says Megan Hettig, an artist with an extensive background teaching art to preschoolers.

She offers these tips for asking questions that encourage creativity and open dialogue, as well as questions to avoid because they can unintentionally stifle your child’s expression.

Tip: Focus on the process, not the product.

Avoid asking your child to put a “label” on the objects in their artwork. It’s likely that they are exploring materials and how they interact with each other as opposed to communicating an idea through their art. Instead, ask your child to describe how they created their artwork. This is a great opportunity to flex your child’s critical thinking skills and to get a sneak peek at the inner workings of their brain.

Say this:

  • I noticed you used blue paint. What other colors did you use?
  • You worked very hard on this. Tell me about it.
  • Can you tell me which artist tools you used to make this?
  • Can you tell me what you were thinking when you created this?

Avoid saying:

  • What did you draw?
  • Who is this supposed to be?
  • I see you drew our house, but where are the windows?

Tip: Let your child take the lead.

Follow your child’s lead when creating art together, and when talking about the art. Give your child access to an array of art supplies, turn on some music and prepare for a mess! Then, ask questions that prompt your child to start creating.

Say this:

  • I was thinking we could use our modeling dough or color with our crayons today. Which materials would you like to use?
  • Now that we’ve finished painting the sky, what do you want to paint next?
  • What colors do you want to use in our drawing today?

Avoid saying:

  • Let’s color this picture with these crayons.
  • Can you draw a picture of Mommy and Daddy?
  • Try drawing something with the blue marker.

Remember, when it comes to encouraging your child’s creativity and the skills that come along with it, ask questions that focus on how they get to the final product, not what it is. Keep fostering a love of art in your child’s everyday life by making materials available, letting them take the lead and maintaining a positive, nonjudgmental approach. You will soon see improved fine motor skills, increased verbal skills and an even more colorful refrigerator.

For more on encouraging creativity in children, check out:

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