No, you don’t even have to take your kids to a museum to have an educational experience with art. Is it a nice thing to do every once in a while? Sure. You should plan a trip, but before you do that let’s just start with the art in your own home. It doesn’t matter the subject matter or if it is something you created or a reprint. It also doesn’t matter that you don’t have an art degree and can’t tell a Monet from a Manet. The goal is to get your kids thinking creatively and finding ways to help them describe what they see.
This method comes from a research based teaching method called the Visual Thinking Strategies. The following quote is directly from the VTS website explaining the premise of the teaching strategy:
"…VTS provides a way to jumpstart a process of learning to think deeply applicable in most subjects from poetry to math, science and social studies. Art is the essential first discussion topic because it enables students to use existing visual and cognitive skills to develop confidence and experience, learning to use what they already know to figure out what they don’t; they are then prepared to explore other complex subject matter alone and with peers…"
This method is really about asking open ended questions to your child about the artwork you are looking at. There are no right or wrong answers, rather it helps kids engage with the art and think for themselves on what it might mean or what is happening in the photo or figuring out the time period it was created.
Let’s face it, the world kids grow up in now can be visually over-stimulating. So much so that artwork & photography is just perused over and not really seen. Just talking about the art in your own home is a perfect way to begin a discussion about art, forming opinions and backing them up with their thoughts and explanations.
Step 1: Asking questions
Here are 7 questions you can ask to get you started in your conversation. The first two questions being the most open ended and interesting (at least to me) to hear the answer to, and the last one could be the trickiest depending on the age of your child.
What do you see in this picture?
What does it tell you?
How did the artist make this?
If you could add anything to the painting what would you add? Why?
If this artwork could talk to you, what would it say?
What would you name this piece of artwork?
When you look at the artwork, how does it make you feel?
Step 2: Be open minded like I mentioned before, there is no right or wrong answers, and you will often be surprised with what kids come up with.
Step 3: Look carefully Change your perspectives to make sure you see the art from all angles. Close up, far away, different angles etc. Seeing the art from different perspectives could provide different explanations and discoveries.
Step 4: Channel your discussion into educational art projects - Creating their own artwork inspired by what you just discussed can help cement their understanding of the artwork and develop their critical thinking skills even further as they process what into their own creation.
Even though you don’t have an Art degree from college, you are ready to talk about art with your kids to get them thinking creatively.