5 Tips on How to Talk to Kids About Art | ARTiculations

5 Tips on How to Talk to Kids About Art | ARTiculations

One of the questions that I get asked often
being an art gallery docent is “how do I talk to kids about art?” This is obviously not
a simple answer and of course every child is different. But over the years, I’ve definitely
found some things helpful when talking to kids about art. So whether you are a teacher,
parent, docent, or anybody who wants to talk to kids about art – here are some tips and
ideas that I have to communicate more effectively with kids when it comes to art. Number one: try to talk to kids like how you
would talk to an adult. Now hear me out. I really believe it’s important to not talk
down to children.You really shouldn’t be “dumbing it down.” Okay, depending on the
age of the child, I might try to not use vocabulary that was too complex for them, and of course,
if you believe the topic is not age appropriate then you can of course choose to talk about
something else. But beyond that, it definitely is possible to talk to a child the same way
you would an adult about a work of art. For example, when I talk about the paintings
of Canadian artist Emily Carr – I would often address how many indigenous villages along
the pacific northwest coast, subject in many of her paintings, were devastated by colonial
conflicts and disease, resulting in a population declining of over 90%. If I’m talking to
a group of children about this instead of adults – I really think I could tell them
the same thing, because it’s important for them to know and talk about this part of our
nation’s history. Number two: show children concepts and ideas
that they’re familiar with. For example most kids like to see images of other kids, animals,
and family activities. But what they’re interested in doesn’t have to be limited to
those things. For example if a child likes automobiles, then you can show them paintings,
photographs, or sculptures of cars, trains or other transportation themes. A while ago
we had artist Kim Adams’ Artist Colony at the Art Gallery of Ontario and I must say
– kids just flocked to this thing. And because they’re children and they’re curious – many
of them naturally had questions and just wanted to know more. Number three: you don’t have to know anything
about the art to be able to talk about it. Often what I hear from parents and teachers
is that they’re afraid that they don’t know enough facts about the art to talk about it.
But as I showed in one of my other videos – you don’t have to know anything about a
work of art in order to talk about it. Along with the child, you can make observation about
the artwork’s physical appearances, medium, subject matter, take a stab at the narrative,
and relate it to other things you’ve seen. For these types of observations, there’s really
no right or wrong answers. It’s more about sharpening your observation and interpretation
skills, and those are skills that are important for both children and adults to develop and
improve. And in my experience of talking to both children
and adults – in general children actually kind of seem naturally more imaginative, natural
story-tellers, and are less afraid to share their ideas. Usually when I ask a group of
adults “oh what do you see in this painting?” the majority of them are either too shy or
too afraid to say anything, or are afraid they’re going to say something wrong or
stupid. Whereas most children are usually eager to answer the question and are usually
more honest about their feelings. Number four: If a child is young and is just
starting to learn about art, you can use this as a way to teach them general art concepts,
like what is an oil painting? What’s the difference between an original painting and a reproduction?
Why is art valuable? What’s the difference between an acrylic painting and a watercolour?
Again, this is a good opportunities for them to make observations and use their interpretation
skills. Number five: use art to talk about a broader
subject that doesn’t have to be art related. This can be many different things and this
is where art can have endless possibilities. For example you can use paintings from the
19th century that depict industrial landscapes to talk about the impacts and effects of the
industrial revolution. You can use portraits of people form a specific time period to talk
about the historical fashions of that time period. You can use nudes paintings and sculptures
to teach a child about the human body and anatomy. Or you can use depictions of ecological
and industrial landscapes to address present day concerns human have with the environment.
And again these are topics that you can talk to an adult about or a child about. Having children experience art has a lot of
great benefits. It’s a place where being “right” or “wrong” is not usually the most important,
or in some cases important at all. And it’s a place where you can be creative and develop
your imagination. And these are skills that are not only important to maintain during
your childhood, your teenage years, but also throughout your adult life. So I encourage
you to come to a museum yourself, take your child to an art museum, take your students
to an art museum and see for yourself. Just don’t touch the art.

17 thoughts on “5 Tips on How to Talk to Kids About Art | ARTiculations

  1. I think a lot of kids learn through interaction/activities in science and even history but I'm guessing that's harder since kids can't always touch art. But I think using real world objects in art really helps them out, or it at least helped me out when I was younger. I went to this museum in Miami that had about 40 feet of garbage on the floor color categorized to resemble the ocean shore it was retrieved from. I saw something similar with a bunch of sandals retrieved from beaches laying across the floor (both by the same artist). I think the amount of real world things (like washed up sandals or water bottles) can really make a kid go "wow! That's a lot of trash!" and help them understand the meaning behind the art they're seeing. I also love how enthusiastic kids are at museums in general, they're so fascinated by dinosaurs and giant contraptions they can maneuver and it is so adorable!

  2. Ahh! I love this!! Especially the part where you note that we shouldn't talk down to kids, because you're right, dumbing it down isn't helpful. Speaking in a developmentally appropriate way (using vocab they understand, focusing on concepts/features that they know about or recognize) is important, but I think we sometimes assume kids are less observant than adults when, as you point out, they're often MORE observant and curious. I also love how you provide tips for linking art to history, science, design, ecology. Getting kids to think critically about how the world is interconnected is so important, and art is an incredible gateway for that!

  3. 1. This was really useful. I think you hit on a lot of great points. When working with children, I usually ask them a lot of questions and let them drive the conversation more. When working with adults, I feel like they expect you to do most of the talking.
    2. What are some good art websites for kids?
    3. Can you put your website a little higher on your end slate? The YouTube player bar blocks it when it isn't in full screen.

  4. Thanks for this! It should make it easier to approach this stuff with the kids that are increasingly numerous in my social circle. ^_^

  5. Yay! Kids always have the funniest things to say too
    That end doe :3

  6. Great tips!

  7. I really love this! It is so important to start a dialogue with children and these tips are so helpful! 🙂

  8. I don't think kids are being taught just how important and special art really is 🙁

  9. Awesome information. Examples are cool.

  10. thank you for the captions!

  11. You made some great points about talking about art with kids . Iam an art teacher with art project tutorials check it out ! I would love your feedback !

  12. This was super valuable to me.

  13. Very helpful and insightful. And, because of your introduction, all of these principles can be applied to discussing any genre of art with groups of people in any age group. I was just talking with my 16-year-old grandson about a painting I own done by Eleanor Douglas, who, in some ways was the Emily Carr of the U. S., although Douglas has fallen into obscurity over the last few decades, sadly. Eleanor Douglas was my great-great aunt, so she is my grandson's great-great-great-great aunt. Here's my point: I wish I had listened to this video two days ago so that I could be better prepared for our discussion yesterday. Sorry for talking so much! 🙂

  14. Thank you s much for this tips. Very helpful! <3 😀

  15. Loved this brief and very helpful video. She was AWESOME!

  16. The stupid thing most adults do is confuse art with simply drawing pictures

  17. An art gallery docent: how pretentious…similar to this video.

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