Your Child’s Atelier

By Karen Deerwester, Ed.S.

Artists thrive in a studio of their own – a place to dream, experiment, and create. Atelier is the French word for an artist’s workshop. Your home is your child’s atelier, the place where your child learns how to see and interpret the world. Home is your child’s gallery where you celebrate your child’s artistic creations. Most importantly, it is the place your child learns who he is and that what he does is valued.

Materials and experiences
Art is more than a set of materials – paint, canvas, clay, wood, fabric. Art is the creative process of seeing and expressing a personal relationship to the world. Children are natural artists always discovering and interpreting the world anew. Art gives children the ability to express ideas and feelings without words.

Rainbows and stars are magical and mysterious. Can you remember painting an arching rainbow as you watched the watercolors dripping over one another? Or, how it feels to conquer the darkness by filling a black paper with glittering stars? Remember when clouds could become messages from above and the sky was another artist’s canvas?

Give your child the tools of an artist and watch what happens. Sometimes children just want to play – watching what happens when they mix colors together without any concern for what the picture will look like. Other times, children tell very personal stories with their creations – this great big dinosaur over here is waiting for the little dinosaur over here. Adults support children in the process of artistic representation every time they encourage children to create mental pictures of the world.

Real life experiences enrich children’s art. Encourage your child to capture her experiences – from birthday cakes to Disney vacations. Even if your child isn’t an “artist”, you’ll be surprised by what your child remembers when she sits down to draw a picture of her favorite playground.

Self Portraits
One of the most interesting artistic experiences is the infamous self-portrait. Self-portraits reflect each emerging stage of development. The first portraits often begin with the arms and legs coming out of a giant head. Young children don’t even notice something might be amiss. A few years later your child will be drawing intricate people with bodies, fingers, toes, heads with hair, and adding designer clothes and shoes.

There is no wrong way to create a self-portrait or a family portrait. The beauty of the experience is the opportunity to think and create. As your child’s perception of himself and others grows, so does his ability to recreate rich and detailed images. Each picture is as unique as its creator. Art is not an elective in early childhood. The act of creating art changes how children think and process their experiences.

The art gallery
Art-making is the act of making something public, something for others to see. A child’s work of art is transformed whenever it is displayed. Now, that simple activity of making a picture is something that can be enjoyed over and over again. It needs to be hung, framed, booked – saved for repeated viewing.

Where is your child’s home gallery? The refrigerator, a bulletin board, a long hallway, a clothespin line across a playroom. As any artist knows, your child has given a little piece of herself to the world. Treat it with respect. Children know when they are being appreciated. Your artist gallery tells your child she is seen, heard, and loved.

The atelier
You don’t have to convert your house into a child’s art-playground. Young artists are true bohemians. They need very little – a variety of interesting materials to transform into new creations, a place to find those materials when inspired or possibly just bored, a place to get a little messy when they are consumed by the joy of creativity. Little black beret optional.

Karen Deerwester is the owner of Family Time Coaching & Consulting, writing and lecturing on parenting and early childhood topics since 1984. Karen is also the Mommy & Me director at The Ruth and Edward Taubman Early Childhood Center at B�nai Torah Congregation in Boca Raton. 

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