teaching young children about art through picture books, art study, artist study, picture books about art, introducing children to art

Art study is one of those areas that I feel inadequate to teach, an area where I have to come alongside and be a co-discoverer.  Fortunately, in these younger years, I’ve found a number of resources that help me feel more knowledgeable and well-versed as a parent.  Soon, my kids will get older and realize that I don’t actually know every artist or piece of art.  I’ve found Francis Schaeffer’s little pamphlet Art and the Bible to be immensely helpful in understanding the theology behind how I interact with art in my everyday life and how I impart my enjoyment of it to my children.

“What is the place of art in the Christian life? Is art- especially the fine arts- simply a way to bring worldliness in through the back door? What about sculpture or drama, music or painting? Do these have any place in the Christian life? Shouldn’t a Christian focus his gaze steadily on “religious things” alone and forget about art and culture?
As evangelical Christians, we have tended to relegate art to the very fringe of life. The rest of human life we feel is more important.
Despite our constant talk about the lordship of Christ, we have narrowed its scope to a very small area of reality. We have misunderstood the concept of the lordship of Christ over the whole man and the whole of the universe and have not taken to us the riches that the Bible gives us for ourselves, for our lives, and for our culture.
The lordship of Christ over the whole of life means that there are no platonic areas in Christianity, no dichotomy or hierarchy between the body and the soul. God made the body as well as the soul, and redemption is for the whole man.”
― Francis A. Schaeffer, Art & the Bible

Now that’s pretty convicting teaching.  Are there areas in my life that I have left as platonic?  Also, how do I begin to show the appreciation and wonder for art, and so doing bring glory to God?

As you and I chew on Schaeffer for a little bit, I’ll share the resources I’ve found that have helped me providing a very basic introduction to art for little ones.

Teaching Young Children About Art Through Picture Books

Mini Masters series of Board Books by Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober

Tahitian Landscape by Paul Gauguin, 1891, paintings by Gauguin,art through picture books, teaching young children about art, teaching art to young children, teaching children about art
Tahitian Landscape by Paul Gauguin, 1891

My daughter is not 2 yet, but she loves this painting.  The lone figure in the center, she always labels as “Daddy on a ‘benture.”  She’s been introduced to multiple pieces of Gauguin’s art through this board book. Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober have created a delightful little “Mini-Masters” series to teach babies and toddlers about art.  Our family’s favorite is “Quiet Times With Cassatt,” but we own four or five of the little board books.

Come Look With Me series by Gladys Blizzard

Another way that we teach our kids about art is through the Come Look With Me series by Gladys Blizzard.  As with the Mini Masters series, we don’t own them all, but we own enough to recommend them. Million, our oldest, loves this series particularly, because I used it with him during his preschool years, before the onslaught of younger siblings. {grin}  He enjoyed the question and answers, and he liked learning about the lives of the artists. This painting, The Oddie Children, by Sir William Beechey is his favorite—realistically, probably because the boy is playing with a bow and arrow.  Weapons and playing warfare is a topic that genuinely keeps me on my knees for all of the boys.

The Oddie Children by Sir William Beechey, come look with me, art through picture books, enjoying art with children, teaching art to young children, teaching art to young children, teaching children about art
Come Look With Me: Enjoying Art With Children, The Oddie Children by Sir William Beechey

A Child’s Book of Art: Great Pictures- First Words by Lucy Mickelthwait

A Child’s Book of Art: Great Pictures- First Words is a newer book to us this year, as I purchased it for Creedence’s “preschool.”  He is one who is drawn to illustrations rather than stories, so this book seemed to suit him well.  (David MacAulay is his kind of guy, and Usborne books are a favorite with this one, where they’ve failed with my more story-driven child.) His favorite painting from this book is The Residence of David Twining 1787 by Edward Hicks.  It’s not a painting that I would have known to introduce him to, so I’m glad he’s getting inspiration and enjoyment from that book.

The Residence of David Twining 1787 by Edward Hicks, Edward Hicks paintings, art through picture books, teaching art to young children, teaching children about art,
The Residence of David Twining 1787 by Edward Hicks

Those are some of the picture books that we’ve used to learn about art with our children.

We also do “picture study,” where we focus on one artist per term and study one print for several weeks. (Cassatt is the artist this term for our school work.)  I leave the prints out at children’s eye level, and occasionally I will ask them to study more intently and describe with their words what they see.  My goal is to get them to form a mental snapshot that they can call to mind.  I love the way that studying art passively and intentionally both bring out different forms of enjoyment for my kids.

Do you know of any good picture books that help teach children an appreciation for art?  Leave a comment.  I’d love recommendations!


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  1. Pingback: Those Kinds of Readers: Fiction Picture Books for Ages 0-Infinity | Those Kinds of People

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