This week's post by Rachel Johnston, a fiber artist in Ruston, LA. Rachel teaches early childhood art classes at Creative Journey Studio. She will be posting each Wednesday. Today I’d like to share some thoughts on the ways that children communicate through art. When a child paints a picture, we often tell them right away that it is “good” or “beautiful”. And in many cases, that’s what they’re hoping to hear. But sometimes they are using art as a way to work through something that has been bothering them. If that’s the case, they don’t want to hear that it’s good. If the child has experienced major life changes, or even just small frustrations, they sometimes make art that references these events. In teaching young children, I’ve had to learn to adjust my response to allow for this.
Instead of saying right away that a painting is good, I will ask the child to tell me about it. As they talk about their work, they will often say how they felt while painting, or tell me what events they were thinking about while they painted. Most of the time it will be happy subjects that they’ve chosen to paint, but not always. Sometimes they feel sad but can’t put into words what is bothering them, and so they paint it. If the parent/teacher is compassionate and willing to listen, it helps to validate the child’s feelings. Art can be a very important tool that helps children process what they are feeling and thinking.