My son is an anti-artist. Where other children his age seemingly enjoy doing and experiencing arts and crafts, he used to grimace and groan when it was art time. Or utter a simple “no, thank you.”
Notice how I said “used to.”
Yes, even the anti-artist, the child who doesn’t like to color, paint, or glue, can come to enjoy art-making and/or become an art connoisseur.
Art is vital in the preschool years. We know that art-making develops necessary fine motor skills (think of all that work with chalk, crayons, markers, and paintbrushes!). It encourages cognitive and social-emotional development. Art-making and art exploration even promotes language and math skills. Further, art is important for preschoolers as it encourages “exploration, self-expression, logical thinking, self-esteem, imagination, and creativity” (PBS).
So how can the anti-artist experience the real and necessary benefits of art in the preschool years?
If they don’t seem to like art. The key is to tapping into what they do like.
For my preschooler, that means cars.
So one way to mesh cars (his interest) with an art-making experience is by painting toy cars.
We use Hot Wheels because they are incredibly inexpensive (get them used and it’s even better!) And we use washable paint, because let’s face the inevitable: They are preschoolers and the paint always gets on everything. Plus, you have the opportunity to easily wash and re-paint. This is not an option at our house as my son becomes very invested in his art work (he waits patiently as the paint dries and his cars are ready to show off their new paint job), but nonetheless the option is there!
Painting Hot Wheels is an activity that my preschooler asks to do multiple times a week. This is the same child who would complain about the amount of arts and crafts that he needed to complete at school and who would all out refuse to complete the art project at the library’s storytime. But by connecting the art to his interests, the anti-artist suddenly becomes an art enthusiast!
To excite the anti-artist, consider experimenting with extensions to simple painting activities. The above picture shows our sample of salad spinner art. Can you spot the Hot Wheels car? I have seen salad spinners used as a way for children to create really cool looking paintings. Salad spinner art in and of itself is not enticing to my son. Add the car, however, and he had a blast!
We’ve also tried racing the painted cars down the slide (just dip the wheels in paint). After a few tries we added the poster board to get a good visualization of the track marks. While we were racing, my toddler also decided to paint the actual slide. Again, washable paint is key here!
Preschool art experiences should be similar to their play experiences; Art should be a free experience. Provide children with materials, and let them go wild! No instructions are needed and there is no need to fix any “mistakes” (see process art in preschool). The focus is on experience and not what the end result will be.
By integrating a child’s interests with their art experiences, all children can benefit from the innumerable advantages of art. Even the anti-artist.