Art Center for Preschoolers
The art area in a child care center can be one of a child’s favorite spaces. Just imagine, mounds of crayons, boxes of colored pencils, makers in every color, plain paper, glue, plastic scissors, magazines for cutting or tearing, construction paper, examples of 3D creations, art displayed, paints of all kinds, clay, easels, smocks, and many other selections. All the items are an invitation to create.
Provide Plain Paper and Paint
Young children have a natural gift to create. I once walked by a child that was swirling her paint around-and-around on the paper. I could see multiple colors going in a vivid circle. “Would you like to tell me about your art?” I asked. She shared that it was the way she felt when she rode the carousal. After she talked about her experience, I understood her art.
Let Children Explore
Children love to experiment with colors and textures. It is not about the product to them. Just as you are ready to display one of their paintings, you discover that the child has painted over the picture to see what the color red looks like painted over white. “Look! I have a pink picture,” a child might say.
Free Choice Experiences
At the art center, children enjoy being self-directed not teacher directed. You might say, “Would someone like to paint a snow scene or use the cotton and glue to complete a snow picture since we just read the Snowy Day?” At least this way, you have given the children an idea about what to do at the art center. But, it should not be restricted to that one plan. You may want to have realistic pictures of snowy scenes. But, it is important to give children control over their creations.
As a young teacher, I use to provide step-by-step directions on making something such as the snowman on the right.
Children feel comfortable looking at a view outside of their window and trying to draw it. But, caregivers that provide a pattern will dampen creativity and cause stress.
In my early years as an educator, art time for me was to provide the children with patterns. I instructed them on every step. I then displayed all the projects around the room. The only development areas that were enhanced were perhaps fine motor skills and following directions.
Through Research an My Own Observations
I read research papers and articles and listened to many lectures from professors and speakers on the subject of art for young children. While believing the experts, it took my observations with groups of children to convince me that children need the opportunity to explore at the art center. At first, children may make messes. But, creativity begins to explode when they realize that they are in the driver’s seat. Therefore, my philosophy is adamant on process versus product.
What Does the Space Look Like?
The art center can include shelves for holding items and an easel for painting larger pictures. There should be plastic bins for holding markers, colored pencils, etc. You will need a storage space for scissors, paper, etc. The space should be attractive with good lighting. Make it a wonderful place that elicits creativity. Children love beautiful spaces filled with color. Add fresh flowers, pine cones, sea shells, and other objects in nature to add to the area. It is important to change the natural items often because children love novelty. The space should be in close proximity to water for cleaning up spills and washing out brushes.
Some suggestions for art materials are: white drawing paper, ribbons, pieces of cloth, , finger paints, crayons (a huge assortment), hole punches, Popsicle sticks, paper doilies, peel-off shapes, markers, yarn, pom-poms, craft buttons, paste, glue, construction paper, tissue paper, newsprint, scissors, masking tape, sponges, stamps, stamp pads, rolling pins, play dough, cookie cutters, drying rack, painting aprons, mixing jars, and more.
In this space, many developmental domains are enhanced.
- Physical development -Children develop fine and large motor skills. This includes the development of eye-hand coordination, and arm, hand and finger muscles.
- Cognitive development – Through visual discrimination, children will learn to identify colors. Also, it takes a mental plan to design their picture or art project.
- Language development- Children love to talk. Encourage multiple children to share the space to enhance language development. As the teacher, walk around and invite the child to discuss their project. “Would you like to tell me about your art?” You can add vocabulary by making statements like, “I love those purple lines that you added. I like those circles that you placed on the page.”
- Emotional Development- Children will feel happy about their art projects in a classroom where the teacher doesn’t put restrictions on their work. Many of the art activities are therapeutic. Think about pounding clay as a way to get-out hostility.
- Social Development- it is important to encourage conversation and have multiple children in the space together.
- Creative Development- Encourage children to create. It is fine to give them ideas. But, don’t provide examples of things that have been made from patterns. For example, you could provide several snow scenes photos. But, it will stop their creativity when the teacher posts several snow scenes that she made with blue paper and glitter or a snow man that has been made by the teacher.
There are many good online supply companies. I ordered from Kaplan, as an educator. Their website provides some start-up advice when setting up an art center in an early childhood environment.
1. Decide on the Size and Location of Your Art Center
It is important to set-up the center based on the size and location. Try to accommodate two or more children to ensure that language skills are developed. It is important to plan the center near a water source for easy clean-up. It can get noisy; therefore it would not work near the book center or other quiet areas.
2. Pick out the Appropriate Furniture for Your Space
It is important to have areas for easy clean-up. Double-sided easels take up less room than two easels. You will need shelves and cabinets to hold paints and tables for making projects. Add a drying rack and bulletin boards for displaying art.
3. Facilitate Easy Clean Up with Splash Mats and Aprons
Make sure that floor services are easy to clean. You may want a splash mat. Have art smocks or aprons to protect children’s clothing.
4. Find Convenient Art Storage Solutions
There are a variety of art supplies available, so it’s important that the materials you choose for your art center are organized and placed in appropriate storage containers. Art caddies, scissor racks, and art tubs are great storage solutions for materials that children need to easily access.
5. Choose a Variety of Art Materials and Tools for Children to Use
You should offer a variety of diverse art materials based on different levels of ability in your classroom’s art center.
I hope this article on the art center for preschoolers has been helpful.
Wanda Wyont, MA
Wanda is an experienced educator and has spent years working in preschool. After graduate school, she taught early childhood education at the college level. She has written numerous articles and has spoken to many diverse groups on a national level. Recently, her second children’s book, Barkley’s Great Escape, was published.