How to Explain Abstract Art to Children

by Alina McKee

Abstract art isn't just about random objects drawn or painted onto a canvas. It is an expression of the artist's emotions at the time of the piece's creation; it is intended to evoke an emotion in the viewer, as well. This can seem like a concept that would fly over the heads of many adults, let alone children, but with a few fun projects, kids can learn about this expressive form of art quite easily.

Emotion of Color

Have your child sit down with some bottles of paint of various colors.

Ask her what each color makes her feel. There are no right or wrong answers. Renowned abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky believed that color was powerful, and that it spoke directly to the soul.

Explain to your child that in abstract art, you paint what you feel and that sometimes colors can represent what you feel as a way for others to see how you feel, too.

Let your child use the colors to paint on the art paper. Tell her that she should just paint how she feels. It doesn't need to look like anything in particular. You may be surprised at the results.

Shape Shifting

Have your child paint shapes and lines on a piece of art paper and let the paint dry.

Instruct your child tear the painting into shapes that he thinks is interesting.

Help your tot glue the torn shapes onto another piece of art paper. Abstract artist Willem de Kooning often used this method to create his works of art. This exercise teaches kids that abstract works of art use shapes to create compositions.

Drip Painting

Fill small containers with paint.

Allow your child to dip items such as sticks, rocks, plastic knives, and other found items into the paint.

Tell your tot to use the item like a paint brush. Each item will produce different effects on the art paper.

Explain that this method is like the painting style of abstractionist Jackson Pollock. He, too, used found items to drip and drag paint across his canvas. This process is known as "drip painting."

Items you will need

  • Paints
  • Art paper
  • Brushes
  • Paper
  • Glue
  • Jars or small containers
  • Sticks, rocks, plastic knives and other found items


  • You can supplement your exercises by showing your child examples of abstract art. Be sure to point out colors and shapes and ask your child how each painting makes her feel.


  • Don't try to govern your child during the creation process. Abstract art isn't about order; it is about instinct and emotion. Watch over your child just enough to make sure he is safe and doesn't make a huge mess, but otherwise let him create freely.


  • Responding to Art; Robert Bersson
  • Art and Drawing; Linda Drewry

About the Author

Since 1998 Alina McKee has written for dozens of traditional and online beauty, fashion, health and parenting publications including, Mama Health and Real Beauty. As a professional artist, her articles about these subjects have been used in magazines and websites around the globe. McKee has a diploma in fine art from Stratford Art School.

Photo Credits

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