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Information on Teaching Art to Elementary Kids

by Daisy Peasblossom Fernchild, studioD

There are many ways to teach art to elementary kids, but the thing that teachers and parents need to remember most is to make the lessons fun. Art is one of those things that the artist finds inside herself. The artworks are an expression of personal inspiration. Exploring different art styles and artists can provide ideas and new techniques to give a young artist new ways to make a personal statement.

What to Teach

Art is a very broad topic. An artist, whether professional or amateur, will continue learning techniques throughout her life. Basics of art include using lines, learning color names, how to mix and apply color, color values -- how light or dark the color is -- the way things are arranged on a page and much, much more. A list of guidelines for public schools, such as the one published by the Department of Elementary Education can help you make sure you are getting in all the basics. But a list cannot provide the most important element of an art class, which is making it fun.

Learning About Lines

Lines are an important part of creating pictures. "Harold and the Purple Crayon" by Crockett Johnson is a great way to have some fun with lines. Harold uses his purple crayon to draw adventures, and ways to get out of them. Read the book aloud to your child, then provide her with several large sheets of paper and a purple crayon. Show her how to draw her own adventures with a purple crayon, drawing one continuous line without lifting the crayon from the page. Stand back, and let her create her own purple crayon adventures.

Drawing to Music

Enjoy listening to an interesting piece of classical music with your child. Ask her what shapes the music makes, and how it makes her feel. You might even let her dance to the music. Then give her crayons or coloring markers, and ask her to draw on a piece of paper what the music does. When she is finished, ask her to tell you about the picture. This exercise combines auditory -- learning by hearing, kinesthetic -- learning through movement and visual -- learning through sight, learning styles. To get the most enjoyment out of the project, you and your child might take turns selecting pieces of music.

Art With Picture Books

Explore different art styles with your child by looking at and discussing the pictures in her favorite picture books. Art-friendly author / illustrators include Tomie de Paola, Jan Brett and Leo Lionni. "A Color of His Own" by Leo Lionni is a good opener for learning primary colors, and how to mix secondary colors. Tomie de Paola uses painted tissue paper to create many of his book illustrations. You and your child can use his painted tissue paper technique to make your own illustrations. Jan Brett creates little picture windows around the edges of her pictures, which can be a fun project for a detail-oriented young artist.

Art With the Masters

Drawing in the style of an established art master is a time-honored method of learning art. Your local librarian can help you find books that have pictures of famous artworks. Let your child pick out favorites from collected artworks, then create her own masterpieces. Have some added fun trying out different art styles used through the ages. Egg tempera, for example, is easy to make using egg yolks and powdered tempera; tile mosaics can be replicated using geometric shapes cut from construction paper; and metal foil works well to recreate reliefs. By trying out a variety of art styles, your child can find her favorite method of self-expression.


  • Art Is Fundamental: Teaching the Elements and Principles of Art in Elementary School; Eileen S. Prince
  • Art Through Children's Literature; Debi Englebaugh
  • Discovering Great Artists; Mary Ann F. Kohl
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon, Crockett Johnson

About the Author

Daisy Peasblossom Fernchild has been writing for over 50 years. Her first online publication was a poem entitled "Safe," published in 2008. Her articles specialize in animals, handcrafts and sustainable living. Fernchild has a Bachelor of Science in education and a Master of Arts in library science.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images