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New Fun Ways to Share Art with Kids

Can kids learn to appreciate the art of the ages? You bet.

Gina Main/FreeImages
Source: Gina Main/FreeImages

Savvy parents do their best to provide their young children with as many different kinds of art materials as possible. From simple crayons, markers, and pens, to fancy craft kits, to all imaginable found materials, anything is grist for the creative kids' mill.

Begin exploring art with your kids long before they somehow pick up the idea that art museums are boring or that art history is irrelevant. You can help them learn to appreciate the great artists who came before, and it can be fun and enlightening.

One way to do this easily at home is to share with your kids one or more of the following new books. (Think holiday gifts.) Each takes a different approach to art appreciation, and they're all intriguing enough to interest adults, too. And that matters.

Teach them to keep an open mind about what creativity is and what art can be. Even if they don't choose to pursue art as a career, such open-mindedness will help them in so many ways.


Arnold's Extraordinary Art Museum, by Catherine Ingram and Jim Stoten, is an oversized (12 5/8 X 9 7/8) hardcover book, 64 pages with 64 illustrations, for ages 7+, featuring inviting comic-book-style drawings. It offers a refreshing approach to getting kids to think about art in new ways, as well as how to enjoy time in an art museum. World-famous art is featured, as well as some of what the authors refer to as "imaginary art". Kids will come away with a smattering of fascinating historical facts and a new sense of what art can be.

Use This If You Want To Take Great Photographs: A Photo Journal by Henry Carroll states, right there on page 2, the best idea you can put into your kids' heads: "There's only one correct solution to a creative problem—your solution." This unusual journal features prompts, pointers, and motivating images from master photographers. It's a convenient and creative way to collect your kids' own personal solutions to what each page suggests, such as "Take a picture of something you hate," or "Take a picture of yourself pretending to be someone else," or "Photograph a lie." With most youngsters having access to a Smartphone fairly early, this can be a simple way to encourage them to skip the mindless games and go straight for the camera app. Photo corners are included in a back pocket, so the journal can be refreshed repeatedly.

Source: Painting by Naomi Lakkis in the style of Jackson Pollock, photo by Susan K. Perry

Vincent's Starry Night and Other Stories: A Children's History of Art, by Michael Bird, illustrated by Kate Evans, calls itself "the first narrative storybook to bring to life 40,000 years of global art history for children aged 9+." Illustrated on most of its 336 pages, this 8 x 10 1/2 inch hardcover uses creative nonfiction techniques to tell 68 stories, each 2-4 pages in length, beginning with cave painters and ending with modern times. It's an especially imaginative way to get young people to relate to artists whose names and art are part of our culture. And it's not limited to Western artists.

Kid Artists: True Tales of Childhood from Creative Legends, with stories by David Stabler and illustrations by Doogie Horner, is a kind of nonfiction version of the above, intended to be read by kids or shared with kids by parents who appreciate art themselves (or want to). It's arranged, written, and illustrated in a highly engaging way. Among the 16 artists featured are some that will be familiar to many kids, such as Beatrix Potter and Dr. Seuss, and others with whom they ought to become familiar, such as Leonardo da Vinci and Georgia O'Keeffe. The focus is on their early lives, making such celebrated artists feel very real to a child today. Example: "Then there’s Jean-Michel Basquiat. His family had very little money, so he had to sleep in a crawlspace under the stairs." A very encouraging book, sure to motivate many budding artists to stick with their passion.

Cover of Draw Like an Artist: A Self-Portrait Sketchbook by Patricia Geis/Used with permission of publisher Princeton Architectural Press 2016.
Source: Cover of Draw Like an Artist: A Self-Portrait Sketchbook by Patricia Geis/Used with permission of publisher Princeton Architectural Press 2016.

Draw Like an Artist: A Self-Portrait Sketchbook by Patricia Geis is a large-size paperback filled with color illustrations and inspiring suggestions for kids to use while drawing themselves in the style of celebrated artists. Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, Rembrandt, Whistler, Magritte, and Picasso are among the 18 artists included. For Picasso: "Pay close attention this self-portrait: the head is turned to the right, the nose points to the left, one eye looks straight ahead, and the other is in profile. Make your own Cubist portrait, mixing your features in different angles and positions!" A brilliant way to open up kids' eyes and minds about the many ways to be creative.

Art Play by Marion Deuchars is a large-format 224-page paperback filled with more than 50 playful art activities sure to entice kids anywhere near the recommended age of 7+. The sketchbook paper makes the pages amenable to pencil or any medium. Kids will enjoy the wide variety of creative projects, from fingerprint art, to tracings and rubbings, to using a dot as the basis of an image, to folding paper, to making your own maze using a single line, to learning about the color wheel in a fun way.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Susan K. Perry, author of Kylie's Heel