I love teaching art to children. My philosophy is quite simple: To engage, inspire and teach art with age-appropriate techniques and subjects. I’ve only been teaching art to children for eight years but it feels like I’ve been teaching my whole life. I remember what I was attracted to as an artistic child: how-to-draw books, colorful illustrations and art supplies (especially the jumbo pack of Crayola Crayons with the built-in sharpener). I keep these things in mind when I’m front and center amongst thirty kids. Over the years, I have tried many techniques and found some more effective than others.
#1 Ban pencils and erasers.
Sounds harsh, right? I rarely use pencils and erasers in my classrooms with the exception of a few lessons for upper grades. The reason is purely practical: small pencil leads encourage small drawings. If a kinder is drawing a portrait and then is required to paint that very portrait, using a pencil will surely lead to frustration. It’s hard to paint tiny eyes! There is another reason: pencil markings can be erased, which leads to second guessing, which leads to lots of eraser action, which leads to class being over before the child has anything on his paper. Using oil pastels and/or markers allows the artist to move quickly, commit to the drawing and forgive their “mistakes”. This is a big part of art for me; giving into the process and not worrying about the details.
#2 Mix paint onto paper, and not in paint palettes.
Give a child paint and an individual palette and they can spend hours mixing paints to find the perfect color. If you have all the time in the world, then by all means do so! But if you are in a classroom setting, with 30 kids and a short amount of time, encourage the children to mix paints on their paper. Use the double-loading technique when you can. It produces very cool results and clean-up is much easier!
#3 Forgo art smocks and aprons
Gathering art smocks, getting them on, storing them, organizing them, etc. takes time. Sometimes by the time the children get their smocks on and get seated, 5-7 minutes of a 30-minute art class is gone. Get ’em in, get ’em settled and begin the fun stuff. I swear by Oxiclean, too. A good soaking in this powerful stuff can wipe out most stains.