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A Great Art Program for Preschoolers!

By Karen Taylor

Parents of preschoolers often worry that they aren’t doing enough to teach art.  I’m excited about open-ended art, where there is no curriculum plan or sample to copy, no teaching involved, and not even a specific time for the art to happen!  If you are looking for readiness skills for the 3 R’s, it is naturally in this kind of art.   All you need to do is provide the supplies.  Here are some ideas:

Paper in lots of sizes, shapes, textures, colors.  Consider white computer paper, colored paper, a roll of newsprint (I highly recommend newsprint and a roll lasts for years!), manila paper, and colored construction paper.  Sometimes it’s fun to have paper cut in large triangles and circles.  Save scraps of colored paper, and if you have a paper punch, save the little circles from the punch. Use adding machine tape (for extra long drawings). If you receive a card with a gold lined envelope, peel off that lovely shiny paper.

  • Save light cardboardjunk mail envelopespaper bagsoatmeal boxes, toilet paper and paper towel rolls, shoeboxes, etc.
  • Scissors – get good quality ones that aren’t frustrating to use.
  • Ruler and other measuring tools like a yard stick (when using long rolls of newsprint paper), or a compass to make circles, or drafting tools with traceable geometric shapes.
  • Glue stick or regular glue
  • Scotch tape, and if your child likes to build with boxes, add duct tape
  • Stickers – either purchase them or use the ones that come in junk mail.  If you get a surplus of return address labels, cut off and discard the addresses and save the decorated portion for art projects.
  • Coloring tools – crayons, felt pens, markers, water colors, tempera paint if you have an easel, fingerpaint, colored pencils, regular pencils.
  • Pipe cleaners, straws, cotton balls, Q-tips, and anything else you find.
  • Feathers – when your feather duster sheds a feather, toss it in the collection!

Organize supplies in a box or on a shelf,  and then wait for your child to find a use for them.  He/she will!  Your art supplies will always be changing, and will become a resource that will help your creative young child.  It’s exciting for children to be able to make what is important to them with minimal adult interference.  No wonder young children love art!

Children’s art should not be done by adults, so you may need to protect your preschooler from well-meaning adults or older siblings who want to make a suggestion or take over a project so that it will look better.  When that happens, the preschooler loses the opportunity to experience the full learning process.  A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that if a child can’t do something without adult help, then the child is not ready to do it.

Sometimes your preschooler is going to be in a situation where adult-led crafts are offered where everyone will make the same thing.  Library story times and children’s fairs often offer cookie cutter crafts.  No problem.  Just let your child do the cutting, glue pieces where he envisions they should be, and color wherever he wants to.  Step back a bit, and see what happens, and don’t worry about what it looks like.  The children next to yours may walk out with a nicer product if their parents made it for them, but your child with his/her lopsided gloppy mess of a project will learn more from the experience than the child who watched a parent make it for him.

Creative problem solvers are the movers and shakers in the adult world, and open-ended art that is self directed gives your young child a head start.   There isn’t a purchased curriculum out there that comes close to that.  When children are making something that they envision on their own, their brains are very busy with problem solving.  This is just one of the many ways that you are giving your children the best start possible by unpreschooling them!

If you have questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you!  Send me an email anytime

Karen Taylor provides regular homeschooling information and mentoring on Facebook and she is the director of Cedar Life Academy, a Private School Satellite Program (PSP) for homeschoolers in California.

Karen would like to know your questions and concerns about living and learning with young children. Send them to her at and she may address your question in a future article.

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