Art may not be a subject we hear often in Singapore as the emphasis of language, mathematics and science is dominant and has started to move towards the preschool age. Nonetheless, to provide a holistic development, childcare centres have activities that cover various aspects of a child’s development and that includes art! Today we will share how the learning of art can continue at home.
To talk about this topic, we will need to talk about art! What is art? As we look at different artists across the period of time, it seems there is no fixed definition on what art is. I believe it’s how creativity and one’s expression of beauty takes shape. Since there is no fixed definition on what art is, how do we do art? There are some elements of art that we can refer to in our understanding of art - shape, line, colour and texture. We can use these elements as the basis for art activities at home.
Shape and Form
Shapes are two-dimensional (2D) figures and do not necessarily have to be limited to one of the geometric shapes that we are familiar with. Conventional and odd shapes are both great for printing activities and such activities can be done at an early age once they are able to grab hold of things. Perhaps the easiest shapes to access without having to grab something would be our palms and feet. Putting paint on their palms and feet may get real messy but touching the paint on their hand is a good sensory experience for them. Do note to purchase suitable paint materials that are non-toxic for babies. You could also try to make your own homemade paint! You can then explore using sponges, blocks or vegetables, as long as these materials are able to make a print. You could also have the printing material on the floor or on the wall instead of having it on the table. “Shape” can then become “form” which is the three-dimensional (3D) element of “shape”. Playdough and clay, another good sensory materials for toddlers, are good tools for learning shapes and forms in art. Like homemade paint, you can also make edible playdough so that it is safe for toddlers, while for clay, it is important to take care that toddlers do not put them in their mouth. Apart from that, let children take the time to explore what they can do with these materials and let their imagination flow!
The line here does not necessarily mean a straight line. It’s an extension of a point and can come in various forms. Infants may not be able to hold any writing tools but they can still draw lines using their palms and fingers! For toddlers who are able to use palmar grasp to hold writing tools, you can then introduce thick writing tools such big paint brushes or markers. These scribbling will slowly progress to purposeful lines and as they are able to hold the writing tools with pencil grip, you can introduce other types of writing tools.
Like printing, making lines does not have to be done on the table. It could also be done while standing up on a wall or on the floor. Note that there is no need to be restricted to traditional writing tools. You could also tap on your child’s or your own creativity to come up with other types of unconventional writing tools and explore how they could create lines using these tools. Apart from the different exposure of writing tools, you can also introduce different types of writing materials - for example, instead of providing just paper or canvas, you could give them cardboard boxes or cloth. This will bring us to the next element - texture.
Rough, smooth, hard, soft, fluffy, bumpy and furry are some different textures that give us different types of feelings. In drawings, paintings, these textures may be recreated to give us the feelings and sensation, while in 3D-form, texture is probably what the material is, except maybe in a hyper realistic cake. It is yet another art element that invokes the sensory experience that is important for our infants as they learn about these textures. However, it’s not just about the sensory experience but the emotions that can be invoked when looking or touching such textures.
You could have a mixed media art activity, an activity where different types of media and material are used to make one single piece of art. Alternatively, keep to one type but change the drawing or painting materials and tools from time to time so they can experience the range of textures available. Some good examples you could find easily would be bubble wraps or cotton wools.
When introducing new materials, you can start with an example of how these materials can be used before letting them explore with the materials. You would also want to set some rules on how the tools are being used so that they learn that they have the responsibility of taking good care of them too.
Similarly, different colours on the colour wheel represent and convey emotions. Warm colours like red, orange and yellow feel more energetic and aggressive, while cool colours like green, blue and purple give us a calm and soothing feeling. There is also the understanding of primary and secondary colours. There are also neutral colours that may be often neglected like black, white and the spectrum it forms.
Another aspect of colour is how they interact and work together with each other, something that is very subjective. Therefore, it may be good to let preschoolers colour objects based on their own understanding instead of correcting them to colour it according to how it should be.
These are some of the building blocks of art and we can use them to guide us in our creation of art activities. As art is ultimately a form of one’s own interpretation, be mindful to always use positive words when discussing your child’s creation. When unsure, ask them to explain what they have created instead so that you can show understanding and support.
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