Preparing for Preschool: Art

See how hands-on craft projects build a surprising set of skills.



Preparing for Preschool: Art

Art is an important part of your child's early childhood education, regardless of whether you think he will grow up to be another Picasso. Children are active learners, and making art is a hands-on activity that expands imaginations and exercises creativity. It also develops small motor control and eye-hand coordination, and sharpens children's powers of observation.

  • The fundamentals of art: Children learn the fundamentals of art — color, line, shape, form, and texture — by painting and drawing, making collages, fashioning three-dimensional objects out of clay, and talking about their work. Three and 4 year olds recognize patterns, learn about primary colors, and discover how to mix two colors to make a third. Vocabularies expand to include words such as "texture," "relief," and "overlapping." By creating art and looking at it, children gain an understanding of composition, balance, and symmetry.
  • The role of the artist: Art projects often begin with a discussion about a theme or color. The discussion is followed by setup time, when the children put out the materials they need: scissors, paper, paint, crayons, etc. During the time they are working on the project, either individually or in small groups, they talk about their creations. After projects are completed, the children clean up, making sure everything is returned to its proper place.
  • Looking at art: The walls of preschool classrooms are often covered with works of art (the preschoolers' own art together with reproductions from great masters), giving the room itself a creative energy.

    Trips to museums sharpen children's observational skills and require them to use their brains to put all the details together. Children looking at Grant Wood's painting The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere learn about an historic event, but they also figure out how to piece a story together from details of line, shape, and color.
  • How art builds reading skills and more: Creating and looking at art has a positive influence on many different areas of your child's intellectual, emotional, and social development. She develops symbolic understanding by representing her experiences in paintings, drawings, collages, and models. This familiarity with symbols is key to beginning reading. Plus, when she talks about her artwork, your child is practicing communication skills and expanding her vocabulary — also critical for reading.
    • Writing: Drawing and painting helps preschoolers develop thoughts and makes them want to write stories about their pictures. Learning to manipulate crayons and markers and to use scissors helps children develop the coordination they need to write with pencils. It can also aid children in establishing hand dominance.
    • Science: Children mix colors and watch the colors change, learning concepts of darker and lighter. Drawing pictures of rain clouds gives children a sense of cause and effect. Making collages and modeling objects out of clay provides an understanding of the difference between "two-dimensional" and "three-dimensional.”
    • History: When children glue pretzel sticks together to make log cabins in recognition of Lincoln's birthday or design colonial villages at the sand table, they are learning about their history and about the way their ancestors lived.
What to Expect by Grade
Fine Motor Skills
Age 4
Age 3
Arts and Crafts