Creative Art

March 08, 2018

Fostering creativity in young children begins by encouraging self expression. Maya Angelou once said, “We are all creative, but by the time we are three or four years old, someone has knocked the creativity out of us. Some people shut up the kids who start to tell stories. Kids dance in their cribs, but someone will insist they sit still. By the time the creative people are ten or twelve, they want to be like everyone else.”

Child art in early education plays a key role in development of creativity. The way in which art is presented to a preschool child will have a direct effect on how that child expresses, explores and develops creatively.

This is why we must offer children freedom of creative expression and exploration with a variety of art mediums, without judgment or criticism.

Art cannot be 'right' or 'wrong'. While it is best to offer child led activities, there is a place for adult led activities in the art center. But the role of an adult is to present and to encourage. In any creative activity for young children there should be freedom to create a unique piece, to use the materials in an unconventional fashion, to explore the possibilities. Do not insist that children follow a model explicitly. Any young child knows that a cow can be purple and a little girl can be bigger than a house.

The experiential process of art is more important than the finished product. Process based art focuses on the experience and celebrates any outcome. Room for creativity should be considered in choosing and implementing preschool curriculum, whether you work in a daycare center, family day care home or home school your children. Use activity instructions as a guide, but encourage children to further explore whenever possible.


From a child's very first scribbling he is learning that he can create, that the line on the paper appears as he directs it. He is learning about the colors that come from each different crayon. As he develops, there are three sub-stages of scribbling:

Random Scribbling

As children begin random scribbling, they are enjoying the sensory experience of the materials and the act of creating.

Controlled Scribbling

As young children develop better motor function, they begin to gain control in their scribbling. Repetitive, simple shapes, such as open circles begin to take shape on the paper.

Planned Scribbling

Children will begin to name the pictures they draw. Others may not recognize them, but to the child, they are easily identified. Eventually, these simple shapes begin to take the form of people, with arms and legs jutting out from the sides of a round head and large mismatched eyes peering from odd places. Gentle remarks bring out excited explanation from young artists, eager to tell who or what is portrayed in each masterpiece.


The discovery of paint can be very exciting for young children. They may want to paint everywhere, even on themselves. These thick strokes of color are fascinating. The colors blend in a way that crayons do not. Overwhelmed by too many colors, a child will inevitably create a brownish-grayish splotch on their paper, but they may be as excited with this new swampy color as they were with the brilliant red and bright yellow they first sat down to master.

After some self-experimentation, children are fascinated to learn that using only two primary colors will give them a new and brilliant secondary color, such as orange, green or purple.

There are so many wonderful things to discover about paint itself because there are so many different types of paint and painting tools. Young children often begin with finger paint, which offers a multi-sensory experience. They are learning about the colors, while feeling this new texture. At the same time, they learn to control the paint. When he moves his hand across the page he moves the color and he creates fainter lines. If she touches something besides the paper, she spreads paint around the room, on herself, on her friend. In their excitement, they are learning to control the paint.

In these early stages of discovering paint, a child needs an area to freely explore without fear of 'making a mess'. To create such freedom to learn, adults can provide an appropriate area which is child-safe and free from carpet or upholstered furniture, along with smocks to protect clothing.

With discovery of the paintbrush comes the ability to keep colors separated on the paper. This takes time and practice. Again, this is not something to be judged 'right' or 'wrong'. This is a wonder for a child to discover in time.

In addition to traditional painting tools, present toddlers and preschool children with a more creative approach by incorporating new techniques. Offer sponges cut into shapes to dip into paint and press on paper. Cut an apple in half. Cut a potato in half and carve a shape into the open end to make a paint stamp. Roll a corn cob through the paint. There are so many innovative ideas to present to preschoolers and then let them use these materials to explore on their own.

Cutting & Pasting

As children develop fine motor coordination, begin to introduce child-safe scissors. Allow children the freedom to cut their own simple shapes before presenting more challenging activities.

Provide a variety of colored paper for children to cut and create a paper collage. As skills develop, offer a variety of textured paper for this activity. Children will eventually develop the skills to cut simple shapes that they can glue together to make objects, such as homes, trees or people.

The Finished Piece

When viewing a child's artwork, encourage children to tell you all about their creation. Ask general questions and offer gentle comments to get them talking. This helps a child to further express themselves through their art.

Allow children to tell you the story. Do not push children for an answer. They will share with you what they are ready to share. Do not criticize a child's artwork. Do not ask derogatory questions, such as why they would make a cat green or why their baby brother is bigger than their mother.

Displaying Children's Artwork

Expression through toddler art and preschool art are an important part of any early childhood program. Child care providers can foster a wonderful sense of creativity and self expression in children by providing appropriate materials and gentle guidance. Displaying the artwork of our little artists helps to celebrate their creations.

Ask before writing a child's name on his artwork. Ask where she would like her name written. Some children enjoy seeing their name on the front of every piece. Others would rather have their name on the back of the paper to avoid altering their picture.

Find fun, creative ways to display artwork. Decorate one wall or your whole playroom in a way that enhances the artwork the children have created.

Child Care Village Creative Art

One of the favorite resources of our CCVillage Members is Creativity Corner, where our members can find lots of ideas for creative art activities to accompany our preschool curriculum, sparking imagination and enhancing child development. To find more info about our preschool planning service, please see our CCVillage Preschool Curriculum page.

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