Sunday, July 11, 2010

Art at home

Art is powerful but above all it is personal. Whether it celebrates our cultural background, religious beliefs, or our own creative talents, the art we choose to decorate our homes should be accessible to our children. Art belongs to the whole family.

(This amazing picture was drawn/painted by my mom-in-law, Marilyn Dyer-Seidl.  It is her interpretation of a dream that my older son had when he was very young.)

     Dr. Montessori understood that beauty encourages a positive and spontaneous response to life. Since we hang pictures at eye level to beautify our homes, there should be some hung at the level of our children's eyes as well. Laminated art cards work very well for this.

     When my boys were younger, I would put several art cards of a particular artist on the kitchen wall right beside the telephone/computer desk. Other than change the cards every few months that's all I did – there was no lesson attached. Over time, the boys would ask me about a particular artist and I would answer their questions. Sometimes one of them would not like the display and would ask for it to be changed. Other times, I'd find one of their young friends looking at the wall in deep concentration.
(This is a mock-up.  The actual cards I used were much larger but I hope this illustrates what I'm trying to describe.)

     In addition, children should be able to touch and feel art. Teaching/modeling respectful examining of sculpture is no different than the respect we teach our children to show when handling musical instruments and books.

     Depending on the age of your child, books can be another wonderful introduction to art. Books left on the living room coffee table for casual browsing or books read at bedtime can include those having to do with great works of art. Some of my favourites are:
Children in Art by Janice Anderson

This book has lots of great big pictures of children throughout the ages. It has frequently found a place on our coffee table over the last 15 years or so.

Van Gogh's World of Colour concept by Julie Aigner-Clark

An excellent concept book for the youngest children.

Visiting The Art Museum by Laurene Krasny Brown and Marc Brown

A great book for the elementary children because of its comic book-like style.

     And last, one of my personal favourites because I spent many hours sitting with my children finding the fraudulent works of art –

Art Fraud Detective by Anna Nilsen.

 This book was given to my younger son in 2004 when he was 9. When I went to find it for this picture, I found it beside his reading chair. He still finds it interesting at age 16.

     Have you got a favourite art book you'd like to share or an activity you use to introduce great works of art to your children? Please leave a comment if you do.


  1. I love your idea of using art cards to add the beauty of fine art to your children's environment! When I had a classroom (children's house), I always kept an art book on the shelf in the area where the art materials were kept. This way, children could enjoy it and find some inspiration between their own creations. I found that there were always closeout prices on books for this purpose at Barnes and Noble. A favorite that used was simply called Monet, and included his paintings. Two books I love in general, not for the art corner necessarily are Frida and Diego - both tell the artist's story and include beautiful illustrations.

    Art cards are great in the classroom, too! When we were focusing on different continents, I liked to decorate the room with art cards depicting famous works of art from those continents. There are some great free art cards here, as well, including modern art from some lesser-known artists : )

  2. Thanks for that great link and your comments, Melissa!

    In the classroom, we keep a tray full of art cards from which the children can choose when they want to change the pictures around the room. Many of my art cards are actually calendar pages that I've taken apart and laminated. They can be quite chep at the end of the year.

  3. Thank you for sharing these resources. I love also Julie Merberg's art series - and "A Child's Book of Art: Great Pictures - First Words" - - great collection of art pieces...

  4. Oh, yes! I'd forgotten about that book. It is a great book for children. Thanks for mentioning it.

  5. Cynthia, I have an award for you. Please visit this link to see it:

  6. I was so happy to stumble upon this post today! My husband and I are Montessori art consultants and I think the art cards are a great idea. We use those in both our Children's House and elementary curriculum.

    For a fun geography/art idea (for 5 and up): Collect photos of famous museums around the world and some of their most notable works of art (and some lesser known ones). Have the children match the art to the museum. A couple of artists to check out that I didn't see mentioned - William Bougeureau (great narrative portraits and many with children), Jean Leon Gerome and Frederic Edwin Church (amazing landscapes).

    A great post!!