Children are natural problem-solvers.
Babies are learning to think like artists when they look at your loving face. Toddlers are making sense of the world when they examine pictures in a book. Preschoolers solve artistic problems when they grip a crayon or marker in their fingers. These are some of the ways you can support imaginative explorations, at every age level. Encourage children to figure out for themselves how to explore art materials. Provide a variety of materials so they can imagine, problem solve, and invent creations.
Experiment and discover.
With any new art material or technique, children benefit from finding out on their own. They want to know how the finger paint feels or what they can do with a lump of clay. Provide the basic art materials first, such as large blank paper and crayons or markers, or Crayola dough and a smooth surface. Urge children to use trial and error and see what happens as they use their imaginations. Keep children focused on how the art materials work (not on what they can make). Expand their vocabularies by describing what they are doing, and what happens as they experiment.
Talk about earlier, related experiences.
If children have used an art material before, talk with them about what they remember. How did they use it? What happened? What worked? What didn't? What would they like to try now? Ask questions that stimulate children to really think about their answers!
Watch how children approach a material. Is a child timid, confident, or curious? Encourage children to refine skills they are pretty good at, so they gain confidence and can spread their wings. What a great achievement when children can control their fingers well enough to color inside shapes they draw!
Experiment and expand horizons.
Urge children to experiment with new ideas, too. Introduce new materials, such as Crayola Color Wonder, to expand their horizons. Try new colors, papers, and techniques.
Sometimes children encounter an artistic problem, such as how to get a tower of little boxes to stand up. Ask them to describe what they are trying to do. What have they already tried? What other solutions could they check out? Have they thought of…? Offer a few possibilities if necessary, but help them come to their own solution. Suggest or demonstrate a variation, or a new technique, if children are stuck. Sometimes suggest an idea even if you aren't sure it will work. Your child may invent something and come up with a better solution.
Test out ideas.
The magical moments in creating art are the experimenting - doing and redoing. Sometimes artists test out ideas methodically, like scientists. Sometimes ideas are tried with the focus on design or function, like an architect. Other times the exploration is the joy. Children find such pleasure in stretching their thinking skills as they explore the arts!