Talking to your Children about Their Art

Why is effective communication important for a child’s artistic development?

There is value in the experience of artistic expression beyond the physical product. A drawing, painting or sculpture is evidence of a process of imagination, storytelling and experimentation. Placing importance on the end-product, and ignoring the artistic process, may ultimately limit a child’s creativity. Children are proud of the art they create and want to share it with their parents. As a loving parent, your natural response is to immediately respond positively – “that’s great!”, “good job!”  However, these comments may not be helpful in encouraging creativity in a child.

There is value in the experience of artistic expression beyond that of the production of a certain product. 

“What is it? A rock?”

This comment is an evaluation that focuses only the final product.

However, this painting is evidence of a rich experience. It may have been an expression of feeling; it may have been an experiment into cause and effect and how colors blend as they drip and move about the paper or; it may have been a story written and re-written until the individual elements melted together.


A guideline on describing and analyzing your child’s art:

Initial Reaction

Start by saying nothing. Look. Be interested and observe.

Children will often share what they are doing or describe their work without any verbal prompting. How you touch a child’s art tells about how you value his/her imagination. Handle the art as if it’s precious. It is.


Describe what you see.

Start with colours, lines, shapes, textures. Rather than identify (“the house has a blue roof”), describe elements (“look at how the yellow is mixing with the blue on the roof”). Describe how the materials were used (“you let the red paint spread out here”).

Analyse & Interpret

It’s natural to want to draw connections between your child’s art and your child’s life. Still, you might want to avoid asking “why”. Yes, the work may correspond in a direct way to people, place, and events – but the artistic process is intuitive and complex.

When you ask “why” – you expect a “because”. Your child may not know why. OR your child may have had many reasons. If you’re curious about an element in your child’s drawing, try expressing curiosity: “I’m curious about this house”

Encourage your child tell you their interpretation.


How might the process of art-making become part of your evaluation? By placing value on the process as well as the product, you are encouraging experimentation.

Let the evaluation become a discussion.

If a child asks, “do you like my picture?” try to re-direct your response. “It looks like you are very proud of your picture.” Or “do you like your picture?” or even “wow, you really must want to share your picture with me.” Demonstrate that you value the work by displaying it in a place of honour.

Allowing children the freedom to enjoy and discover their own aesthetic sense through artistic expression is instrumental. Helping children find the words to express the experience is invaluable. Facilitating the process of artmaking is something that helps affirm creativity later in life.