Artful Learning


Artful Learning

By ©Susan Loughrin (2007)

Do you ever think back on your childhood learning experiences?  What memories does that bring out for you?  I have asked these questions many times to teachers, parents, friends and family members.  The answers usually revolve around projects or activities that were creative with some small (or great!) risks.   There is always an emotional aspect to the memory, whether positive or negative, that keeps it and holds it.

Thinking about how we engage children in experiencing life brings to mind the need for creative, enriching experiences.  The arts are a wonderful way to support a child’s creativity and wonder.  Here is a simple outline to use, even if you do not feel comfortable with the idea of “arts”.  So often the arts are held aloft and out of reach, but we are all creative beings!  Take a moment to perhaps step out of your comfort zone, and express yourself through the eyes (and hands-on art experience!) with a child!



  • Take a walk outside
  • Look at objects around the house
  • Visit a museum
  • Play on a playground

Take some time when doing one activity to observe with a child or group of children.  Bring along paper (or blank notebooks) and pencils/crayons/markers.  Draw what you see while encouraging the children to draw what they see.  Talk about all of the observations and drawings by asking questions such as; What did you see?  Tell me about your drawing.  What made you look at that object?  How did you draw on your paper to show what you saw with your eyes?


Visual Arts: What art materials do you already have in the house?  Crayons, markers, pencils, paper, clay, paints, string?  If possible, have a variety of materials available.  Get creative!  The children will have many ideas now after observing and exploring the environment and recording their ideas on paper.  Save these!   They can then use their observations to create a 3-D sculpture, a painting, a more elaborate drawing.   Making their observations “visible” will add to the memory and detail of the observation.


Using their observations, children can re-create the scene.  What might the leaf that they drew say to the tree?  What is the swing thinking?  Anything that they drew can be brought to life!  Encourage the children to look back at their drawings and remember.  What might the drawing say?  Children are natural storytellers.  Let them look back over their work and tell you what they remember.


From their drawings, the children can choose a line, shape, or object and recreate that shape with their bodies.  Taking 3 shapes from their drawings, and moving their bodies to make each of those shapes is a choreographed dance!  Now what music would work with this new dance?  CDs can be played, children can sing songs or hum out a tune, instruments can be made or purchased inexpensively to support the dance with music.  Or, music can be chosen that supports their drawing.  There is no limit!


While the experience is of utmost importance, presenting a product, whether through visual arts, drama, dance and/ or music, is a wonderful way to gain recognition for an effort well done.  Sharing a work of art brings it alive for interpretation of others.  This is a valuable way to express what has been in the artist’s mind and can now be “seen” by others.  The arts are truly interactive and children can gain so much by sharing their works of art.  So hang up those drawings, watch the performance, listen to the stories and hear the music.  Enjoy the time well spent experiencing life through the arts and each other.


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