The benefits of art for kids: How to get children interested in art

benefits of art for kids
Children’s exposure to art can be achieved in many ways. One of the first things to consider are the books you give them to look at.

The benefits of art for kids are many, but encouraging a love of drawing isn’t always an easy stage of child development for parents. Instilling a love of art in our kids is easier than we think, as art teacher, mother and grandmother Annette Gadsby, from John Colet School, explains.

Our 4-year-old grandson’s favourite artwork is a copy of a Fra Angelico painting. I’m not sure whether it’s the gold leaf or the image and colours that attract him, but when you ask him what his favourite painting in our lounge room is, he carefully looks around and chooses that one.

Visual Literacy is important to our understanding of the world around us. In the same way reading increases literacy and vocabulary, looking at images increases our visual literacy. It gives us a rich choice of visual images to use.

At John Colet we display roughly 20 reproductions from medieval art to Contemporary and ask the child to choose one. The very young are asked: “What can you see”? and “Why did you choose that picture”?  They always take a long time to choose, often carefully examining each artwork before they make their choice. It is interesting to see what they choose as it tells us something about them.

drawing for kids

Visual Literacy is important in understanding the world

Benefits of art for kids: Books to start you off

Children’s exposure to art can be achieved in many ways. One of the first things to consider are the books you give them to look at. There are many beautiful alphabet books put out by galleries that illustrate a letter of the alphabet with an artwork from their gallery.

When we choose their story books, it’s good to choose a wide range of illustrations, in different styles. Talk about what’s happening in the pictures as well as reading the story.

Here are a couple of places to start:

Spot a Cat by Lucy Micklethwait (A Child’s Book of Art). These books are wonderful as they have a variety of art reproductions from all cultures and periods of art. They also have age appropriate questions and exercises to do.

Katie and the Starry Night by James Mayhew. He writes stories for children about artists.

Simple ways for children to start exploring art


Make simple tools like scratch art or play dough available

Children are all naturally very creative beings and they will all express this creativity in different ways; making sandcastles, dancing, singing and making art works.

  • Make collages using torn paper and gluing. The artist Matisse at the end of his life, when he could no longer draw and paint, turned to cutting shapes out of paper and making patterns. You don’t need to buy expensive papers to use, just use the paper you have around, they love tearing paper, either put the glue down for them or show them how to use a glue stick, they can gradually add some drawing.
  • Collect things around you, leaves from the park, packets from food to cut up and draw on.
  • Stock up on tools like good-quality pencils and crayons and paint, or make play dough, and have these available for them to use. Availability is the key, then follow your child’s interests.
  • Create a special book of their work. My nearly 40-year-old daughter still has a special golden book (an exercise book wrapped in gold wrapping paper) which has tracings of her hands, pressed flowers, leaf rubbings and still life drawings she did before she went to school.
Benefits of art for kids

Collect things like leaves or other natural objects from the park

Art for kids: Some wonderful programmes   

  • I took my grandson to “Bush School” at Centennial park, a 10-week outdoor programme with the rangers which involved stories, games and craft including dying from plants in the area.
  • We also went to a series of Indigenous programs at the Australian Museum for preschool children involving stories, games and craft (The Australian Museum is currently closed for Renovations)
  • Presently the Museum of Contemporary Art is offering creative activity adventures for littlies with Pip and Brook. They usually run preschool art activities and holiday programs
  • The Art Gallery of NSW also have online art programs and fabulous holiday and preschool programs

More fun ways to learn with kids:


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