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Your Creative Preschooler: Art for Art's Sake

Around the age of three, your child's artistic skills will be expanding.

Your Creative Preschooler: Art for Art's Sake


Provide as much variety in art materials as you can afford. Also keep an eye out for throwaways that you can save and recycle as art materials. Your child can make creative use of paper towel tubes, empty egg cartons, and many other containers.


Remember the rules of scissor safety from when you were a child? They actually made a lot of sense. So don't let your child run with scissors. Teach your child to carry them closed, with the points down. Store them well out of reach and closely supervise any cutting activities. Otherwise, your child may injure herself—or at the very least give herself an entirely new hairstyle.

At around three, your child's artistic skills may improve dramatically. As your preschooler refines her hand-eye coordination and her artistry, her drawings may become more and more recognizable. She will probably still find it much easier to draw vertical lines than horizontal ones. But by now, your child may be able to make the ends meet to produce a closed circle—or at least an oval—with a crayon. After that, your preschooler will begin to notice that different strokes produce different lines and shapes.

A new artistic skill that your three-year-old will love practicing is cutting with scissors (safety scissors, of course). At first, your child will only cut a series of short snips to make a fringe on the edges of paper. But by the end of the year, she will be able to cut through an entire sheet of paper. So if she has access to scissors, make sure that your child has plenty of construction paper, old magazines, or scrap paper to cut. Otherwise you'll find snips taken out of new magazines, mail, the morning newspaper, telephone books, and so on.

Your preschooler will take great pride in making things by cutting, drawing, and painting. For a three-year-old, satisfaction comes simply by making something, anything, that she herself has conceived. Don't force your child to define her creations by constantly asking, "What is it?" Your child may just be experimenting with various media and seeing what happens when she makes several different scissor-cuts in a piece of paper or perhaps exploring the varieties of line and color.

Try not to impose your own preconception on your preschooler's artwork. If your child proudly shows her art to you and you want to offer an encouraging word, try to talk only about what you see. Say things like:

  • "You used a lot of blue in this drawing. I like blue, too."
  • "I really like this swirl of lines down here."
  • "Wow, you've covered every inch of the paper with color."
  • "Gee, you're getting really good at cutting with those scissors."

This may come later in the year and will almost certainly come after she turns four. But if you suggest that your preschooler's art should represent something, you may unintentionally deflate the pride she feels in her work. And if your child actually did intend to represent something and you guess wrong, she may either feel that she let you down by not drawing what you suggested—or think you must be an idiot or a lunatic because you can't see what (to her eye) she has so clearly drawn.

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