Here at Children’s House, art is one of our favorite things! Each classroom has a dedicated art area, and it’s safe to say that art activities are among the most popular choices available. Some of the art materials are changed out each month and others, like the easel, are constant fixtures. Let’s take a peek inside our Montessori art curriculum and see what brings our little artists coming back for more!
Keep it Simple
We want our children to love art! We want them to love color and texture and shapes and lines. It is our hope that they learn that art is one of many creative outlets and that it’s fun! Children need to learn that it’s okay to make mistakes and get messy and that there’s more than one way to be creative.
The Montessori philosophy encourages freedom, within limits, and art is no different. Once a child has received an art lesson, they are free to do the lesson on their own. If they know how to start and how to clean up, what happens in the middle is up to them.
When creating new lessons for our art shelves, we keep these questions in mind:
- What’s the basic concept or skill we want to focus on? How are we building on previously learned skills?
- Is the work visually appealing? Will the children be compelled to take it off the shelf?
- Will the youngest children be able to complete the lesson with little to no assistance from a teacher? Is the work too complicated or not complex enough?
Practicing Basic Skills
As with all things Montessori, our art program builds from simple to complex. Between the first day of school and the last, art activities that are available on the shelves range from very basic with minimal steps to longer, multi-step lessons. Over the course of three years, children build on these skills, gaining confidence and exercising their creativity in the art arena.
These basic skills — things like cutting with scissors, using a glue stick or liquid glue, and the proper use and care of a paintbrush — translate into other areas of the classroom. Many of the extensions that the children enjoy require an extra artistic step. A child might paint their world map with watercolors or trace and cut the shapes in the geometric cabinet drawers out of colored construction paper.
Coloring, cutting, and gluing are part of life in an active Montessori classroom and it’s important that the children learn to do so independently and with confidence.
In keeping with the “simple to complex” theme that runs throughout the classroom, our Montessori art curriculum starts off basic and ends with a full range of color. Each month we focus on a different color family and explore the different relationships between the colors.
We start the year with the primary colors (red, yellow, blue) and then learn how they combine to create the secondary colors (orange, purple, green). We explore the color wheel and note that half the wheel (red, orange, and yellow) are warm colors, while the other half (green, blue, purple) are cool colors.
Colors opposite each other are complementary and consist of one primary and one secondary color (red/green, blue/orange, yellow/purple), so we also like to highlight these color pairings.
We step away from the color wheel to experiment with black, gray, brown, and white (neutral colors) and then we bring back the color wheel and add white and black to create pastel tints and darker shades.
By understanding how colors work together — to create contrast, mood, and even new colors! — the children learn to appreciate and play with this important element.
An Independent Process
Our Montessori art lessons are designed for one artist at a time. Each art shelf has a variety of staple activities: pin punching, cutting, and some sort of coloring / symmetry activity are available all the time, but the rest may vary from month to month.
There might be a painting activity, or a set of rubbing plates or textures. One month could find us gluing tissue paper collages or crafting jewelry out of beads and pipe cleaners. Whatever the case, the children know that there is plenty of time to do everything and plenty of supplies to go around.
Children are responsible for their work from start to finish, which includes the clean-up required of any given art lesson. That might mean they have to wash out their paint cups or use a sponge to clean splashes off the table. It might mean carefully transferring a wet piece of artwork to the designated “drying shelf” or cleaning liquid glue out of a paint brush.
As with everything else in the Montessori classroom, children learn to “complete the cycle” from start to finish. From the time they put on their paint smock, until they take that smock off and put it away, they learn to be responsible for their creative process.
Our final component of our Montessori art curriculum is to instill an appreciation for art in even our youngest students. Each month we highlight a different artist and share some of their story with the children. We marvel at their work, talk about their color choices or subjects, and try to bring them to life through stories and shared experiences.
- We learn that Claude Monet loved flowers
- And Mary Cassatt loved painting mothers with their children
- We learn that Vincent van Gogh didn’t decide to become a painter until he was a grown up
- And Henri Matisse painted with scissors after he couldn’t stand at the easel
- We learn that Horace Pippin taught himself how to paint
- And Georgia O’Keeffe found beauty in the smallest places
We learn that artists get told “no” a lot and that sometimes people won’t like what you create, but that’s okay — create it anyway; art is personal. We learn that being an artist takes practice and perseverance and patience.
It is our hope that the children will start to understand that even the greatest artists throughout history began just as they have: as a child.
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”Pablo Picasso
- Picture Books About Art for Preschool by Vanessa Levin
- Why Art and Creativity are Important by Paula Berstein
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