How to Teach Children the Elements of Art

Lead children to discover the elements of art in paintings, photographs and the world around them.
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Bringing art into a child's life helps them build creativity, visual knowledge and communication skills. Building art lessons around the elements of art provides structure to the art lesson. The six elements — line, form, space, shape, texture and color — direct the child's observations, conversations and creations.

Gather and show the children pieces of art and photography. Let the children try to find the elements of art. Explain lines — a mark with greater length than width, according to J. Paul Getty Museum. Let the children find different types of lines in the art. Ask them if they see straight lines, curvy lines, angled lines, thick lines or thin lines in the piece. Give each of the children five index cards and a marker. Instruct them to draw straight lines on one card, curvy lines on another card. Continue drawing a different type of line on each card. Glue all of the cards to a larger piece of colored paper for a display of lines.

Learning about form through clay keeps young children busy and involved.
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Look at artwork for a variety of shapes and forms. Shape in art is a closed line; they are flat, but have width and length. Form has depth, too. Balls, cylinders and boxes all have form. Provide a tub full of stamps and ink pads for the children to stamp shapes on a piece of paper. Have another table set up with modeling clay. Let the children practice making forms with the clay.

Find the space around objects in a painting or photograph. Space is the area between and around objects. To help the children understand space, provide them with a piece of paper that has an empty hole in it. Use a cookie cutter to cut a hole in the paper. Have the children incorporate the hole, or space, into their drawings to learn about this element.

Examine color in art by looking at pieces that are all in the warm color family — oranges, reds, yellows. Then, bring out art that is in the cool color family — greens, blues, purples. Show them how color can change the mood of art. Put a piece of yellow paper on a dark blue paper. Next, place the same yellow paper on a piece of light blue paper. Ask the children which one they like better. Let the children color a simple drawing in either cool colors or warm colors based on their preferences.

Provide big sheets of paper and finger paints for the children to explore texture. Have tools available for the kids to use with their finger paints to show texture — sponges, combs, brushes. Artists show texture in drawings by using color, space and lines. The children will have a great time exploring texture. Don't forget old t-shirts to go over clothes before the fun begins.

Susan Rickey started writing in 1994 with a technology feature article for the "Pioneer Press." She was the writer of the Klamath Forest Alliance newsletter, an environmental organization. Rickey obtained her teaching credential from California State University and acquired her Bachelor of Science from the University of Arkansas.