How To Teach Art

Are you wondering how to teach art to your kids?  To teach art, the main things you need are quality supplies.  Invest in a nice sketchbook with thick pages, one for each kid.  Buy quality pencils and erasers.  Get a variety of kinds of paints and brushes.  Have a set of oil pastels, nice colored pencils, markers, crayons, and other tools.  We also try to keep plenty of tape, glue, scissors, and other tools handy.  Finally, we try to replenish our supplies of pipe cleaners, pom-poms, felt, yarn, wiggly eyes, and other fun art goodies so we won’t have to run to the store when we’re ready to make a cool project.


You’ll also need access to art.  You might have an art anthology on your shelf, pick up some art books from the library, or head to the internet.  If you ever have the opportunity to tour a real museum or gallery, take it.  You’ll be amazed at how different the originals look compared with a reprint on a book or screen.

What Should They Be Learning During Art?

There’s no perfect way how to teach art, but I like to keep a few goals in mind:

  • Expose kids to great art and music, learning about the artists and musicians along the way.
  • Become familiar with art periods and movements and connect them to what was happening in the world at that time.
  • Learn the principles real artists use (line, shape, color, unity, balance, etc.)
  • Encourage creativity and have fun

Focus on Art Principles, Masters, & Masterpieces

To accomplish these goals, I generally plan my art lessons based on either the work of one of the masters or on a principle of art (or both). For example, I show them a picture of Van Gogh’s Starry Night and we have a discussion about it.

Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
  •  What did he use to create it?
  • Does it look realistic?
  • What kind of texture do you see?
  • Are his lines straight and geometric or curving and organic?
  • What colors did he use and what do those colors make you feel?
  • What do you see in the foreground?  The background?

We also talk about Van Gogh’s life and his experiences. We find out why he became a painter, where he lived, and whether his art was popular during his own life.  We talk about the kinds of art others were creating at the same time.  Did he belong to a certain school of art?  We also look at some  of the artist’s other work and compare it.

Vincent van Gogh [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 Finally, we create art based on the artist’s style.  The kids get to make their own Starry Night paintings by using dark construction paper and painting a simple mountain and village scene, surrounded by a bright and swirling star-filled sky. They could mix and swirl the paint on the paper as Van Gogh did.  They could add small brush strokes over larger swirls in his style. They could use many shades of the same colors as he did.

Art Through The Lens Of History

Layers of Learning Unit 2-19
Layers of Learning Unit 2-19 has a history section about the Renaissance and a corresponding art section about Renaissance art.

Many of the Layers of Learning units examine various artists belonging to schools of art that correspond with the same time period from the history section of the unit.  It’s interesting to learn the story behind why certain art was created, and the story almost always has something to do with what was happening in the world at the time.  Kids can learn about artists, their school and style of art, and learn to recognize famous paintings through a historical lens.  

We like using art cards as we study historical schools of art.  We offer many art cards as free printables on our arts page.  We use them to play memory games, sort by artist or school, and to practice naming famous art and artists.  It’s amazing how quickly kids can become familiar with the masters and their masterpieces when the lesson is a game.

Art for Fun & Creativity

Not all of our art is so formal though. We often just do art for fun.  Sometimes we make our own lip gloss, make beads or clay sculptures, do a marble painting, or some other creative art project.  During each holiday we usually create our own decorations and make a lot of other holiday-centered art.  Creativity is as important as being familiar with masterpieces, after all.


Besides art projects, we also do a lot of sketching.  Each of my kids has their own sketchbook and they draw every day just for fun while I read aloud to them.  They like to use how-to-draw books or web tutorials sometimes, and they also have a list of ideas to sketch in their planners.

Finally, I also encourage my kids do a lot of art projects just for fun all on their own in a pursuit of creative thinking. They have a scrap box filled with artsy types of things–paper, stickers, old tins, bottles, boxes, fabric, yarn, pipe cleaners, shoe boxes, wiggly eyes, bottle caps, and anything else I find to throw in there. My kids have created robots, homes for their little toys and action figures, story boxes, sculptures, mobiles, fairy houses, and puppets. I don’t tell them what to do. I just give them whatever supplies they need and let them go at it.

Making Music A Part of Creative Time

We also listen to a lot of great classical music while we work.  They recognize and enjoy lots of music because it’s a part of our everyday.  All of my children also play the piano and take formal music lessons because I truly believe in giving them a musical education along with our other art studies.

Art is partly about learning history and principles, and partly about creating and thinking in new ways. Both are valuable and both have their place in the classroom and home.

Most of all, art should be fun!  I always make the projects right alongside my kiddos, so I get to be crafty and creative and they get great one-on-one time with Mom too.  Everybody wins!  Hope this helped you know how to teach art to your kids.  Head to our art page for lots of fun ideas to try.  You might also like to check out our Layers of Learning units.  Each one comes with an art section and lots of explorations for studying art.

Layers of Learning Complete Year One Set

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