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Young At Art

by Tiffany in Book Reviews, Crafts

My weekend read was very inspiring, Young at Art by Susan Striker. Susan is the creator of the widelyYoung at Art Book popular anticoloring books for kids I like so much. As an art teacher of many years and a mom herself she has some great ideas about how art should evolve in a child’s life and how much of what we might be doing may actually stifle their creativity and love of art.

With the exception of baby’s first steps, there is no more significant milestone in your child’s development than the first mark he or she makes on paper. These squiggles herald the start of a lifetime of writing and drawing. – Susan Striker

I love the information this book has about activities and practices to instill a love of art and how it isn’t just “frill” but really a very important foundation for educational skills. This foundation also effects their emotional and intellectual development. I know many parents that don’t let their children pursue art because a clean and tidy home is more important to them but this book clearly shows why that is a BIG mistake.

Interestingly this book also outlines some surprising things we should NOT give to children…coloring books, dot-to-dots, magic paints and markers, or similar projects where the artwork has been done and they just have to use a limited amount of brain power to just fill in the missing parts. These things limit their self expression. Striker’s arguments against these items was very convincing. Really I think parents end up being a creative blocker for their kids as far as art is concerned many times. Throughout the book there is also a strong message to parents that art is serious business for kids and seeing things like scribbling as just “scribbling” or “a mess” can be seen by children as a form of rejection. It is very important not to devalue their work. It is also important not to deny small children things like crayons because we are afraid they will write on things they aren’t supposed to. Its hard to do but very important and yes there may be messes unplanned expression.

Striker also has words of caution for parents who “coach” their kids and try to tell them how to draw, what colors to use, or show the “proper” way to do something. It is like expecting a six month old to walk…kids have stages of development where artwork is concerned and coaching rushes them. It also limits self expression. Some of the greatest artists (Picasso) broke all the rules….just keep that in mind.

I really appreciated all the charts, lists, and pictures this book has that explain the creative process of a child. So much research has been done on this and yet this is the first book I have seen to address this. It is fabulous.

The first chapter is the most informational one. It provides the basis for why we should try to encourage art. Subsequent chapters discuss different art activities and how to incorporate them, drawing, painting, paper, sculpture, exploring colors and shapes, etc. The end of the book has lists of art books and wholesale art suppliers.

I found the book to be immensely useful and inspiring. I also found myself using some of the practices that limit self expression but found just as many areas where I am already doing what I need to be doing. Off to plan some activities outlined in this book…

Buy Young at Art!

Monday, July 7th, 2008

9 Comments on Young At Art

  • Jenna

    Interesting — I never would have thought dot-to-dot or coloring books limited expression. Great post.

    By the way — I love your office wall art : D

  • Hey there!

    Thanks for the great reminders.
    I have to agree about the items to not give your kids. I went to Waldorf in my early school years and learned to draw with only big block beeswax crayons. Primary colors only, no black, peach, grey etc..I don’t think I actually held a pencil crayon or coloring book until I was..maybe 9? It was a very creative school for me and when I switched to public I remember being told that I was not supposed to color the entire world map in but only shade the edges in. Also, I remember being told that people looked funny with capes and robes and faces and hands, and that stick men were a better example to use. Hmmm…(I didn’t listen!)

    My point is that it’s is amazing that the fewer tools we give our children to be creative the better. Not need for all the bells and whistles. Let their beautiful minds develop on their own.

  • Awesome! This post makes me feel better about giving my son plain white paper to color on and never correcting the way he holds the color (or chalk if we are outside coloring the driveway…or house… LOL!). :)

  • Sharon

    Well I didn’t know how much I was helping to grow a love for art in my daughter when I sighed and allowed her to “express” herself throughout the house when she was young.

    When my daughter was two she took to emptying my liquid foundation into interesting designs on the off white couch in our living room – I literally started to hyperventilate. Later she took crayons to my framed pictures on the wall – she didn’t touch the picture but she thought she could add something to the matting. Go figure?

    Anyhow, in a few weeks we’ll be moving her into residence at one of the finest art schools in the country. Nothing makes this teen happier than spending 6-7 hours working on a piece of art. I’m happy too! A very good post for new moms and validation for us older moms who weren’t too sure what we were doing!

  • I so agree about coloring books and such! We have some, but only because they were given to my kids. Mine are actually not so fond of crayons, but utterly adore markers and paints, so that’s what they use. Not so green, perhaps, but it means I can keep encouraging their creativity.

  • This book is right on the mark! I used to draw on walls just like your kids and grew up to get a degree in Art History from Hopkins and then a Master’s in Art Education, so keep letting those kids be creative!!!

  • grrrl

    Loved this blog. I own a paint your own pottery studio and am so sad to see how many moms tell their kids they are painting wrong! Then they correct their child’s master piece to make it look “good”. You can see the joy just drain from their whole being. Then they don’t want to paint anymore because mom will fix it.

    While I love artistic expression, children should also know the boundaries and respect for their home. We don’t allow coloring on the walls, it has to be on paper or other found object designated for art. However, a wall can become an art space with washable paint or chalkboard paint. The kids should know that that is the space they can make their creations on.

  • Thank you so much for your comments supporting my work! Scribbles are the very building blocks of all of the letters of the alphabet, so encouraging children to scribble as much as possible when they are young will help them discriminate and recognize letters of the alphabet. I am always available to answer your questions and to make suggestions for age appropriate art projects that stimulate creativity and promote literacy. You can reach me at

  • Deb

    I’m going to get this book – thank you!  Couldn’t dot-to-dot be good for practicing numbers, though?