Charlotte Montessori Blog

Art Smarts: How to Respond to a Child’s Artwork!

When a child brings you their artwork, sometimes it is difficult to know what to say. Often the “dog” or “monster” or “Castle” that they claim to have drawn looks more like a messy blob of chaos. (I know there have been times in the classroom when it’s hard not to laugh because the child has drawn a portrait of me that looks absolutely crazy!) In those moments it is easy to say, “good job!” in an effort to appease the child. Afterall, what do you say when a child brings you heaping wet mess of paint piled onto paper? Other times, you may even over-praise the child with exaggerated compliments of “Wow! This is amazing! I’ve never seen anything so beautiful!” The thing is, however, neither of these responses is what the child actually needs to hear.

You see, saying “good job” to your child is a dismissive and vague, and is often used as a blanket response to a myriad of situations. Rather, be intentional with your words. You might be sincere when you tell your child good job, but try instead to look closely at the picture your child is showing you. Make an observation: “you used blue and yellow,” or “You drew lines and lots of circles,” “You used all the paint.” In doing this, you are helping your child understand what it is they have uniquely created.

*There’s an awesome list of things to say instead of “good job” on Pinterest! Ms. Meghan told me about it so check it out if you’re out of ideas! 😊

While saying “good job” can be a vague and automatic response of adults, over-praising a child’s artwork should be avoided as well. Young children participating in art often feel more pride and joy from the process of creating something than the product of their efforts. So instead of showering the child with flattery, you might say, “You worked so hard!” or “It seems like you had a lot of fun making this!” Saying these more intentional comments helps instill confidence in the child- we want the child to feel validated because of the hard work they have put into something, and not because of our over-enthused reaction.

If your child is verbal, ask them questions about their art. “Which colors did you use?” or “What kind of a shape did you draw?” As they grow older, you can ask them more complex questions like “why did you choose that color?” or “What made you want to draw that?”

Art is such a beautiful sensorial experience for children and our responses to them should not distract, inhibit, interrupt, or dilute their natural process.