Ten Ways to Encourage Young Artists

I recently posted a 30 second video of my students painting at the easel. The video showed the children painting their papers from one edge to the other. In the comments, I was asked “Don’t you encourage something rather than seeing how much paint is put on the paper?” This question made me realize how easy it is to miss the bigger picture when it comes to encouraging our young artists.

Let me begin with what the video didn’t show. The video didn’t show how the children spent time choosing, organizing, and adding paint colors to the paint cups before starting to paint. The video didn’t show the children hanging up their own paper on the easel or taking it down when finished. The video didn’t show the children asking if they can paint another, then another.

However, the video did show the children deeply engaged and invested in the painting process. The video did highlight what stage the children were in with their development of self-regulation, fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, and decision-making.

More importantly, the video showed the children firmly at a stage where mixing colors and painting pieces of paper from one edge to another satisfied their artistic desires and interests.

To answer the question, “Don’t you encourage something rather than seeing how much paint is put on the paper?”

The answer is, “Yes,” I encourage the children to…

  1. Notice how the paint colors change as they are mixed together.
  2. Swirl the paintbrush in different directions, lines, and dots.
  3. Use the opposite end of the paintbrush to scratch their name in the paint on the paper.
  4. Paint and talk with a friend while they paint.
  5. Observe the world around them as they paint.
  6. Tell me about their painting if they wish.
  7. Hang up their own paper on the easel before they paint.
  8. Put their own paper on the drying line or shelf when they are done.
  9. Notice how the red paint brush goes in the red paint cup and the blue brush goes in the blue paint cup.
  10. Gather the materials they need to get started.

I know that this isn’t the kind of encouragement one might expect but what I want to see more than a pretty rainbow is a competent, confident, and independent artist art work.

Key Take-Aways

  • Children need to satisfy their current creative needs and desires before they will be ready for the next stage of creative expression.
  • Each stage of art is satisfied by giving children the freedom, tools, and time to explore the creative process.
  • There is more to encouraging the creative process than what goes on the canvas.
  • A competent, confident, and independent artist is an empowered artist.

Now it’s your turn!

Take a second and share your take-aways or ideas in the comments below.

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About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Nandini December 25, 2018 at 11:04 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing and educating us on ‘Process Art’❤

  2. Bonnie December 26, 2018 at 5:01 pm - Reply

    I love watching children engaged in painting. The fact that they are focused and engaged in the process of painting the entire paper is important in itself.

    • Deborah Stewart December 27, 2018 at 3:00 pm - Reply

      I love watching them too Bonnie!

  3. Judi Dinell December 28, 2018 at 11:56 pm - Reply

    You go girl. I have a problem with teachers who care more about how perfect a project turns out to send home, rather then the process that went into creating it. Sometimes, children just want to explore the color purple or black that day, so they are accomplishing a skill. Or if they decide that they want to put gobs of paint on a piece of paper to also see what happens, they are also learning a skill. Do you realize that possibly by putting gobs of paint on the paper and possibly that painting not working out, that they can start understanding that in the future when they might be baking cookies, that they can’t put a gob of flour in the dough? Then what about imagination. Being able to choose to a project how you want to and not how the teacher says to do or copying other students, helps to create amazing imaginations. Please, let our babies do what they are happy with, even if it is just a piece of paper painted orange, because they had an orange for breakfast.

  4. Bev January 1, 2019 at 6:37 pm - Reply

    I love how the children get so involved with their artwork that they seemingly get ‘lost in it!’ I see them most happy when they are able to create and not have everyone turn out the perfect project. they need to experience!

  5. Bonita Sears January 13, 2019 at 8:52 pm - Reply

    Hello, I would love to know about the process art project the children are engaged doing in the above photo. Could you explain? Thanks I am looking forward to the process art conference I love process art but could use some additional suggestions on how to improve upon what we already do. I am looking forward to it.

    • Deborah Stewart January 14, 2019 at 9:51 pm - Reply

      Hi Bonita,
      We did a study on Mondrian Art and this was our effort at exploring that process. The children created squares with tape then painted the spaces in between the taped lines.

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