Becoming a parent is life changing in every aspect. Some changes are extremely obvious, like the responsibility of taking care of another person or the amount of sleep you’ll be getting from now on. Other changes come in the form of opportunities that often happen without you even realizing it. Once you have a child you have the wonderful opportunity of exposing them to the world - and when they are little you get to teach them essentially everything they know! Whether you realize it or not, it’s true.
This notion occurred to me when my daughter was about 18 months old. She was truly learning, communicating, and understanding! She knew her colors and could get her shoes when I asked. I’m also pretty sure she had Elmo radar. No matter where he was… in a book, on television, or on a T-shirt at the store… her alarm went off, “Momo, Momo, Momo!” That’s when it occurred to me…if she knew who Elmo was, she’d probably know who Andy Warhol was if I just told her - and that was the beginning of Artists & Crafts.
Based around the simple notion that what we introduce our children to is what they will absorb, I wrote the curriculum for Artists & Crafts. We expose children to famous artists by making them relatable through familiar activities. At age two a child’s attention span is growing, but still needs to be stimulated frequently. They consume so much information, but it’s more effective to present it through fun games vs. drilling them with flashcards. Each activity we do in class lasts roughly five to seven minutes and then we move on to the next. We have chosen activities children love and related them to each artist.
Each class starts off with an info sheet introducing the child and their adult to the artist. The top sheet boldly identifies the artist’s name and why they are famous. It includes pictures of their most famous artworks. It also contains a brief overview that the adult can read while their child colors the artist-specific coloring book pages. As a parent, I also believe having a young child is a great opportunity to learn things a second time. Yes, these classes are for the children, but they should be entertaining and educational for the adults as well. If the grown-ups are having fun, the children will too. We read a book, build with Play Doh, sing a song, identify a color, create an art project, and make a greeting card in every class. All activities relate back to the artist.
We encourage our parents and caregivers to talk about these artists at home and you can do the same. Hang prints of famous artwork in your child’s room. Have your child look at flowers through a magnifying glass and then create their own version of a Georgia O’Keeffe painting. Sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” while looking at Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Next time you play “Ring Around The Rosie” start by showing them Matisse’s Dance. It’s all about exposure!! Making these artists a part of their world gets them familiar. Then when they are in elementary school and their teacher shows them a Jackson Pollock painting they will remember the time you let them splatter paint on some paper in the park and they will beam with pride as they raise their hand knowing the answer.
For me, the most rewarding aspect of teaching our class has been to hear parents or caregivers tell stories about how their child mentioned one of our artists at home. It thrills me that Claire recognized a Van Gogh painting in one of her storybooks. And that Nate pointed to the photo of Eric Carle in the back of his Brown Bear book! One morning as we were getting ready for the day, I looked over to see my daughter at my vanity with my eye shadow in hand and a smile from ear to ear. She said, “Look Mom, I’m Frida Kahlo.” On her face, she had drawn a beautiful purple uni-brow. I’m not sure who was more proud, her or me.
While these early years can be challenging, they also come with many incredible opportunities. Exposing your child to the wonders of the world is a gift. Watching their excitement as they make discoveries is priceless. Giving them the tools they need to create their own wonder is magical. Embrace it and enjoy it fully.
Officially formed in 2011, Love Jac is a growing company. With over 100 greeting card designs and a lifestyle blog devoted to enjoying life and bringing the fun, Love Jac has helped thousands of people stay connected with their friends. The company has also expanded beyond greeting cards and currently Jaclyn teaches an art class, “Artists & Crafts,” where she introduces toddlers to famous artists and encourages the children to create their own age-appropriate masterpieces.