May 22, 2020


What is Art?

Art is an expression, and to create art one should be free.

I consider children to be inherent artists. For one, they are uninhibited with their words and actions. They speak their minds when asked and are not hindered to express frustrations amidst a crowd of people. Children also are unlikely to initiate rules, instead, they are expected to abide by them.

Knowing that, why shouldn’t we let children be the artists that they are? Why should we dictate on how they should render art? Creating art is a means of expression and children have every right to express themselves freely.

I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else.


What is Art in a Montessori Classroom?

Art in a Montessori classroom is more than just creating something tangible but it is about creating experiences like :

  • nature walks
  • moments of silence
  • daily sensorial experience
  • getting to know artists and their works
  • visually seeing the artists’ works displayed on the walls
  • freedom of movement

All of these experiences set the tone in the blossoming of of the child’s creative expression.

How can these experiences help a child to be creative?

Let’s take nature walks as an example. When a child goes for a walk, the child gets a glimpse of the true colors of nature. The child sees the green leaves on trees, the rough texture of a tree trunk and the changes in blue horizon as the sun sets. The light, the hues and the brightness of colors truly defines art in its purest form. Not to mention, how autumn season brings out a sheer contrast of the red maple leaves against the the color of the orange pumpkins. Thus, if the beauty of nature are what inspired great artists like Monet and Van Gogh to create masterpieces, it is imperative therefore that nature walks be a part of child’s routine in to bring out their creativity.

How do you foster art in a Montessori classroom?

Freedom of movement is one of distinct characteristic In a Montessori classroom. When a child is free to move and choose from the available materials on the shelf, then children can freely draw, color or paint without a specific pattern. There are no coloring books that will limit the children’s artistic expression. Instead, the shelves have white blank papers, coloring instruments, scissors and brushes as well as an easel to foster child’s creativity.

According to Barnett’s, “Creative Art Work” she further defines it as,

Creating art is an unfolding of an internal as well as a mental experience where a product takes an external form during a spontaneous moment.

What do you set up in the Art area?

The Montessori Art curriculum area has open ended art materials set up on the shelf. They are set up methodically, in stages where each shelf has a tray where all the materials are contained together, complete and in good condition. It’s also important to mention that art materials are consistently at the same spot on the shelf everyday. It is my experience that when they are always at the same spot everyday most likely, the children will work independently and will likely put them away.

These are the suggested art materials.

1: crayons with drawing paper

2: markers with drawing paper

3: colored pencils with drawing paper

4: scissors with cutting strips

5: modeling clay with plastic mat, rolling pin and cutter

6: squares of thin colored papers for folding

7 : watercolor paper, skinny paint brush with tempera paint 

In my Montessori classroom, children have their own personal sketchbooks  or drawing . They have access to use it all throughout the year. 

Creative art grows spontaneously in identifiable stages (Viktor Lowenn and Rhonda Kellogg) (R.Burnett, 1999 ) , I have summarized each stage of creativity. Source : Creative Art Work by Burnett

Stages of Creativity

Stage 1 : Scribble

Scribbles may look like random markings but they are true expression of child’s creativity. This is the most important stage as child’s makes his first attempt to his own creative path. The product of their work may not be visually appealing yet they will likely do the same random markings over and over again. As a teacher, I try to be watchful of unnecessary criticisms of children with one another. Most likely an older child will say, “you’re just doing, “scribble, scrabble” and comparisons of their creative work. because of the sheer joy of doing something repeatedly They should be given an ample opportunity to repeat and reinforce the skills and the creating experience criticisms, comparisons and correction. 

Stage 2 : Lines and Shape

 In this stage, scribbles become controlled and is combined with simple shapes. Often simple free form shapes are drawn and decorated with lines.

STAGE 3 : Semi-representational 

Lines and shapes become universal symbols and become building blocks for drawings as they gradually progress from their line drawings. What the child draws in this stage represent the child’s early experiences. Thus, it may appear to be random and disproportioned. This is because the child draws larger drawings and colors it brightly because that is what is most important to them. Often their choice of colors represent what they feel good about and not necessarily what an adult sees in the real world. The children in this stage usually illustrate representational forms of buildings, houses, animals or their family.

STAGE 4: Space and Relationships

One of the representation of space is using base lines and sky lines. Children draw rainbows and with trees, flowers and grass. They represent the space using baselines and skylines.

The gallery of the children’s artwork represent the different stages of creativity. The Montessori environment spans the ages of children from 3 to 6. They stay in the same classroom for three years.The children are free to move and choose their work. I am privileged to witness their creativity develop as they render their best artwork yet.

STAGE 5: Composition 

In the stage of composition, children strive for realistic proportions and distance. Their shapes overlap and attempt to draw perspective to show distance.  The children are patient to sequence activities. 

STAGE 6 Realism 

At ages 8 to 11, children’s drawing are intense, expressive and knowledgeable. Often, they have a strong desire for photographic representations but this is based on their own experience thus,

Art is not a representation of things, but an expression of experience for them”

V. Lowenfield

In order to foster creativity at this stage, it is important that the adult distinguishes that “looking” at the photograph is far less expressive than when a child has actually has “lived” the experience. The author further explains, that if a child is given a picture of a rabbit, the adult may point out the distinction between the forelegs and the hind legs. That is, hind legs are more rounded while the forelegs are small and straight. Now in contrast when an actual rabbit is present in the room, the rabbit is observed, and touched and whiskers felt as it rubs on child’s skin. Because of the child’s involvement is greater in a living experience than in the “looking”, most likely the child’s drawing will be intense, detailed and more expressive.

Finally, What To Do and What to Say to Your Child’s Creative Work

  • Accept “I can see that you like coloring with purple”
  • Acknowledge “You are really focused on your work”
  • Appreciate “You really took your time in doing this art work”
  • Affirm “Your made good choice on using a colored pencil instead of a paintbrush”

What Not To Do or What Not to Say to Your Child’s Creative Work

  • DO NOT PRAISE. That puts you on a judgmental role of evaluating between a “good” art and a “bad” artwork
  • Criticize “You can do better than this scribbles.”
  • Comparison “You should color within the lines like Carla.”
  • Correction “You should use blue for the sky, not black.”
  • Copy Work “Let’s trace this rabbit so it’s easier to color”

Now that I summarized Regina Barnett’s “Creative Art Work” for Early Childhood Education, I made you are made aware of the importance of creating experiences more than creating a product in fostering creativity for young children. i hope that you remember the importance of your role as an adult in recognizing your child’s creative work.


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