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July 05, 2007



I whole heartily agree!!

We are raising bright/gifted 6yo children that have taken to their home education eagerly. It is sometimes difficult to strike the balance between their apparent desire to learn fractions with the developmentally appropriate need for exploratory and creative play and to let each express itself as the child shows interest.



I have to disagree with you for the first time ever about several points in your article...

While I agree with you about the insanity & absurdity of having a "modern art" historical/critical discussion
about art with a young child, I really see nothing wrong with children going to art museums.

Children don't view paintings by Modigliani or Monet from an adult perspective. Children aren't
going to "get" the concept in conceptual art...

They are seeing big (or small) paintings with large swaths (or small dabs) of color. They're seeing
that other people depicted people, animals, trees and such with paints...etc... They're seeing
abstract shapes and tiny figures...

Sometimes the art is interesting for them, sometimes not... same for adults...

My daughter has enjoyed art museums since she was small.... She loves Georgia O'Keefe's Clouds
and sky painting at the Chicago Art Institute (for example). It is a huge canvas with big clouds...
and it evokes a response from her of wonder and awe.... it's a sky on canvas made by a lady who
enjoyed painting flowers and sky. Simple as that.... How exciting!

We're not going to discuss O'Keefe's relationship with Stieglitz or view her flower depictions from a feminist perspective...

Our child likes Degas' ballerina paintings. I'm not going to explain to her what the role of a dancer was
in 19th century Paris...

We're not going to burden our museum-going child with adult justifications or interpretations of art. Adults need reasons for
things....Kids can just enjoy art without a reason... "That's my favorite color!.....Look at that little dog! ....I like her dress!"

While science museums can be palling for a young child with their endless factual explanations, and long lecture-laden walks through halls of mediterranean vases are absurd for a six year old, there is little harm that can be done by seeing a huge Helen Frankenthaler
colorful abstract painting with its colors flowing into one another or a Rothko with its huge planes of pigment....Certainly, we're not going to discuss his reasons for suicide while we're enjoying these canvases....

I think a Matisse painting of dancing figures is harmless.... A child can be thrilled by the movement
and by the freedom of painting a figure without photographic perfection or exquisite likenesses....

Certainly I'm not trying to make my daughter an art expert... but I ask, what is the harm of beauty?

My daughter loves making pictures every day. She's excited that people can grow up and continue to
make pictures. And she knows that pictures aren't just for the refrigerator or thrown in the trash, but
can bring joy and beauty to many people.... And that creativity isn't something to shun or to
be fearful of, but to be celebrated and enjoyed.

Incidentally, a trip to the Eric Carle Museum of Picturebook Art is a highly recommended....My daughter
went to an art, animals and imagination workshop there last summer that was brilliant! The children
spent time with farm animals, worked with paints, collages and made lots of pictures. They met
several picturebook maker/authors including Eric Carle. It was one of the greatest experiences ever for our
daughter. She loved it and so did all the children there.

So please don't outright discourage folks from introducing their children to art and its celebration.
We need more creative souls, not less...




I agree that it is silly to attempt to engage such young children in deep conversation about the artwork. I wonder, though, if these mothers KNEW at their gut level that this was absurd, but were bowing to cultural pressure to have the "smartest" child possible. I've seen the same thing at the zoo. Parents bombarding their kids with all sorts of info about the animals instead of simply letting the kids enjoy the experience. As a society we aren't content to just let our kids be!


Hi Kiki and Marianna,

First forgive me for taking so long, Kiki, to respond to you...I had originally had the intention to not respond to comments on my blog because of how involved I am with my Forum...but I have since decided that some people might find that to be really unfriendly. So here I am!

So.... first of all, thank you for taking the time to write in. And basically I agree with you - looking at lovely paintings of ballet dancers by Degas or even big splotches of paint by Kandinsky is fine - if that's all one is doing with a young child. But... that is not what I so often see. Like Marianna said, even in zoos there is this panic to ensure that the children "lean something." And it certainly is not just the parents who do this - I remember being at the Minnesota zoo a few years ago with my sons where the electronic information panels were more of a draw to the children than the camels standing looking at us! That is the kind of thing I am talking about.Even if parents just wanted to enjoy the animals themselves, they and their children would find themselves bombarded by "fun facts" and "endangered species alerts."

The other thing, Kiki, that, perhaps I didn't emphasize sufficiently is the sheer magnitude of the Met. It is one thing visiting a small museum (like the art museum near us in Madison which could fit in its entirety within one wing of the Met) and quite another to visit an enormously overstimulating place like the Met. Just walking up the steps and getting to the booth to pay are an adventure in themselves for a small child! My point is that people often forget - or do not know about - how young children experience the world and therefore think that a visit to an art museum, complete with discussions on art, is in order. And why shouldn't they? That is the kind of thing (albeit in trivial ways) which most conventional educators advocate. Look at the scope and sequence at your local public school if you don't believe me!)

I love the thought of your daughter enjoying Georgia O'Keefe's colors - wonderful! A gentle experience of the joy of color like you describe is to be encouraged, as you say. But that's not the kind of thing which I was observing on my trip to NYC.

Thank you both for writing!


Thank you Donna for your wise words.

I agree with you. If parents take their kids to zoos or museums, they need to "edit" the experience in order
to preserve the wonder and innocence of it all.

Most parents forget that these trips are often the first time a child has seen...a zebra...or a giraffe...or
a whatever it is... This is a magical experience that must flow naturally, not be dictated by some electronic
fact gadget...Ughh...

Those information panels and computers are dreadful, boring and basically kill the experience. Museum curators
justify their exhibits with all this fact-crammed gear in order to "authenticate" the exhibits and have access to funding.

Thank you for your sensitivity. And thank you in advance for the new curricula....!



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