One of the best gifts that my mother ever gave me was a large stack of drawings that I created when I was 5 years old. I was flooded with joyful memories of painting and drawing as a child, how much I enjoyed communicating my feelings with crayons and paint!
As an adult, I am comforted by the feelings that I was able to express; and more importantly that my explorations of art as a child allow me to continue to express myself this way as an adult. My parents and my teachers encouraged me, and not in the ways you might expect! When it comes to children’s art, the best thing that we can do as educators is to give the child control over what they are creating. For example, avoid labeling. Instead of telling the child what they’re drawing (“That is a great picture of an elephant!”), ask the child to tell you about their picture. You might be surprised to find that what you thought was an elephant was actually a picture of you! With the child’s permission, write down exactly what the child tells you about their picture. Storytelling can play a very large role in children’s art.
Educators should also avoid modeled art, where the project has a very particular finished product in mind. Instead allow the child to enjoy the process: the flow of the paint, the movement of the crayon, and watch their imaginations roam!