The Value of Children’s Artwork


An interesting discussion on LinkedIn: someone asked why children’s art is “undervalued” and “just gets lost.”

I responded:

As a former preschool teacher, I love children’s artwork. I always enjoyed looking at it and talking to the three-year-old artists about what they’d made.

It is true that many children make a *lot* of art, and that most of it gets physically lost or not kept. Parents might have the best intentions, but some kids are just too prolific for it to be practical to save every last piece. I’m sure most adult artists, photographers, writers, etc. also produce a lot of drafts and doodles that aren’t saved forever. Someone’s body of artwork can still be valued even if you have to be selective of how much you can fit in those boxes in the closet (let alone on the surface of the refrigerator).

[A commenter] above mentioned the lack of context with which children’s art is often presented in classrooms. It is true that tape on the walls or staples on a bulletin board may be all the school can afford as far as presentation materials. But context can be added by including quotes from the students about what they made, pictures of the children at work on their projects, and some information for parents about what materials the children used and what other learning activities related to the art project. I did not tell children *what* to make, but the other teachers and I had a variety of kinds of art projects (painting, collage using different objects, different kinds of surfaces to paint, etc.) and we might provide inspiration by reading a story or looking at art in a museum that used similar materials.

A focus on process rather than product meant that a certain kind of product was never the end goal, but the product nonetheless did become a thing of value to the child who made it and to me as well!

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About Laura

Paralegal with Master of Arts in Teaching in Museum Education, frequent museum visitor, based in Washington, DC. I care about what museums can do, both in terms of public offerings and internal practices, to make the world a better place. I blog about museum education ("informed"), the social work of museums ("humane"), and visitor experience ("citizenry").
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