Low-stress ways to figure out if your child might have an artistic life ahead

June 14, 2021

Toddlers are fearless artists and every surface in their little world is a canvas. Living room walls, couches, clothes, and faces – applications are plentiful. Little kids love art and they don’t hesitate to make a mess.

At some point, most children start seeing art as work. What used to be fun becomes stressful: stay in the lines, use complimentary colors, obey the rule of thirds, lead viewers to the vanishing point… it goes on and on. 

But for some children, art “as work” isn’t a negative connotation at all. In spite of schooling being so focused on academics, your child may be energized by painting or photography or other visual arts. But how do you know what’s childlike wonder and what’s real potential?

Observations about artistic youth are indicators and conversation starters, and nothing to get anxious about. Leonardo Da Vinci started messing around with art when he was a teenager, but his legendary work came after he was 40. Vincent van Gough was in his twenties when he started painting. 

Here are four low-stress ways to figure out if your child might be on a path to an artistic career. 

#1 – Fills their procrastination time

A budding artist is probably putting off math homework until the night before it’s due. That stuff isn’t nearly as rewarding as crawling in the backyard with a camera, or sketching a face without lifting the pencil. It’s tempting for parents to want to halt the dreamy work until after the equations worksheet is complete.

But consider this: your child is practicing art without anyone telling them to. They motivate themselves even without outside encouragement. If only grown-ups had the same internal engines for art projects!

#2 – Sees beauty in the mundane

There’s no reason to exaggerate a child’s view of the world as a deep search for beauty in the ordinary. But it’s true that when we’re young, we notice normal things that seem important. A painting of the house might show a yard that’s way out of proportion.

The childlike perspective is that’s where all the action is. Dots on a strawberry, holes in a fence, frizzy hair… your young artist probably doesn’t need a book of ideas because artistic stimulation is all around them.

#3 – Integrates thinking and feeling

One of my favorite versions of storytime was listening to my kids describe their artwork. They couldn’t help but integrate thinking and feeling. Soft lines vs. jagged edges, warm vs. cold colors, emotive vs. blank faces, and so on.

Young kids don’t talk like students in an MFA program (thankfully!), but they’ll convey messages that are deeper than “the soccer ball is round” when you ask the right questions. Get your young artists talking and see where the conversation takes you.

#4 – All publicity is good publicity

Is every magnet from your junk drawer currently holding a masterpiece on the fridge? All publicity is good publicity in the young artist’s mind. They have little or no fear about what people think, because they know each work is exactly as it should be.

At some point in life, most of us let peer pressure hold us back. But sometimes a child’s skin is incredibly thick. One of their siblings could mock the colors in a self portrait as unrealistic. Fine. That doesn’t faze the creator. They have faith in their ideas, even if they have very limited skills.

Remember, these prompts are meant to explore potential in your children. No pressure. Do you see any of these patterns in your household? Tell us about your experience!