For preschoolers, art is a process rather than a product.  Providing interesting, varied, and safe mediums for an art experience creates a positive environment for children to freely express him/herself.  Open art signifies an experience with no anticipated results, no right answers against which to judge the child's efforts.  Closed activities expect a fixed result (ie, a pattern for the child to achieve).  Projects that expect a fixed outcome can create a sense of failure and frustration for the child.  On occasion, teachers or parents may provide "craft" type projects but these activities should be sensitive to the range of abilities of the child.  Such projects should be simple and still promote student work and creativity.

      As the children work, teachers/parents should encourage the child with positive comments.  If unable to determine just what a child has created, invite the child to tell you about his picture.  "You had fun with yellow today!"  "It's fun to see how you use shapes."  "I like your idea!"  Positive comments like these can encourage a child to share information about their work and foster budding creativity.  Displaying children's art work helps them feel value for their work.

       Art development occurs in a predictable sequence as children grow and develop.  Children develop at varying rates, and the amount of time spent in each stage can vary.  Children also move back and forth between stages.  The graph below can provide general guidelines for art development:

Twos

Random/disordered scribbling

Lack of motor control and hand-eye coordination

Do not mentally connenct own movement to marks on the page

Enjoy investigating materials and using crayons, markers, and paint

Threes

Controlled scribbling

Improved hand/eye coordination

Explore and manipulate materials

Repetitive marking

Marks with purpose rather than by chance.

Art is about colors, shapes, and lines.  They may "name" their work.

Fours

Basic forms stage

Mastery over line

Mastery of basic forms: circle, oval, line, rectangle, square

Understand the connection between their own movement and marks on the page

More detailed art

Combine shapes to make an item--symbolic art. 

Fives

First drawings stage

Control over direction and size of line

Advanced motor control

Mastery of symbolic art

Express personality through symbols

Communicate ideas and feelings to others through art

Name their art work as true form of communication

Work to create realistic art

Place objects in proper relation though sizes and shapes may be exaggerated

Enjoy a variety of mediums

       Taking time to enjoy the art process with your child builds confidence, creativity, and self-esteem.  Art can be a natural way to express emotions and can help preschoolers work through a variety of feelings.  By displaying your child's art work, you convey value for his/her accomplishment.  However, art and other creations can seem to multiply.  Consider purchasing a plastic, under-the-bed storage container to store your child's papers.  During the Christmas holidays and again at the close of the school year, set aside time to go through the treasures with your child.  Invite him to choose the ones he'd like to keep and the ones he'd like to mail to friends or family.  The drawings can be recycled into cards and wrapping paper.  Now that my grandchildren live away, I love to receive a note on just such a treasure.  Set a space limit for "keepers" so that your treasures are manageable.