Mistakes when Teaching Art

How to Avoid Mistakes When Teaching Art {Guest Post}

How to Avoid Mistakes in Teaching Art | Harrington HarmoniesTeaching art as homeschoolers can sometimes be a bit daunting, can’t it? Eva Soukal, of  arTree digital art magazine is here to help. She gives us very approachable advice on avoiding a few common errors when teaching art. After reading, be sure enter the giveaway that follows! It’s for a full year of art ideas and advice from Eva. She’s giving away  full year subscriptions of  her digital Artree magazine to three lucky winners! See details below.

How to Avoid Making Mistakes When Teaching Art to Kids

by Eva Soukal

There is no right and wrong when it comes to art but is the same true about the way we teach art to our children? What can we do to make sure our little artists remain artists for as long as possible, hopefully forever?


Don’t copy the masters!

I am not saying that you should stop talking to your kids about Van Gogh, Monet and Picasso. Just the opposite! Talk to them, take them to galleries and show them as much art as possible. But when you create an art inspired by the artists, don’t copy their work. Use it to teach your child something about a certain art element or technique, nothing more. You can use Pissarro to explain one-point perspective, Hundertwasser to teach about architecture or Seurat to demonstrate secondary colors.

Mistakes When Teaching  Art- Don't copy artisits, use learning about the m teach a skill. {Artree guest post and giveaway} | Harrington Harmonies't

Show the kids the things you are trying to highlight and then let them explore it on their own, with a little bit of your guidance when needed. Don’t produce cookie-cutter art. It is ok if the result is not perfect or super-neat as long as it is unique and you and your child had a good time working on it!


Don’t help, much.

Don’t be too fast to jump to the rescue. Your child can probably do a lot by himself. Let him. Wait for him to ask for your help and then try guiding him through the process before you take over. If he cannot figure out what he doesn’t like on his painting, help him by asking questions and talking about it. If he gets frustrated because he made a mistake, don’t give him a new paper, at least not right away. Ask him if there is a way he can use the mistake as a part of his work. Every spill can become a flower, a cloud or a monster. If he gets stuck, show him the Beautiful Oops! book by Barney Saltzberg. It should help.


Make a Mess

Sometimes it is easy to focus on the result instead of the process. Don’t forget that it is okay to have fun without having a beautiful piece of art you would like to hang over your fireplace or send to your mother. Some of the projects the kids in my classes enjoy the most are the messy ones – like Louise Nevelson’s collages out of found objects.

Mistakes when teaching art- Don't be afraid to make a mess. {Guest post from Artree Magazine and Giveaway} | Harrington Harmonies

When they made those, they learned about collaboration, they challenged ways they saw ordinary objects, they solved a lot of creative problems and challenges and they had a blast! It may be a messy piece of cardboard not everybody would hang on their wall but it was one of their favorite lessons.


‘Good Job’ Kills Creativity

We all said ‘good job’ or ‘that is the most beautiful flower I have ever seen’ from time to time. We want our kids to feel good about their art and we want to encourage their creativity. The problem is that an empty praise like this can actually hurt their creativity instead of nurturing it.

Researchers found out that kids who are praised for doing a ‘good job’ at a creative task tend to stumble the next time they do it. Why does this happen? Well, would you take bold risks when you knew that taking the safe route would guarantee you the reward? Kids can become less likely to experiment with art because they want to please us. And they may become more likely to feel pressured by our praise to always make the best painting possible, which is a rather impossible task.

Again, I am not saying that you should not praise your kid’s art. On the contrary! The only trick is to know what to say. Praise the kid’s hard work rather than the result. It may be difficult in the beginning but it will get easier as you try it:

  • Instead of: ‘Good job! That is a cute flower!’ Try saying: ‘Wow, I see you’ve used a lot of green and yellow in your work today!’

  • Instead of saying: ‘That is so beautiful. Is that a dog?’ Say: ‘Look at those horizontal lines going through that big oval. Can you tell me about the painting?’

  • Instead of saying: ‘This is the best painting I’ve seen!’ Say: ‘You are really working hard on this painting! I like how you mixed your colors here.’

Have fun!

Probably the most important rule is to have fun! There are so many artists you can discover, so many techniques you can try and so many art materials you can explore… there is something for everybody!

Having fun is th emost important thing when teaching art. {Guet post from Artree Magazine and Subscription giveaway} | Harrington Harmonies

Find the things that interest your child and build upon it. Does he like comic books? Introduce him to Lichtenstein. Cakes? Oldenburg. Cutting with scissors? Matisse. Space exploration? Starry Night by Van Gogh. It’s easier than it may seem. Have fun and stay creative!


A little about Eva:

Eva Soukal, Author of  Artree MagazineMy name is Eva Soukal and I am a mom of two little artists. I publish arTree, a digital art magazine for kids and I work hard on bringing art education back to schools through arTree program for art docents. I also teach after-school art as well as Little Artists art classes for preschoolers. I have always loved working with kids and I am very passionate about sharing my love for art with them.

Now enter the giveaway!

Enter for your chance to win a free year subscription to arTree Digital Magazine! You’ll get beautiful art project ideas and tips right to your inbox. I have really enjoyed my subscription because it’s so inspiring to me. I always enjoy getting them and seeing what new idea Eva has come up with!

Want to see it? Check out this free preview issue of arTree: http://artreekids.com/trial.html

Giveaway information: You must be a U.S. Resident and 18 years of age or older to enter.  A winner will be randomly selected and notified within 24 hrs of the end of the giveaway. Once notified, the winner has 24 hrs to respond. If the winner does not respond a second attempt will be made. If still no response is given within 48 hrs. then a new winner will be randomly selected. *Means of notification is limited to email so please enter with the email easiest for you to be reached.* See our Privacy Policy for more information. Once the prize is claimed, recipient will receive the prize starting with the next published issue- this is a digital product only. Thank you for entering!

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Also don’t miss this  Art for Your Homeschool  event with ideas, encouragement & resources for art in your homeschool. Please join me and other wonderful panelists for:
Art for Your Homeschool | Harrington Harmonies


  • Jeni Williams

    My 6 year little girl loves to draw, I am always looking for websites that offer drawing lessons. I need to get her drawing weekly, maybe this magazine would help inspire her and I.

  • Elizabeth Schmidtberger

    My 5 year old loves art. I have just not given it the time it deserves. I’m doing a complete curriculum overhaul next year and this would be a great addition to what I’m going to do!

  • Fibia

    I struggle most with my low ability to be crafty. My kids love art so I try to learn as much as possible and allow them to express their creativity.
    Thank you for the giveaway.

  • Jessica Medina

    I struggle with what to teach.

    • Stephanie

      That can be difficult. Read up a little on the basic art elements and work on how they are applied to a project, activity or lesson. Exploring is always good too. You’ll discover things as you go. Good luck!

  • Kathleen P.

    I struggle mostly with making time for art. I am thinking of making Friday afternoons a dedicated art time.

  • Tracy @ Using Time Wisely

    Love these tips! We are moving from a classical school to homeschooling in the fall. I love these tips as teaching art is a concern for me.

  • Brittney

    I mostly struggle with the motivation to do art. My kids love it, but I have a hard time submitting to the time and mess involved.

    • Stephanie

      That’s understandable. There is a bit of clean up involved. I’d recommend simplicity for you such as reading about artists, doing lots of picture study, and getting sketch pads and drawing pencils which require little to no clean up. If that get’s dull try adding colored pencils! Pen and line drawings are also an option and mess free!

  • Sara

    Stephanie, Thanks for this great post. I love your inspiration and its very encouraging to me.

    • Stephanie

      Sara, you are so welcome! I love having your girls in my art class. They inspire me to be a better teacher every class. I have learned so much from teaching them. I am glad you entered for this, it would be a great way to continue getting art ideas after you PCS! *hugs*

  • Molly

    I Struggle with finding ideas that all of my kids can do at once. I have a 1 st grader, 4 year old and 19 month old. I like to do art, science and social studies together, and I like doing all of them based on one topic. I only had crafts, but no actual art projects for anything.

    • Stephanie

      You have a wide range of age but I think there is much you can do together. Each child will simply approach it on their own level. I would prepare for your first grader and then include the younger ones even if all they do is “play” with the mediums, or whatever your working on. I think you’d like this post in which I give a free art lesson plan for Exploring the Elements of Art for all ages. I think you would like the “art element bag” for your children to explore. http://harringtonharmonies.com/2014/02/norman-rockwell-art-lesson-plan.html

    • Eva Soukal

      Stephanie is right, there are so many projects you can do together. Choose the project based on your older child and then let the young one play with the materials and just explore. Sometimes you may be surprised what they create!

      I teach kids 3-10 years old and most of the projects can be done by all of them. If you are looking for ideas, there’s a lot of them around! Just today I shared a post about minimal realism, Charley Harper and birds made with potato stamps – that project can be done by all age groups. It may not look like birds when a toddler creates it but it is guaranteed to be a fun project 🙂


  • Amy Lanham

    I have three very artistic kids, but I have trouble knowing how much to help and guide them. Up till now, I have allowed them to create on their own, but I would really like to begin teaching them about the masters, and helping them to become better artists.

  • Maggie C

    TIp: -Don’t be afraid to let things get messy.
    Struggle: As a former art teacher and mosaic artist I struggle with not allowing my kids to do certain art activities with me. I want them to be in on the whole process but that process is not always safe for kiddos.

    • Stephanie

      Absolutely. I think it’s healthy and appropriate for some of your work to be yours alone. Maybe find a private time or area for those type of projects and do the ones they can join in with to a medium that is safe for them.

  • Lydia

    I love these ideas. I will be following on fb and pinterest for giving my 2 artists great ideas to grow and challenge them.

  • Becky J

    I love these ideas…I just taught a 7-9th grade art class last year at co-op and I could have used this wisdom..art was always my FAVORITE part of school…I would be so tickled to win- thanks 🙂

  • Linda

    I want to get more art into my children’s lives. I struggle with wanting a certain result and having certain expectations and then being discouraged when THEY have different expectations and results!
    Loved your article, thank you for the encouragement, and the giveaway!

    • Stephanie

      Yes Linda, expectations certainly do play a role. I find that my child, and students too, can get very disappointed by their work. Some children really expect a lot (and parents too). That’s when I find Eva’s suggestions very helpful. Saying things like, “Wow, I love your color choices” or when a child is disappointed with their work I will ask them to tell me what they do like about it. What did they do well? and How would they do things differently next time? I like to focus on process more than product. I want my students to enjoy the journey!

  • Bethanny Parker

    I’m not teaching art yet. We are thinking about homeschooling next year. For now, I just give them crayons and paper and let them go.

    • Stephanie

      Letting kids explore is the most important thing. Sometimes all they need is just providing a few materials and many will, as you say.. go with it. It doesn’t have to be difficult.

  • audria

    This looks like a wonderful resource! Art is the one subject I am having the most trouble teaching. We tried Artistic Pursuits but the kids ( and teacher) got really bored with it. We tried some DVD’s where everyone made the same piece of art which just led to unhappy comparing. I could use some….OK tons of help when it comes to art.

  • Sasha Johns

    Fantastic. I was raised by an artist. I love your ideas as I try to go forward with teaching my own children. Thanks

    • Stephanie

      Eva has such wonderful ideas! I find that i also need inspiration from others. It’s awesome you were raised by an artist. I feel like my artistic kids “raised” me in a sense because they taught me so much about art! Enjoy your art teaching!