Child Hates Art

What To Do When Your Child Doesn’t Like Art

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What to Do When Your Child Hates Art

What should you do if your child doesn’t like art?

Many people have asked me this over the years, both in person and on the blog.

Earlier this week, my doctor told me she was feeling a little frustrated that her son just wasn’t into arts and crafts. Her most recent activity, making paper snowflakes, was met with resistance, as many of her others had.

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As I said to her, and as I’ll tell you, it’s okay.

A. There’s nothing wrong with your child if he doesn’t like art. Everyone, child and adult, has different interests and propensities. That’s what makes us human.

And B. Your child can get the benefits that art provides in other ways.

While I am a big proponent of art as an avenue to creativity, it’s certainly not the only way to develop creativity. And I believe that it’s important to follow your interests and your heart. This goes for both kids and adults, of course, but let’s focus on our children for now.

As parents, we want the best for our kids and that includes developing their creativity (arguably the most important skill of the 21st century) and doing our best to ensure that our children hold on to their creativity throughout childhood.

While art is an avenue to creativity, it is only one of many. Since I love it myself, my blog and books are focused more on art than on anything else.

But if your child isn’t into visual art, there’s no need to force it.

Happy Children Quote

There are other ways to develop creativity, including constructionpretend play, science experiments, the other arts such as music, performance, and dance, and even (especially!) the way you talk and question.

If your child doesn’t like art, what does he or she like?

And how can you encourage him in that area in a way that develops creativity? (Often this involves encouraging open-ended exploration and asking open-ended questions.)

If you’re not sure how to encourage creativity in your child’s area of interest, leave a comment below and we’ll help brainstorm with you.

Also, just because a child says he hates art, doesn’t mean you take his 7-year-old word for it that he’s never going to like any kind of art.

Kids change. They go through phases. And they don’t know all that’s out there.

I think it’s important to respect their preferences and individuality but also to continue to offer a variety of occasional art opportunities. That’s our job as parents. Every once in a while, set up a new art activity*, try a class or camp that has an art component, or invite them to join you in doing an art activity.

*Try to think beyond simply drawing and painting.

Pottery with Kids

There may be an art that he or she would gravitate toward that he just hasn’t tried yet.

How about photography? Pottery? Land art? Tesselations and other math art? Action art? Art games? Collaborative art? Cake decorating? Sensory art experiences such as shaving cream or feelie goop?

And just a reminder… Art can be more or less appealing to a child, depending on how you, the adult, present it and guide their experience. 

Experimenting with Watercolors

Some questions to ask yourself ::

  • Is the art activity developmentally appropriate? For younger children, this generally means process-oriented art (where the focus is more on the process of creating rather than the finished product, allowing children to explore themselves, the world, their skills, and materials in an open-ended way).
  • How are you talking about your child’s art-making? For some dos and don’ts and some tips on talking about art in a way that encourages creativity, see this post.
  • Are you modeling creativity? I think the most important point here is to make sure you don’t denigrate your own artistic ability or creativity. Even if you don’t feel creative or think you can’t draw, please don’t say that out loud in front of your kids.
  • Are you encouraging free expression? Or are you dictating how the child uses the art materials or does the art activity? The more freedom they have to explore and express themselves, the better (as long as they follow general household rules and basic respect for space, self, and materials).

The Artful Parent book on Children's Art by Jean Van't HulIf you want a more in-depth guide to laying a creative foundation in childhood, I encourage you to check out my first book, The Artful Parent :: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art and Creativity.

Now, another point, if you like art yourself, please just do it! 

You don’t have to wait for someone else to be interested to do it yourself. You can sit down and enjoy it on your own. (And maybe, just maybe, your reluctant artist will want to join you sometimes…)

More Ideas and Resources

Connecting Through Creativity Mini Course for Parents

Want to learn more about how to use CONNECTION and CREATIVITY together as parenting tools? I have a powerful mini course on how connection and creative activities can work hand in hand to improve family life while fostering long-term creativity and self confidence. Click here to buy now or learn more.

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What to do When Your Child Hates Art

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6 Comments

  • Reply
    Juliana
    December 11, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    Good things to think about!! Very encouraging!
    I know in my house I need to just sit down and do it and my child will often join in. I am just still adjusting to the fact that she doesn’t have the need to play with mediums, like I do. She has never said she doesn’t like art, she is just not as enthusiastic as I am.

  • Reply
    Zuzu @ zuzuarttrail.blogspot.co.uk
    December 11, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    This is a great post and something that I often come across in the classroom with 3/4 year olds. Being open minded and thinking around more traditional processes often gets results. For example this term we explored colour mixing using diluted food colouring and bread with a group of boys who avoid traditional paint, paper and brushes. We toasted the bread and ate it for snack – an added bonus!

  • Reply
    Sarah
    December 11, 2015 at 10:07 pm

    My kids are really talented at drawing but don’t want to do it, i think it’s bc they feel like theyre competing with me since i will draw on occasion and they rave about my work. Do you have any suggestions? Theyre not interested in any art camps or classes.

  • Reply
    Gwynn Torres
    January 29, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    My kids were interested in art, but interested more in music, in which they developed creatively. The Samuel Johnson quote is very on target.
    Thanks for this article.
    Gwynn Torres
    The Creativity Institute

  • Reply
    Raising Creative Children
    March 16, 2016 at 1:42 am

    Great points here! Love the questions you pose towards the bottom of the post. Along with the reasons a child might give for saying that she or he hates art (or music, dance, theater etc.) I might start to wonder if an underlying issue is the way(s) that they are experiencing art. I wonder if in some contexts their arts engagement is too prescriptive. This might be more of an issue in the music world where, for instance, a child taking piano lessons might be expected to practice playing music created by someone else in a way that is “correct” without much room for creative engagement or decision making. This is just one example but it would be important to get to the root of why children might not be enjoying their experiences. The questions you posed are great for being reflective about this as well.

  • Reply
    Crystal Parker
    May 2, 2016 at 10:35 am

    I think the best thing to do with a reluctant artist is to use the 5 why’s method. Ask why don’t you want to do art? Then keep asking why until you get to the route of the problem. It may be they feel inadequate, it may be the art project itself is boring, or they may just want to go outside and run. When someone doesn’t want to do something they usually have a personal reason that may not be apparent.

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