I wrote this manifesto in response to a vacuum that exists in art education for young children. Teachers seem to be at a loss as to how to support young children’s art making. This manifesto is offered as a catalyst to help us rethink how we engage, talk, provide for and respond to the visual arts with young children.

View full background here.

An incomplete manifesto of pedagogical practices for the visual arts in early childhood education (begin anywhere)


Be pedagogically active.

There is an important role for the educator in children’s art making.This involves more than just providing materials and space and stepping back. Engage with children’s ‘big ideas’. Practice shared sustained thinking.


Notice and wonder.

Educators can support experimentation and risk taking through artistic dialogues that honor the intent of the child.


Draw. Draw. Draw.

Everyone draw, every day.


Provide opportunities to draw in all contexts of the program.

When children draw they make connections between their experience, their memory and their imagination. Thus, bringing together three important modes for learning, understanding and remembering.


Encourage multiple drawings.

Explore the different ideas and perspectives that re-presenting can illuminate. More drawings can encourage more thinking.


Revisit drawings.

Keep a selective portfolio and revisit it often. They can be full of wonderful surprises. Build on ideas.


Provide authentic art media and tools.

When children are given authentic arts media, like clay, charcoal and watercolours, and quality tools they will better produce quality art.


Allow time to explore, repeat and practice techniques.

This builds fluency with media. Fluency with media is needed before it can be used expressively and with purpose.


Do it again.

Encourage multiple representations to explore the different ideas and perspectives that re-presenting can illuminate.


Draw from observation.

This focuses attention, aids concentration and moves the child to operate at higher cognitive levels. Observational drawing requires organizing information on a page, planning ahead and paying attention to proportion and positioning.


Look and look again.

The intense looking required for observational drawing aids and gives access to a greater level of detail and later ease of recall.


Provide a safe context for sharing art making experiences.

Give voice to the first tentative beginnings of an idea. Help children to talk about their art.


Art making can be a social process.

Make spaces and provisions for group work. Children and artists learn from each other. Share, share, share.


Share ideas and techniques.

When children are encouraged to share ideas and techniques a supportive community of learners is built. A learning community is full of provocations and possibilities that help extend children’s understanding and knowledge of the world.


Make the most of teachable moments.

Help children acquire their own repertoire of skills and techniques as they are needed.


Encourage reflective practice.

Careful observation of the marks made makes visible the results of certain actions. Take time to consider them.


Encourage meaning making and expression.

Encourage children to move beyond the first encounter and experimentation with media and encourage them to use it to express themselves, explore concepts and make meaning.


Performance comes before competence.

Children understand by doing. Don’t underestimate what children can do. Aim high and children will rise to the challenge.


Don’t be afraid to help.

What a child can do today with the help of a more experienced other she can do on her own tomorrow.


Don’t be shy.

Model techniques and use of materials and tools. Draw and paint with children. Model persistence, trial and error, resilience and pleasure.



Listen carefully to children as they draw and you will gain insights to the big ideas behind the drawing.


Representation is an essential activity for young children.

Representation requires skill planning and organizing information. When we represent something, we have to transform our current understanding into a form that not only carries the essence of this understanding but that also makes sense to others.


Go deeper.

Representation is a way of getting to know more about something and at a deeper level. When children are engaged in representing they are able to focus their attention and notice much more than by just looking.


Problem solve and problem find.

Differentiate between a drawing problem and a cognitive or social problem. Use drawing to solve problems. Encourage many solutions.


Art is generative.

Utilize peer interactions. Free flow. Toss ideas around. Make lists.


Provide studio spaces full of inspiration and ease of access.

Teach the children how to use the space and materials.


Make collections.

Collections help children see order and patterns in the environment.


Display and discuss.

Children need to hear the many interpretations and audience brings to their work. Children need to see the many different styles and ways of representing the same thing.



Like many other things, practice makes perfect. Use it or lose it. Practice everyday.


[Inspired by Bruce Mau ( ) I created a manifesto that aims to transform our pedagogy and visual arts practices with young children.]

For more information about the International Association of Art in Early Childhood and our teaching resources, please contact us.