Reading Response Blog #10

Assigned Reading: The Story in the Picture Ch. 2

Ch. 2: Art Activities for Young Children

In this chapter, Christine Mulcahey discusses how many art teachers these days often offer too open-ended or too strict types of art activities.  Mulcahey describes it as a common dilemma in schools and preschool settings.  These days, many teachers are told to avoid patterns and predetermined outcomes for children that they find themselves confused about what kinds of experiences to provide.

Allowing children to paint or draw freely is not always the answer to this dilemma because the existence of some controlled activities is important.  But while these approaches do provide a balance, they are at opposite ends of a continuum.  Mulcahey describes how “one is too open and one is too closed” (The Story in the Picture, p. 15).

What I found to be most important about this reading were the “rich” art activity examples that were provided for children.  Mulcahey states that art activities should be chosen with the same rationale that child development specialists use to recommend and select toys for children.  For example, those types of specialists will recommend choosing toys that are open-ended and provide a variety of options for play, like blocks or legos.  When looking at art activities for children, that same type of approach when choosing a child’s toy should be had.  It is important that when choosing an activity the teacher always asks themselves what a child can do with the activity, how each child could come up with a different outcome, and what types of choices will be provided for the child.

In this chapter, Mulcahey outlines the characteristics of a rich art activity:

  • Asking what the children will learn rather than what the children will do
  • Connecting to the larger art world
  • Allowing the children to make choices
  • Asking the children to think like an artist
  • Providing a variety of outcomes
  • Avoiding recipe-oriented activities

Of all of those characteristics, the one I found to be the most interesting and prevalent is focusing on what the children will learn rather than what the children will do.

This reading was one of my favorites so far because it really changed my opinion on certain “open-ended” art activities and also steered me away from traditional “coloring book” activities.  Finding the happy medium between an open ended and strict activity will result in a rich art activity that instils meaningful learning into a child.


  1. How can a teacher allow the children to make choices on what art work they create?
  2. What ways can a teacher provide a variety of different options of what to create without making the children feel overwhelmed?
  3. How can a teacher promote children to think like an artist?
  4. What ways can teachers connect art to the larger world?
  5. How can connecting art to the larger world at a young age benefit students?

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