My cousin Fran has a daughter who has painted with me. I love painting with children, because it brings me back to my true gift, the one of teaching. Fran called me the other day and explained that Lilly had to paint for a contest at school and the theme was, "Beautiful Is..." I thought for a minute and realized kids the ages of 3-8 might struggle to really grasp this concept so I thought of what suggestions I could give that might help her.
For that age group beauty is a vague, abstract concept. It is not something they can grasp with their hands. Although they are surrounded by beautiful things each day, I doubt they look at a flower and see it as beautiful with a deep understanding of the idea. To help a child begin to consider this word I suggest using their five senses to experience the world around them and share in discussing it with you. Take your child to a florist or produce market and let them touch, smell, taste, and see the variety of colors. Then ask them, which ones are they drawn to, and why. Explain to them that those colors, objects, sounds, or feelings are those they find beautiful. At a young age it must start with their experiences but as your children age, you will begin to spread their wings a bit and teach them that all beauty comes from within and even ugly can be beautiful.
I believe that we are created by God with an understanding for 'beauty' in each of us. Science can't explain the concept as to why when we see a rainbow or the face of a child we experience it as 'beautiful'. Part of me truly believes that what we find as beautiful is God's way of showing us what the Garden of Eden would have been like. We get little glimpses or tastes of what he meant for us, and I am grateful for those moments in life.
As you compare and contrast songs, moments, feelings, textures, etc. with your child encourage them to explain why or why not they are drawn to one thing in particular. This conversation is critical in teaching them to live artistically and it will actually build a foundation for them to understand the scientific process as well. Most of all, have fun with the activity or conversation, because the process of the understanding is really the point, not the end result of did they get it.
I hope some of you will choose to paint with your children during this holiday season. Those gifts are the most precious and 'beautiful' to give and receive. Beauty can be abstract to young ones but it doesn't have to be. If you want to truly show them something beautiful, give them a mirror.
This is Lilly, she and her painting are both, BEAUTIFUL!