I really was one of “those moms.”
When Carey my oldest daughter was not even two years old, I placed in her little wooden box a few toys, board books such as Moo, Baa, La La La and Goodnight Moon, and… a set of cards of Claude Monet paintings (I don’t remember if they were all Monet or if they were cards with paintings by Monet and other Impressionists).
Yes, I was a little too eager to introduce my favorite things to my almost-toddler first born.
We would sit on the floor in the living room and read board books, play with blocks, hug stuff animals, and with Carey on my lap, we would talk about the paintings on the cards. She would hold them, bend them, and put them in her mouth, and I would tell her about what was in each picture. This is a happy memory for me of my early days of hyper-idealistic parenting.
Taking time to share these art cards with Carey foreshadowed how I would continue to share with all of my daughters—and anyone else I could pull into my orbit—all the goodness of paintings and painters.
Although it may seem silly sharing art cards with my little firstborn, at the time I knew it was smart to create a habit of giving beauty to my daughter.
My vision of “art in everyday life” would expand as I continued to create a family culture. I posited that just as eating too much candy and not enough whole grains can influence our children’s taste buds but not help them grow healthy bodies, allowing an influx of eye candy (whether TV shows, cartoons, video games, beeping and flashing toys, etc.) into our homes can work against our children learning to see and attending to what is truly worthwhile, honorable, and true—those things that can form deep souls.
It may feel more doable to introduce well-told stories with creative and excellent illustrations as a way to influence young imaginations. But the visual arts can also help form our children’s minds, as well as help them appreciate those things that may seem “beyond them.” It is never too early to start planting seeds of goodness and beauty in their lives. And by doing this with them you give yourselves the opportunity to learn, to delight, and to meditate together on those things that are true, noble, right, lovely, and admirable.
Over the next few posts I will be sharing painters and paintings for you to enjoy with the children in your life. To get you started on your art appreciation adventure, see my list of book recommendations below:
Museum Numbers, Museum Shapes and Museum Colors.
Ned and I really enjoyed sharing these books with our girls when they were in the board book stage. (I think Numbers was the best, with Colors a close second.) Each was colorful and well designed. The books had double page spreads featuring a work of art on the left and the concept in bold colors on the right. Published by the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, it is (alas) out of print, but you can try to get used copies.
Mini Masters Baby Board Book Collection
Each book in this set connects paintings with simple text and includes artists such as Edgar Degas, Henri Matisse, Vincent van Gogh, and Édouard Manet.
Museum ABC, by the (NY) Metropolitan Museum of Art
What makes this series distinct is instead of one piece of artwork for each letter, there are four pieces to enjoy (and each from different cultures and time periods). The series also includes Museum 123 and Museum Colors.
Can You Find Outside: Search and Discover for Young Art Lovers by Jessica Schulte
(Part of The Metropolitan Museum of Art series Can You Find It?) This seek and find book uses fine art. Enjoy thirteen paintings set outside. Rhyming questions offer directions to help find items in each painting.
You Can’t Take a Balloon into the National Gallery by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser
A young girl goes to the museum with her grandmother. She looses her balloon. The balloon’s adventures mirror the artwork the child is seeing in the museum. This book (and the two companion books) are chock full of interesting details to look for and paintings and their matches to find. This is a 5-star Bustard family favorite!
Linnea in Monet’s Garden, by Christina Bjork
I enjoyed looking at the illustrations of the classic Linnea in Monet’s Garden with my girls (we even had the cute Linnea doll.). The story, written by Christina Bjork, is a rich read and full of interesting information about Claude Monet.
Katie and the Starry Night, by James Mayhew
Katie sees the bright stars in Vincent van Gogh’s famous painting and takes one. What will happen when all the stars tumble out of the painting? (After you enjoy this title, look for the many other Katie adventures with famous paintings.)
(Follow this link for the Story Warren post focusing on the excellent art story books by Laurence Anholt. I loved sharing these with my girls. https://storywarren.com/color-their-imagination-with-anholts-artists-storybooks/)
Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists (series)
In each book of this series, readers learn about the life and artwork of famous painters, including Leonardo Da Vinci, Claude Monet, Mary Cassatt, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and others. The information, anecdotes, cartoons, and reproduction make learning about artists enjoyable.
50 Artists You Should Know, by Thomas Cöster
This book (and its companion 50 Paintings You Should Know) is a reference guide, arranged chronologically, covering major artistic movements from the Gothic Period up to today by profiling important artists and their well-known works. Books like these have made great birthday and Christmas gifts for our art-loving middle daughter.
Shameless Plug for my husband Ned Bustard’s art books
Bible History ABCs: God’s Story from A to Z Written by Dr. Steve Nichols and illustrated by Ned
This book offers the ABCs synched to the chronological story of the Bible with a timeline of the Bible, beginning with Adam and then ending at Zion of New Creation. It is customizable for different ages and stages.
History of Art: Creation through Contemporary
Includes art history information, art cards, art activities, as well as readings for older students)
Featured image by TravelScape