Children’s Art: How to keep them motivated?

After I write the piece on “Why is Drawing Important for Children’s Development”, several parents contacted me to ask about their children’s art: “How do we keep our children inspired and engaged in art-making?”, especially as they start rigorous academic lives? How do we maintain our children’s art making?

I have an interesting suggestion! Let’s do a project charting the development of our children’s art—let’s call it “The Story of Our Children’s Art“!

I did mine as a video (scroll down to see it!) but I encourage parents to make a similar collection in whatever form is available and easy for you—it may not be a video, it could be a slide presentation or even a scrapbook.

The project is inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach, a philosophy and pedagogy for preschool and primary education that prioritises experiential learning, exploration and discovery:

Making Thinking Visible through Children’s Art

Italian early childhood education system based on the Reggio Emilia philosophy encourages the documentation of children’s work so that both adults and children can pay attention and can literally see growth. What documentation means is basically keeping a record of children’s PROCESS and THINKING and in order to “make learning visible.” Documentation provides the opportunity for inspiration, motivation, reflection, and in my case, bonding between adult and child, because the child knows that the adult is paying close attention to her thinking.

Here’s the video I made of our daughter’s art journey!

(Our daughter’s nickname is Yakuza Baby—or YB for short– because she was born while Colin and I were watching a Japanese gangster film.)

These are the steps I took to document Yakuza Baby’s artwork over the years:
(Note that these were done whenever possible, and I had to be selective about which pieces to include, because… who has the energy?)

Art Collection and Documentation

  1. Scribbled the dates when the work was completed on the back (because she starting signing and dating her work).
  2. Asked her what her work was about and quickly scribbled her words under the date on the back.
  3. Slotted artwork into folders around the home with the year written. When a folder was full, I put it into a box.

Assembling the Video

  1. Rough assembly of the artwork in chronological order.
  2. Checked with YB if the sequence is right.
  3. Interviewed and chatted with her about what she remembers about her thinking at each point, and what she remembers influenced her.
  4. Interviewed YB for what she would say to other kids and parents about drawing.

[Note: checking back with the artist is really important because this is the artist’s story and not ours.]

5. Assemble the video! You can also assemble everything as a slide presentation and output to video!

This past week was YB’s birthday and this was a wonderful collaborative project to make to celebrate her growth … this was definitely much harder than just buying her the latest toy! It’s something you might consider for your child’s next birthday!

Dr. Yen Yen Woo works on educating for a multicultural and multilingual world through popular culture.  She most recently co-created the Dim Sum Warriors app, characters and stories for Bilingual Learning. She has a Doctorate in Education from Teachers College, Columbia University and has been a tenured professor of education. She is also an award-winning film director and screenwriter. Her works have been licensed by HBO and Netflix and featured on BBC, Fast Company, Wired, and other global publications. Email:

Creating and playing with languages!

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