How to Explain Impressionism to Children

by SusanM

Ideas for explaining Impressionism to children.

Explaining something like Impressionism to children can be hard. This is especially so if your child is younger. But there are child-friendly ways of explaining Impressionism to your child that are interesting, fun and will help them understand.

So here are the child-friendly ways of how to explain Impressionism to children.

Teaching Impressionism to Children

Children learn by doing - not through words. This means giving your child a talk about what Impressionism means, its history and its creators isn't the best way to help your child understand. If you want your child to develop an understanding of this style of art and music you need to gather some good resources and activities to help. Through these you can explain Impressionism to your child through doing not just talking.

Picture: The painting Graystaks by Claude Monet

Learning Impressionism Through Art

Art activities are the best way to help children understand Impressionism in art. Through creating Impressionist style art your child is more likely to understand its basic concepts and ideas. Most importantly learning through a fun activity will spark their interest in both art and Impressionism. 

I think Picture This!: Activities and Adventures in Impressionism is the essential resource for explaining Impressionism to children.

It's full of hands-on activities to help them learn by doing. But it also has full color examples of Impressionist art as well as examples of imitative art made by other children. This gives a well rounded approach which only needs some discussion added to point out important concepts and interesting things. This takes your child's learning experience away from just being a discussion to being a child-friendly experience. 

Discovering the Great Artists is also a brilliant book full of activities that let children imitate and learn about artists and their styles. This book covers more than just the Impressionists. But this is useful because it lets you use comparison and contrast to help your child find out about how Impressionism is different to other styles of art. This means they will learn to put this style of art into a wider context. 

Picture Books about Impressionism

Picture books shouldn't be used as your only resource for explaining Impressionism to children. This is because they don't get your child involved in an activity. So they aren't learning through the most child-friendly way - which is by doing. 

But the picture books about Impressionism by James Mayhew (shown here) are a good resource to add to their learning experience. The pictures are gorgeous but it's the creativity that Mayhew uses to bring these famous Impressionist paintings to life that is amazing. These books aren't just books showing famous paintings. They are adventures that children can become involved with. So if you're interested in helping your child understand Impressionism they are a must have. It's just they should be used with at least one of the activity books I've talked about.

Exploring with Play

If you want your child to know about the great Impressionist works of art games are a good idea. This is because children learn best through play. So your child will memorize famous paintings best if they are part of a game. It's also much better than pointing paintings out in a book again and again because they will find it boring. Teaching your child in a way that is boring for kids won't encourage them to love art. 

There are only a couple of games available about Impressionism (you can find these at Amazon). They are based on the popular games like Go Fish. Because of this they're for school aged children aged around 7 years and up. Children younger than this learn better through art activities and the Mayhew books.

Explaining about Impressionist Music

As a previous classical pianist and music teacher (I've also had art training) I'm very familiar with the works of Debussy. I've even played many of them myself. The piano works of Debussy like Children's Corner and the first book of Preludes are good choices to teach your child about Impressionist music. But because these are piano pieces it's good to also include some orchestral works like Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun so your child doesn't think Impressionist composers only created piano music. 

Now you have an idea about which music to use don't make the common mistake of getting your child to sit quietly while you play these long music pieces to them. If they want to sit in a bean bag and listen that is fine of course. But most children would rather dance to music. Luckily dancing to Impressionist music is a great way to help children learn what Impressionism is all about. If you use comparison and contrast by letting them also dance to music by non-Impressionist composers like J. S Bach, Mozart, Chopin and Bartok you'll help them learn what makes Impressionist music special. 

Another good way is to get your child to create Impressionist inspired art while listening to Impressionist music. This can help reinforce the art activity by showing them how the art and music  go together. 

But the most important tip I can give is to explain Impressionism to children through fun activities.

Picture: Debussy at the piano

Good Impressionism CDs for Kids

Debussy: Children's Corner
Deutsche Grammophon
Debussy: Préludes Book 1
Deutsche Grammophon
Impressionist Orchestral Works
Deutsche Grammophon
Updated: 09/02/2012, SusanM
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SusanM on 05/01/2012

I'm glad this will be helpful brl. I love art too and there are so many great resources around for kids. (I admit I bought a copy of Katie Meets the Impressionists for myself - and love it. I've been giving many of my children's books away. But not that one.)

Guest on 05/01/2012

Very cool. Art history is one of my hobbies but my daughter isn't in to it... yet. Information like this helps!

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