Talking with Kids about Their Art

May 6, 2020

Parent and children working on art project together

When looking at or making art with children at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, using questions is a core teaching approach. In response to our inquiries, children increase their ability to think critically about their experiences.

Here are some questions we regularly use with young artists in the museum’s studios. These questions are specially designed to encourage and, at times, challenge the artist’s thinking. A focus on process empowers students to expand their interests and abilities and can foster further curiosity and experimentation.

The list below includes frequently exhibited behaviors from children ages 6–11, and questions that teaching artists ask to focus students on the creative process.

“I’m Not an Artist”: The Reticent Child

Drawing of child making art with parent
  • Have you ever used a similar tool? What was it?
  • What are some of the ways you could use this tool?
  • How can you use these tools to show ______________? (Art vocabulary: texture, movement)
  • What would be a fun thing to try?

“I’m Done”: The Speed Racer

Drawing of child making art with parent
  • How do you know you are done? Did you try ___________?
  • What decisions did you make when using _________ (tool)? What did you discover?
  • What would happen if . . . (you had more time? Different tools? Different colors?)

“I Can’t Do It”: The Frustrated Child

Drawing of child making art with parent
  • Tell me about what you are trying to create.
  • What have you already tried?
  • What is challenging right now?
  • Did something happen that you didn’t like?
  • Did you know that many artists have trouble when creating art? Artists have to problem-solve.
  • What can you try next?

“I Need to Start Over”: The Perfectionist Child

  • Tell me what you don’t like about your art work.
  • Let's take a break and walk around the room together and see if we can get some new ideas.
  • What would happen if you tried __________ (ways of using tools)?
  • What are some ways we can work with what just happened?

“Do It for Me”: The Unconfident Child

Drawing of child making art with parent
  • What have you already tried?
  • Tell me about what you are trying to create.
  • Let's practice together on a separate piece of paper. (Note: Demonstrate for the child ways to simplify what they are trying to achieve.)
  • What did you learn from sketching out your idea?
  • How can you include these new ideas into your composition?

“I Am an Artist”: The Confident Child

  • Tell me about your art work.
  • Tell me about the idea you started with. What did you discover while creating your composition?
  • What tools or techniques have you tried?
  • Did you invent a technique?


The work is not over when the artwork is complete! Discussing the experience of making artwork during and after art making cements discoveries and learning for the next project.

  • What words would you use to describe your work?
  • How is your artwork the same as something you have seen before? How is it different?
  • What was rewarding during the process of making? What was challenging? What was surprising?
  • If you were to repeat the project, what would you do again? What would you do differently?
  • How could you continue these ideas and experiments in a new artwork?
  • What advice would you give to someone else doing this activity?

All illustrations by Hitoshi Shigeta.

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