Supporting Your Young Artist

Intrepid Explorers and Playful Creators

Encouraging the arts for 4–6 year-olds


Young artists at this age are eager and playful creators. They see the arts not as distinct abilities but simply as ways to engage the world around them. Their energy and enthusiasm make them busy and fun arts lovers.

Features of these ages:

Play and exploration are the emphases for this age group of intrepid explorers. They are exceptionally curious and chatty about all they know and want to learn. It is an ideal time to introduce a wide variety of the arts such as music and visual art, exposing them to a broad range of cultures and styles. Attention spans are short and diversity in both materials and activities helps hold that attention. Relationships with adults are very important and peer relationships begin to emerge in importance.

The arts at this stage:


  • Dance supports cognitive development. Children are mastering repetition and patterns, both of which are reinforced in dance.
  • Gross motor skills benefit from dance, particularly balance and coordination as well as strength range of motion.
  • Children are able to talk and work in small groups and to create a few dance movements by the end of this stage.
  • Dance and music are closely tied together at this age. Children need to move to the music.


  • These children are typically comfortable singing in groups. They can carry a tune and remember simple songs.
  • They are able to play instruments and make instruments out of household objects.
  • Reading music can develop at this age, similar to reading a language.
  • Children at this stage are open to a variety of music.


  • This is prime time for dramatic play. Children can effectively use costumes and props, develop stories and plot lines, and even direct others.
  • This is a very social experience that is typically focused on peers, but adults may be recruited to play important roles.
  • Their pretend play becomes more “theatrical” as they grow through this stage, incorporating elements of theater, such as a defined performing space.
  • Call-and-response and choral reading are engaging drama strategies.
  • Reciting poetry is a skill that children can begin to master at this stage.
  • Children are typically ready to attend short and age-appropriate performances and to practice audience behavior near the end of this age period.

Visual Arts

  • Children are eager to explore a variety of art materials, especially ones that are easy for developing hands to manipulate. Easy to work with clay, is an excellent medium for this age. Having various art centers to choose from, also works well at this stage.
  • Exploration is the objective rather than a finished product.
  • Children may often prefer to express their ideas and feelings in drawings rather than in written words.
  • Drawing and painting at the start of this stage are not representational and is not “something.” It is more a record of the child’s hand moving across the paper or canvas. Avoid asking a child what she is drawing, but ask her to describe her artwork.



Patti Saraniero
Original Writer

Editors & Producers

Lisa Resnick
Content Editor

Kenny Neal
Manager, Digital Education Resources


Child Development and Arts Education: A review of Current Research and Best Practices. Prepared by the College Board for The National Coalition for Core Arts Standards. January, 2012

Image via Creative Commons; flickr.com user Shallom Johnson

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