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Art Critiques for Children

I am an artist and art teacher. The lessons I provide are tried and true from my elementary and middle school classrooms.

How to Conduct an Art Critique With Children

It's never too early to introduce your children to art and the ability to discuss it. Children as young as preschool-aged can participate in lively discussions of their art as well as the art of others. As they get older, a critique can get more in-depth and more analytical. Here we discuss how to conduct a critique with children of all ages.


Children in preschool are just beginning to discover the fascinating world of art. They realize that through art they can express feelings and thoughts and capture images of the things they love. Here are the best ways for a child in preschool to use critiques in art:

Questions to Ask Preschoolers Critiquing Their Own Artwork

On a one-on-one basis, ask the child about his or her artwork. Allow the student to critique his or her own work. Consider using the following questions:

  • What did you draw a picture of?
  • (Point to specific areas of the drawing) What is this here?
  • Why did you choose the colors you did?
  • How did you feel when making this picture?

Discussing Famous Works of Art With Preschoolers

Preschool children will have trouble deciphering each other's artwork, but they are fully capable of critiquing famous works of art. Consider different types of art (drawings, paintings, sculpture, etc.) that evoke different kinds of emotions. This can be done as a whole class or individually, although it's more fun with a lot of different viewpoints. Consider asking the following:

  • What kind of art is this? Drawing? Painting? Sculpture? Photograph?
  • What do you see in this picture?
  • What else do we see?
  • What colors do you see?
  • Are there straight lines? Curvy? Different shapes?
  • Why do you think the artist wanted to make that?
  • How do you think the artist felt when making this?
  • How does it make you feel?

The key to a preschool critique is allowing students to become comfortable with looking at and talking about art. It's a great way to work in terminology and techniques.

Preschool Art

Preschool Art

Piet Mondrian has many simple paintings using shape, line, and primary color that work well for preschool critiques.

Piet Mondrian has many simple paintings using shape, line, and primary color that work well for preschool critiques.

Discussing Art in the Elementary Grades (K-5)

Children in primary and intermediate grades, kindergarten through fifth grade, are at a great age for conducting critiques with. The critiques will be similar to preschool, but now are able to get more in-depth.

Questions to Ask Elementary Schoolers About Their Own Art

As with the younger children, it is rewarding for a child to talk about their own artwork. At this age, you can ask more difficult questions. You can use many of the same questions from above, but also try the following:

  • What made you want to draw this?
  • What do you like about it?
  • Is there anything you don't like about it?
  • What shapes did you use?
  • What could you have done differently?
  • What were you trying to say with this art?

How to Help Kids Critique Other Children's Art

The children are now at a stage where they can better empathise with other people, and therefore better examine the artwork of other children. Try doing this in a group setting. Ask one child at a time to present their artwork to the others and tell them about it. The other children, as well as yourself, can ask questions or make positive comments about the work. Try these tips:

  • The child who made the art can be the one to call on other children whose hands are raised.
  • Ask the children to name one thing they like about the art.
  • Ask why they like a certain part.
  • Ask the children about the details of the work: what colors they see, what shapes, etc.
  • Do not allow negative comments. The children are still too young to understand "constructive criticism".

How to Discuss Famous Works of Art

When discussing famous works of art with elementary students, you can use all of the preschool questions above and add a few more. Here are a few tips to make the critique successful:

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  • Choose simple and/or expressive art.
  • Ask the students what they don't like about the art. (No one's feelings will get hurt and children will be introduced to constructive criticism.)
  • Don't tell the children if they are "right" or "wrong" or make any other comments on what they are saying. You should allow them to discuss without bias from you, just be the mediator.
Primary School Art

Primary School Art

Henri Matisse is an artist with many expressive paintings to use with young children when critiquing art.

Henri Matisse is an artist with many expressive paintings to use with young children when critiquing art.

Discussing Art in Middle and High School (Grades 6-12)

Middle and High school is a time when drama is all around a student: their emotions are running high, their social lives are more important, and they are left with a lot of questions. This is a great time to verbalize what students are creating in their art.

Questions to Ask Middle Schoolers About Their Own Art and Others'

This is the time when a child can participate in the critique of his or her own artwork that is performed by others. That is, artwork can be critiqued by a group, and the artist will be able to be involved. It is also important to continue to look at famous works of art to inspire students. Here are some tips and questions for a successful critique:

  • Introduce the concept of constructive criticism. Criticism is constructive if the speaker is offering it in a way that the artist can use it to fix a problem or make the art better.
  • Questions can be more in-depth: why does it make you feel that way? what is the most impressive part of the art? what would you like to ask the artist about?
  • All statements or questions should be phrased in a positive way. Negativity is not allowed.
  • Children can offer questions about things that need to be changed, but frame it as a positive suggestion, not by telling the artist what to do.
  • Have the artist wait to speak about his or her art until after others have discussed it.
  • Try to critique famous artworks regularly and with great variety.
Middle School Art

Middle School Art

Expressionistic paintings and modern art are great discussion pieces for middle and high school students.

Expressionistic paintings and modern art are great discussion pieces for middle and high school students.


SueWachter on July 28, 2018:

Great ariticle

ArtByCari (author) on May 01, 2011:

Well said Romano.

Romano Arnesto from Philippines on April 30, 2011:

Eyes can appreciate art in a or at different levels. There are works that easily catch our attention but there are others that we want to look for quite a long time and appreciate the masterpieces right infront of our eyes.

ArtByCari (author) on April 26, 2011:

It really does help to get their minds thinking in a critical way. Those higher level thinking skills are great!

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on April 25, 2011:

Great Hub! The funny thing is, these are many of the same tips they give to MFA students in classes where they are directed to critique each others' work. I guess they work for all ages! :D

Hillary from Atlanta, GA on April 25, 2011:

A wonderful guide. Of course it's always a big plus if Mom and Dad know a thing or two about art and art history themselves, but your question system is A1. Rated up.

Fay Paxton on April 25, 2011:

Excellent hub. I actually have two drawing by my now 6 year-old grandson that I had professionally framed. They are far better than some Picassos I've seen. :)

up/useful and bookmarked

ArtByCari (author) on April 24, 2011:

Thanks so much Abie! I'm glad you liked it so much. :)

Abie Taylor from Wakefield, United Kingdom on April 24, 2011:

Great hub! I was on "hop some hubs" and this was the first one that came up. Seriously. I rated it up, and said it was useful, awesome and beautiful. Not sure about funny. Anyway, it doesn't need to be funny.

Once again, great hub. Will find this useful in the future. xx :)

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