As we move into Springtime we are surrounded by the beauty of flowers that bloom at this time of the year. Does your child notice the new flowers? Does he want to pick them for you? Does she want to smell them, touch them. Children often notice the beauty of the smallest flower that we don’t even see. How do you define beauty? If you ask a group of family or friends you will probably get as many different answers as people! The dictionary defines beauty as “the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit”. With such an open-ended definition it is easy to see how each of us can have our own images of beauty. A variety of factors… from family values, and social mores, to our own personal taste often influence these images. Surely you have visited a friend’s house or a museum and been surprised at what someone else considers beautiful or artistic! We all look at the world differently and so does your child. When you look at the diversity of adult ideals of beauty it is easier to consider the developing perspective of your own child.
WHAT IS BEAUTY TO A YOUNG CHILD?
It is often a combination of things that visually fascinate (such as intricate patterns, light and shadow) or tactorially delight (such as textured carpets, fur or squishy clay). Have you ever noticed what draws your child’s attention? It can be the tiniest things that you might not even notice or something that just feels good to touch. One way to understand your child’s sense of beauty is to notice what she notices. Get down on her eye level and see the world from her perspective. Touch things with a young child’s fascination and you will soon see how her attraction to what you might consider “junk” can really be her worldly Art Museum!
Your young child is an “art” collector. Many children love to collect seeds, sticks, rocks, shells, and even bread tags. This behavior is part of your child’s process of observing, exploring and even organizing the world according to her viewpoint. (These are all skills an artist uses when creating a work of art.) While these collections might not all seem beautiful to you, they are an important part of your child’s process of developing an artistic sense of beauty, organization, and symmetry. You can support your child’s process by making a special place in your home for her collection. You could make a place for her collection of shells or sticks near to your collection of paperweights or statues! Be willing to see the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Remember, your child’s view of beauty is greatly influenced by yours.
What would happen if adults saw everything as beautiful?
What would happen if adults were willing to see with the eyes of their child and see everything as a muse? If you view all things as having the potential for beauty then you allow your child to create her own sense of style and taste from a place free of preconditioned judgments. This can have a lasting effect on what she sees as “beauty “ in herself, art, other people, and cultures.
Happily in these early years your child’s sense of personal beauty is just developing and is not as “huge” as it will be later in life. Most do not worry if their nose is too big or if they are too tall. But this does not mean that they don’t want to look good! Children at this age can already be developing a sense of personal style. You may have noticed that your child likes a particular type of clothing more than another. And you probably have seen your child beam when someone compliments her for something she is wearing! This is a fragile and important time when you can help your child develop a grounded sense of personal beauty that is not dependent on societal norms. Be careful to emphasize more than beautiful physical characteristics in your child and others. Compliment your child for her smile, the happy spring in her walk, a great gesture she made towards someone. Point out someone who has an interesting expression or an unusual look. You will be helping your child adopt an expanded viewpoint on personal beauty for herself and for others.
Here are some simple things you can do to support your child’s sense of beauty:
- Take a Beauty Walk once a week! Notice and collect examples natural and human-made beauty.
- Use different words to describe beauty. You will be expanding your child’s viewpoint and her “beauty vocabulary”! Include words such as lovely, attractive, pretty, magnificent, gorgeous, pleasant, splendid, interesting, unique. Use the words in unusual ways too! Could that pile of toys in her room be an interesting sculpture?
- Play a beauty game… “Look close, Look far”. Invite your child to play with perception. Go to a park and look closely at things on the ground from almost a “bug’s eye” view. What is fascinating? What is beautiful? Then climb a slide, a tree, or walk up high in a neighboring building and look at the same place from afar. What do you notice form this viewpoint? What is interesting? What is beautiful?