Sharing art stories

Children learn at a very young age that you can “read” the pictures in a book before you can understand the words. Pictures tell stories. When we create or look at a painting, we are moved in some way. Whether it reminds us of a different time in our lives or creates an emotion, there is a story behind the painting.

Norman Rockwell was a 20th-century American painter and illustrator born this month in 1894. His works reflect American culture from the1920s until the 1970s. His paintings show simple activities to which we can all relate: family dinners, doctor’s visits, church outings, playing with friends, homework and teenage dance parties.

Why not create art stories with your family that reflect the culture of today, something your children will enjoy looking at later on? Young children can cut pictures from a varied assortment of popular magazines (sports, cars, garden, home, fashion, food, hair styles). Older children can paint or draw their story. Provide the opportunity for lots of discussion about their daily lives and the things they have that make life easier.

While we may not be of Norman Rockwell caliber, we can certainly create collages, paintings, or drawings that reflect life today and serve as reminders later on in life. It is inevitable that the iPhone, iPod, iPad or laptop your child uses now will be outdated in 20 years.

“Remember when we used THOSE!”

Materials needed:

4 white posterboard

4 permanent markers for older children

4 washable markers for younger children

4 Paint and paint brushes

4 magazines

4 glue or glue sticks

4 scissors


Younger children can draw themselves and their family while you write the story. They also can cut photos out of magazines and glue them onto the paper. Have them tell you why they chose those pictures. There is no right answer, so make sure you praise and encourage every step of the way. Remember, they are learning that pictures tell stories.

Older children can paint with acrylic on canvas for a long-lasting keepsake. Writing a narrative to go with the painting is a great way to foster language skills and make the memory even stronger. Even better if it’s in their handwriting, not typed on a computer. Tape the story to the back of the artwork so you can read it in the future. Include fun trivia like the cost of gasoline, milk, shoes, or today’s top selling record, movie or book. Add your teacher, the president, a neighbor and friends.

Children love telling stories about their own lives so you should have no trouble evoking responses to these fun questions to create your very own reflection of American culture in 2013.

Robin Berlinsky is the director of education at the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry, adjunct professor at the College of Charleston, School of Education, Health, and Human Performance. She has taught in the Charleston County School system and has three children.


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