Teaching our children to appreciate art is one of the most enjoyable parts of parenting—something that is part of every fun thing we’ve ever done together.

A Practical Endeavor?

Am I some kind of flashcard junkie? Or do I start out every day with a good hour in the art books? No. That’s hardly the life we live. But we do teach our children to enjoy the beauty in this world the first time we hold them. The first comforting meal we feed them after a startling entry into the world. The first tender songs we sing them and the first raspberries we blow on their belly. With every expression of joy and love in this world we are showing them our joy in the artistry of our Creator. His work delighting us. Rejoicing in the fact that we ourselves are the work of His hands.

As our children grow we enjoy animals with them and the crazy noises they make. We point out the moon and the stars and the rain and the snow. We teach them what water looks like, what it feels like. We introduce them to watermelon. We hold them when the sky turns pink for the sunset, we lift them up to see in the pig stall. We buy them cotton candy and hold their hand while they feel the beating of the loud drums of a marching band.  What kind of fine art is this? The very best kind—the art of living.

A Sacred Endeavor

It may seem counterintuitive, but teaching our children to enjoy beauty, deeply and thankfully, is the best foundation for appreciating the best art of mankind. All art is a reflection—a weak imitation—of the glorious creativity of our Heavenly Father. He is the Creator, and it is only as we imitate Him that we are ever equipped to create. And this is why I believe the parent’s role in training children to appreciate art is the same as teaching your children to enjoy life. If we manage to instill in our children a full-bodied gratitude for the beauty of the world created all around them, we will have made people who are equipped in every way to revel in the beauty of a museum. Those who can get down on their knees and marvel at the artistry of an oily black beetle wobbling down the sidewalk will be ready to soak in the glory of a Rembrandt.

And once you are here, with your children enjoying sunsets and pretty views and the wind in the trees, and with children who know what it is to try to create something themselves— then they will have learned how hard it is to make a face look like a face. Or water look wet. Or doors to houses look the right size. Or a sky that looks the way the sky looks.

The Art of Appreciation

If you have made it this far, then you have children who cannot help but enjoy fine art, because they now have the context. They understand the fundamental relationship of man to God and man to the world of art. They can identify that art which takes technical talent but is not true. They can see how hard it would actually be to have painted one of these glorious masterpieces mankind keeps behind velvet ropes—and they can appreciate the impulses that drove its maker. They can appreciate the Maker who made the artist.

Our goal with our children is to first be making people who live in a state of art appreciation—worshipping the God who painted them into a masterpiece. And then beyond that, we seek to provide them with the means and opportunities to appreciate the artistic abilities of many who have gone before them. A rigorous education is wonderful for only part of that equation, but a rigorously joyful life can do the rest.

Rachel Jankovic is a wife, homemaker, and mother of seven. She graduated from New Saint Andrews College, but mostly reads cookbooks now to avoid story grip (being highly susceptible). Rachel’s books Loving the Little Years and Fit to Burst continue to be parenting favorites. She is also a contributor to the Desiring God blog and is featured in their book Mom Enough.