February 16, 2016

My First Portfolio: Toddlers and Tempera

written by Allison Gragg, AAC Education Intern

Finger painting, where all fine motor skills begin!
Finger painting, where all fine motor skills begin!

Going into its fourth semester at AAC, My First Portfolio is a special art class for children ages 2-3 and their caregivers. Moms, dads, grandparents, and nannies enjoy a creative experience with their young child, and together they make keepsake artwork that (we hope) will inspire a lifetime of art-making and appreciation.

We’re pretty much convinced that these classes are great for early childhood development and offer seriously fun bonding time! But if you, like many, are on the fence, keep reading as we show and tell you about some of the benefits of taking an art class with your tot.


Three major benefits of Parent/Child classes

Working on art projects together is a creative bonding time for parent and child.
Working on art projects together means creative bonding time
  1. Bonding – When you and your child learn something new together, what’s actually happening is a shared experience, which can strengthen the bonds between you. Bonding is important, because it leads to a sense of security and positive self-image.
  2. New Relationships – Not only will your relationship benefit, but you and your child will also have the opportunity to engage with others and make friends with other children and their parents.
  3. Preparing for School – Early childhood classes give children the opportunity to interact with other children of their age in a structured environment. They begin to learn about rules and what it means to follow directions.

Why choose a Parent/Child ART class?

Sure there are plenty of parent/child classes offered in yoga, swimming, and even music. But why choose a parent/child art class? Art is important in child development. Here are some reasons why:

Practicing self-guided decision-making early in life is important for making good choices later in life.
Practicing self-guided decision-making early in life is important for making good choices later in life.
  1. Motor Skills – Manipulating drawing tools or working with clay contributes to the development of fine motor skills in young children. Activities like this help develop the dexterity they’ll need for writing.
  2. Language Development – Making and talking about art provides opportunities to learn new words for colors, shapes, and actions.
  3. Decision Making – Creating art is basically a series of self-guided decisions and choices. Practicing this will strengthen decision-making skills for other aspects of life.
  4. Inventiveness – When children are encouraged to make art and express themselves they develop a sense of innovation that will be with them throughout life and into adulthood.

Tips on Being Successful in Parent/Child classes

In any Parent/Child class it’s important to create a nurturing environment. You’ll want to provide unrestricted exploration within the classroom because it makes the learning process more effective, and (most importantly) more fun! Here are some tips you can take into the class with you:

My First Portfolio - Button canvas, work in progress
My First Portfolio – Button canvas, work in progress
  1. Keep an open-mind – As long as your child is safe, let them explore. Provide them with a wide range of materials. They might make a mess or change their mind several times, but this is all part of the creative process.
  2. Support, don’t lead – Allow your child to explore, experiment, and use their imagination rather than having a specific outcome in mind. If your child is focused on making work identical to yours, they are less likely to explore their own ideas.
  3. Focus on the process, not the product – If too much attention is focused on the final product a child may be more likely to do things only to get your approval. Exploration and effort are more important than the end product.

My First Portfolio: Inside the Classroom!

Creature Creation - Where the Wild Things Are
Creature Creation – Where the Wild Things Are

Throughout the eight-week course, students and their caregivers create eight unique projects. Students create both 2-D and 3-D art using traditional materials (chalk pastels, watercolor paints, tempera paints) and non-traditional art materials (shaving cream, recycled materials, tinfoil).

Projects are inspired by books, like Mouse Paint, artists, like Grandma Moses, techniques like pointillism, and AAC’s exhibitions. Each project introduces different materials, encourages imagination, and teaches students and their caregivers about contemporary art and artists.

During the Winter Session, after reading the 1964 Caldecott Medal Winner: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak students created funny, wild creatures from found objects like paper towel rolls. They embellished their creatures with pom-poms and googly eyes. This is just one of the fun projects they’re doing right now!


So, now that you’re as convinced as we are, why not try it for yourself? Meet up at AAC once a week to begin a lifelong love of art and art-making! My First Portfolio will be offered during our spring session on Wednesdays, April 6 to May 25, 10 – 11 am. Registration for spring classes is open NOW, so don’t wait!

Golden: Fifty Years of New Classics

UPCOMING: Opens June 15, 2024

Curated by Al Miner

Museum of Contemporary Art Arlington is proud to present Golden: Fifty Years of New Classics, an exhibition celebrating the organization’s 50th anniversary.

Summer Camp Registration

June 17 – August 16

Museum of Contemporary Art Arlington offers a wonderful and wide range of creative summer camps for your creative students! Camps are offered for kids starting at age 5 and up to teens ages 18.

Zaq Landsberg: Reclining Liberty

August 5, 2023 - July 28, 2024

Front Lawn
MoCA Arlington and Arlington Public Art are thrilled to co-sponsor the installation of Zaq Landsberg’s celebrated Reclining Liberty on the Museum’s front lawn.

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