Years ago when I taught early childhood education, I learned the concept of open-ended art. Basically the concept says that children most appreciate the process of art, not the product. But, as they approach grade school, if children are given examples of perfect art projects to copy, then they compare themselves to the perfect example, and feel inferior.
This loss of creativity happens with coloring books. Children lose their natural, God given creativity because they simply fill in professional artists' pictures. This loss of creativity can also happen when children are given well-meaning craft projects. You know the kind - the kind of projects where the teacher gives the kids either pre-cut or cut on the line pieces that the kids are to put glitter on, glue together, assemble, and/or color. The children are also shown a finalized version of the project or else a picture of it.
While I could argue that they are overused, these simplified art projects have their place. These kinds of art projects keep kids busy, and children, especially when they are young, always love taking home something tangible. And, let's face it, skills such as sewing use this principle all the time. Here is the project, these are the steps, choose your color, this is the final product. This is an appropriate thing to do. When it comes to creating, constant exposure to "this is how you are supposed to do it" - causes kids to think they "can't do art".
How do you teach art? Well, I'm not an artist. I think I'm one of these grown up kids, who thinks, "I can't do art". However, I'm very much into teaching my kids art, and I'm starting to venture out into the world of art with baby steps myself.
You teach them concepts - "use your eyes to follow lines", "you can draw extra lines to make shadows", "did you notice how the leg on the bed that is farther away looks smaller?" I've been using Artistic Pursuits to teach these concepts and I like it very much.
And you give them general ideas - color something blue. This is what Harmony Art Mom does with her Sketch Tuesday which we are really enjoying.
This is the car that my oldest daughter is submitting for her project this week:
This is the hat in a hat shop that my step-daughter drew: