Preschool Learning Guidelines for the Arts

Overview of the Preschool Learning Guidelines for the Arts

The goal of arts education for young children is to develop and sustain the natural curiosity, expressiveness, and creativity that very young children often display. Arts education begins with a foundation that emphasizes exploration, experimentation, and engagement of the senses, and discussion as paths to understanding. Young children use the arts to explore sensation and their understanding of real and imagined events. They try to find out all they can about the expressive qualities inherent in different forms of communication. Through what they choose to dramatize, sing, or paint, children let others know what is important, trivial, appealing, or frightening in their lives. Depictions of faces and forms develop fairly predictably in young children. Although “realistic” products should not be the goal, preschool-age children can learn some basic techniques and begin to develop aesthetic preferences.

A portfolio of children’s artwork can be started at the preschool level, to be expanded throughout the early elementary years to produce a wealth of evidence about a child’s profile of emerging artistic preferences and strengths. The arts also often serve as a vehicle for children to demonstrate their understanding in other content areas, and teachers should be alert to children’s artwork as potential evidence of learning in mathematics, science, and other subject areas.

To promote challenging and stimulating art experiences, teachers should be able to say “yes” to the following four questions:

Learning Guidelines for Learning in the Arts

Preschool Standard

Links to K Standards

Movement & Dance

1. Explore activities and vocabulary related to movement, balance, strength, and flexibility.

Link to Movement Elements & Dance Skills 1.1, 1.2

2. Respond to a variety of musical rhythms through body movement.

Link to Movement Elements & Dance Skills 1.3, Reading and Notation 2.1

3. Participate in simple sequences of movements and dance to various kinds of music.

Link to Movement Elements & Dance Skills 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, Choreography 2.2, 2.3, 2.4

4. Express themselves freely through movement.

Link to Movement Elements & Dance Skills 1.9, Choreography 2.1, Dance as Expression 3.3, Performance in Dance 4.2

5. Use props to explore space and movement.

Link to Movement Elements & Dance Skills 1.4, 1.5; Choreography 2.5

6. Act out ways that movement and dance can show feelings or convey meaning.

Link to Dance as Expression 3.1, 3.2, 3.4, 4.1; Performance in dance 4.3

7. Develop audience skills by observing performances or artists at work in various aspects of the Arts.

Link to Critical Response in Dance 5.4, Music 5.2, 5.5; Theatre 5.1


8. Sing a variety of songs within children's vocal range, independently and with others.

Link to Singing 1.1

9. Sing expressively.

Link to Singing 1.2

10. Sing songs with repetitive phrases and rhythmic patterns.

Link to Singing 1.3, 1.4

11. Listen to various kinds of instrumental music and explore a variety of melody and rhythmic instruments.

Link to Playing Instruments 3.1, 3.3, Critical Response 5.4

12. Play instruments using different beats, tempos, dynamics, and interpretation.

Link to Playing Instruments 3.2, 3.4; Critical Response 5.5

13. Listen to, imitate, and improvise sounds, patterns, or songs.

Link to Improvisation and Composition 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4

Theatre Arts

14. Listen to storytellers and watch puppet shows.

Link to Acting 1.1; Reading and Writing Scripts 2.3, 2.4, 2.5

15. Use dramatic play, costumes, and props to pretend to be someone else.

Link to Acting 1.3

16. Create characters through physical movement, gesture, sound, speech, and facial expressions.

Link to Acting 1.4, 1.5

17. Create scenarios, props, and settings for dramatizations and dramatic play.

Link to Technical Theatre 4.1, 4.2; Acting 1.6, Reading and Writing Scripts 2.1, 2.2; Directing 3.1

Visual Arts

18. Explore a variety of age-appropriate materials and media to create two and three-dimensional artwork.

Link to Methods, Materials, and

19. Observe and safe and appropriate use and care of art materials.

Link to Methods, Materials, and Techniques 1.4

20. Explore and experiment with wet and dry media in a variety of colors including black and white.

Link to Elements and Principles of Design 2.1

21. Explore how color can convey mood and emotion.

Link to Elements and Principles of Design 2.1

22. Explore various types of lines in artwork and in nature.

Link to Elements and Principles of Design 2.2

23. Experiment with the use of texture in artwork.

Link to Visual Arts/ Elements and Principles of Design 2.3

24. Use basic shapes and forms of different sizes to create artwork.

Link to Elements and Principles of Design 2.4

25. Explore concepts of pattern and symmetry in the environment and artwork.

Link to Elements and Principles of Design 2.5

26. Create artwork from memory or imagination.

Link to Observation, Abstraction, Invention, and Expression 3.2

27. Choose artwork for display in the classroom, school or community or for a personal book, class book or portfolio, and explain why they chose it.

Link to Drafting, Revising, and Exhibiting 4.1, 4.2; Critical Response 5.1


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Citation: Stone-McDonald, A., Douglass, A., Love, M., Harding, L. (2011, March 02). Preschool Learning Guidelines for the Arts. Retrieved November 06, 2014, from UMass Boston OpenCourseware Web site:
Copyright 2014, Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License