Developing our own view begins from the moment of birth, and each culture will give sense and meaning to what babies start to discover visually and physically. In this way, I would like to highlight the fundamental value of aesthetic experiences for early childhood, particularly from the discourses offered by the Visual Arts.
First of all, I would like to take a moment to consider the two parts of the concepts of the “point of view”, understood from the children towards their environment, and from the adults/others towards babies, girls and boys, in their first years of life.
To look and to be looked at places us in a social context of approval or restriction, but it essentially entails an act of love, which is essential for children’s development during their upbringing and education. In this mirrored point of view, an image begins to be developed, one’s own image and that of others.
Thus, long before they can leave a visual trace with their hands or a tool, babies can be part of and enjoy aesthetic and poetic experiences, together with an adult who offers and accompanies these moments.
“To hold babies while looking at a painting or a sculpture is the beginning of a caress to the gaze that will seek other embraces with the arts.”
Then will come the time to express themselves in drawings, marks, footprints, stains that they will leave with their hands or any element that allows them to perform these actions. These unlimited prints that are recreated in subtle variations also leave traces in more than one sense. That is to say that, while children leave visual traces, these images leave traces in their perception. It is about internalizing a subjective visual discourse that is nourished and needs the gaze of an environment that stimulates and values it.
The human ability to re-present oneself is also developed from the first moment of life, and the body will be the main symbol, which at around two or three years of age will appear in drawings, paintings, modeling and other aesthetic events, of the many that happen in childhood. These creative expressions will grow with the children if they are offered educational proposals that are in line with the moment and the expressive capacity of each one.
Therefore, to achieve the committed task of teaching this young and delicate age group, we need to provide an attentive and loving gaze, with whom they can share the moment and interact with everyday aesthetic experiences and those connected with the visual arts.
The support towards the social, cultural, ethical and aesthetic construction of the point of view, of the expressive gesture and its visual print is a right of children and an unavoidable commitment of education in general and artistic education in particular.
Now, I would like to focus on the wide variety of aesthetic experiences offered by different spaces, contexts or possible territories to explore with our children, in addition to the encounters with the poetics of art; all of them as an invitation to enjoy, discover, know and interact in a playful way. I will only mention here the value they carry, some of the many that I present and describe in my last book.
First of all, let’s concentrate on the experiences and sensations produced by contact with nature. Is there a more attractive or exciting motivation than to go and find a pebble, rescue a fallen leaf from a tree, try to catch a ray of sunlight through the window, feel a bit of sand slipping through your fingers, or appreciate the immensity of the sea with its waves and play with the water?
The endless capacity for astonishment of the little ones, accompanied by those who stimulate their searches and findings, by discovering, learning about and even collecting the treasures offered by the natural environment, will undoubtedly remain in the sensitive record of their imagination.
Nature teaches us about life and its processes. By favoring these encounters and providing the necessary time for the visual and physical dialogue that each child needs, we will be educating their perception and their views. Today more than ever, it is urgent to recover contact, interaction and care for the natural environment, as one of the necessary pillars to project ourselves into a better humanity.
Referring now to the poetics of art, I want to take Elena Oliveras’s idea when she says: “Art is a symptom of the times”, because contemporary artistic production, since the middle of the last century, has been expanding the boundaries of its traditional canons to begin to integrate different languages to their works, such as visual, sound, physical, among others. The Visual Arts have generated new identities: installations, interventions, performance…, which propose an interactive relationship with the spectator. These transformations may be a challenge for the encounter and participation of adults, but they are closer to the look and the playful spirit of children.
One possible way to cut into this broad universe is to share experiences and proposals that recover the origins of one’s own culture or of others. Textile Art, as a trace of subjective and community identity, both ancestral and contemporary, is one of the examples to explore from an early age.
“…Textile art, probably because of its remote origin and its strong manual imprint, has a strong connection with children in their first years of life. A small cloth will be the object that will help them face their dreams without fear. A ball of wool may help to roll and chase, crawling or walking. A button may be used to pass a thread through its holes and tie it to a cloth to make a doll…“
It is always necessary to do some research and get to know the artists who, in this case, have deployed their poetics using materials that come from the textile universe. Just to mention two of them will be enough inspiration, since they have also created interactive and playful works for children. One is Ernesto Neto, a Brazilian visual artist who incorporates natural fibers, fabrics, sounds and even spices, activating all the senses in his large immersive installations. The other one is Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam, a Japanese-Canadian artist who designs Playgrounds, on large hand-woven textile surfaces, weaving multicolored, almost weightless nets, on which it is possible to swing, jump, run or hang.
Appreciating and sharing these or other artistic events with our children will awaken a contemplative attitude, an aesthetic sense and a critical look. This will be reflected when they interact with spaces and transform objects of their daily environment, either as a task dedicated to babies and children or as a shared activity, embellishing the context and the looks of the children.
I am grateful to have shared these words filled with images, and I extend the invitation to everyone to enjoy the poetics of art as if it were the “celebration of a party“, making them multiply in the places we inhabit with our childhoods.
Laura Liliana Bianchi was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She is a preschool teacher…, University Professor and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts. She works as a teacher trainer in Early Childhood Education and in the Visual Arts for elementary, middle and high school education, as well as a teacher trainer in postgraduate courses in art education in Argentina and Latin America.
Apart from this, Bianchi is the author of “Recomendaciones para la elaboración de Diseños Curriculares en el Área de Lenguajes Artístico expresivos” [Recommendations to draft curricula in the area of expressive artistic languages] for the Argentinian Ministry of Education. She is an advisor to the General Department of Early Education.
She is also a sculptor and has published works on childhood, education and visual arts, her last book being Miradas, gestos e interacciones con las Artes Visuales en los primeros años [Points of View, Gestures and Interactions with the Visual Arts during the First Years of Life], Praxis Editing Group, 2020.
Bianchi has just received the Honorable Mention, Isay Klasse Awards to the Education Book, among those published in Argentina during 2019 and 2021, awarded by Fundación El Libro.