The Young Child and the Masterpiece: A Review of the Literature on Aesthetic Experiences in Early Childhood

By Lea Mai and Robyn Gibson.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In this article, we reflect on the nature of young children’s experiences of viewing art in a museum setting by examining the scholarly literature of the last three decades. We take as a starting point, Martha Taunton’s 1982 literature review. Since then, social constructivist theory and practice, as seen in Falk and Dierking’s Contextual Model of Learning (2000), has allowed research to move into the museum and to become more child-centric. While attention has been given to the logistic and organisational aspects of children’s visits to museums; to educational outcomes and developmental milestones, very little is known about the features and impact of the aesthetic experience itself on young children. By applying Csikszentmihályi’s theory of ‘flow’ to young children’s art appreciation, we can at last begin to expand our view of aesthetic experiences in early childhood.

Keywords: Art Museum, Early Childhood, Aesthetic Experience, Literature Review, Art Gallery, Art Appreciation, Young Visitors, Flow, Contextual Model of Learning

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp.357-368. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.442MB).

Dr Lea Mai

PhD Candidate, Faculty of Education and Social Work, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Lea Mai is currently undertaking a PhD in art museum experiences in early childhood at the University of Sydney, Australia. She is interested in how capturing the voices of children conveys accuracy and authenticity to research practices. In her work she attempts to build a bridge between research and practice. Lea holds a BA (Hons) in Art History and an LLB from the Australian National University. She is a past intern of the Drill Hall Gallery, Canberra.

Asst. Prof Robyn Gibson

Associate Dean, Undergraduate & Preservice Programs, Faculty of Education & Social Work, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Robyn lectures in Visual and Creative Arts Education in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney. For the past three years, she has been Associate Dean of Undergraduate and Preservice Programs within the Faculty. Her current research interests focus on art as research and research as art. She is particularly interested in utilising innovative methodological approaches including arts-informed inquiry.

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