TIP #45: How to Teach Art to Kids When You Don’t Feel Qualified

TIP #45 How to Teach Art to Kids When You Don't Feel Qualified

If you don’t feel qualified to teach Art to kids, it may help to know you’re not alone! I often hear people say they feel ill-equipped for this challenge, and there’s a good reason for that.

Why you might not feel qualified to teach Art to kids

It’s hard to feel confident when there’s a gap between what you know and what you need to teach. 

You could have an art background or even be a credentialed Art teacher, and still not feel qualified. Or maybe you’re a parent with no art experience at all, just trying to support your child’s interests. 

No matter what background or skills you bring, when you teach Art to kids, you’ll be called upon to teach things you haven’t learned yet yourself. 

What does an Art teacher need to know?

The scope of information involved in teaching Art to kids is wide-ranging. First, consider the variety of supplies, how to use those supplies, and which projects and ages they’re best for. 

Then there’s art vocabulary, the elements of art and principles of design, and art history to know, too. And let’s not forget curriculum planning, teaching procedures, classroom management, grading, and handling student behavior issues. 

That’s a lot to know… and it’s just the beginning! That doesn’t even start to address the practice needed to become proficient with art techniques and methods. Even the most experienced and well-prepared teacher won’t know it all. 

What to do when you feel overwhelmed by what you don’t know…

Anytime you’re learning something new this one thing can make a huge difference. And that’s to approach it like a beginner

In Zen Buddhism, they call it “Shoshin”, meaning “beginner’s mind”. It suggests that you learn best with curiosity and an open mind, free of preconceived ideas and judgments.

How to be a beginner

How do you have the “mind of a beginner”? Being a beginner involves expecting to learn, keeping an open mind, and having plenty of humility!

Expect to learn – a lot!

When a beginner first attempts something new, they do it expecting to learn. Try to have this mindset and always be on the lookout for what you’re learning. Think about what you’re learning instead of how much you don’t know.

At the end of each day, take some time to reflect on what you learned. You may want to make some notes about things you’re learning and hoping to learn. Then, be intentional in seeking answers to the questions you have.

Keep an open mind

So much of being a beginner involves “newness”. Welcome new experiences and be willing to accept new challenges. Be approachable and receptive to new ideas and suggestions from others. 

Try to let go of preconceived ideas about how things might go. Sure, they might go how you’re imagining, but they also might not! Stay curious, notice things, and ask lots of questions.

It can help to anchor the things you don’t know to things you already do know, even if they’re unrelated. We use this technique with students all the time, and it works for teachers, too! You’d be surprised how many connections you can find once you start looking for them.

Have plenty of humility  

Expect to have moments of embarrassment, questions that catch you off-guard, and lots of on-the-job training. When you teach Art to kids, you can count on learning something new every day, and oftentimes the hard way!

The less you try to look like you’ve got it all together, the easier it is to recover from your mistakes. You’ll be more able to laugh at your slip-ups, enjoy the process, and learn as you go.

So accept that you don’t have all the answers… just relax and be okay with saying, “I don’t know” sometimes. No one likes a “know it all” anyway, right? An added benefit is that humility can be contagious, and that’s always a good thing!

To sum it up

No matter what your level of art experience is, when you teach art to kids, you can benefit from having a beginner’s mindset.

Don’t let “imposter syndrome” get the best of you. If you’re inspired to teach Art, start with what you know and you can learn the rest. Just approach it like a beginner and enjoy the journey!


After writing this, I received my “3-2-1 Newsletter” from James Clear, where I was surprised to read: 

“Don’t feel qualified? Nobody does. You can only be qualified to do that which you have already accomplished or trained for. Anything new is accomplished by unqualified people.” 

I always look forward to James Clear’s “3-2-1 Newsletter”, where he shares useful ideas for life and work. If you’d like to subscribe, too, click here.

an inspiring quote:

“The beginner’s humility and openness lead to exploration. Exploration leads to accomplishment. All of it begins at the beginning, with the first small and scary step.” 

~ Julia Cameron, “The Artist’s Way” (affiliate link)

Any accomplishment rarely happens on the first try. It usually takes some amount of trial and error to get a successful result. The best place to start is with humility and an open mind.

a question worth considering:

Where might your teaching benefit from having a “beginner’s mind”?