Paint by Numbers or Picasso? How Structured Should We Make Kids Art?


Parents and educators often encounter the question: “When it comes to children’s art, how structured should we be?” Some argue that a more structured approach, like paint by numbers, fosters discipline and organization, whereas others defend artistic freedom a la Picasso. This article will explore the benefits of both structured and unstructured approaches to children’s art and discuss ways in which parents and educators can create a balanced environment for artistic growth.

Structured Approach: Paint by Numbers

Paint by numbers is an activity in which children fill in color-coded areas on a canvas according to a numbered guide. This approach to art has several benefits for young artists:

1. Develops fine motor skills: Children must carefully control their brush strokes to fill in each section accurately.

2. Builds focus and concentration: The task requires patience and attention to detail.

3. Encourages discipline and organization: Children must follow the instructions carefully to create the intended image.

Unstructured Approach: Embracing the Picasso

Inspired by the creative freedom of famous artists like Pablo Picasso, many parents and educators advocate for unrestricted artistic expression in children’s art. Key benefits of this approach include:

1. Encourages creativity: Children are free to experiment with colors, shapes, and techniques without strict guidelines.

2. Builds self-confidence: Children gain a sense of accomplishment when they create original artwork without relying on a template.

3. Fosters problem-solving skills: Unstructured art encourages critical thinking as children find new ways to express their ideas visually.

Finding the Balance

While both structured and unstructured approaches have their merits, providing a balanced learning environment can help children experience the best of both worlds:

1. Offer a mix of guided and open-ended activities: Alternate between occasions where children follow paint by numbers or similar guidelines, and those where they have free rein to create as they please.

2. Encourage experimentation: Allow children to experiment with different materials, techniques, and styles while working on structured art projects, as well as when creating freely.

3. Provide constructive feedback: Offer guidance and encouragement to help children improve their skills in both structured and unstructured art settings.


Ultimately, the balance between structure and freedom in children’s art will depend on individual preferences and learning styles. By providing a variety of artistic experiences that include both Paint by Numbers-style projects and Picasso-inspired creativity, parents and educators can nurture well-rounded, confident artists who are equipped with the skills and inspiration to tackle a range of creative challenges.

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