Art and design in Year 1

So you're a Year 1 teacher? How recently did you check what's in your art and craft area? Do you have one? How much art did your children do last week?

If you're lucky enough to have space and the resources to maintain the continuous and enhanced provision children enjoy in reception, then that's fantastic news!

Keep well stocked

A well-stocked Year 1 arts and crafts area will have at least the following:

  • a range of different sized paint brushes
  • various tools including sponges, toothbrushes and glue spreaders
  • ready mixed or powder paints in the primary colours plus black and white
  • trays for mixing
  • water pots
  • a range of papers
  • scissors
  • collage materials including fabrics and papers
  • coloured pencils and pens
  • glue
  • cardboard viewfinders

Of course, if you have space and resources available to you to offer more, that's a bonus, but the above will give children plenty of opportunities to explore the essential Year 1 skills of colour mixing, drawing and collage.

If you make sure everything is well labelled and stored, then you can expect children to help with maintaining the resources, telling you when things are running low and keeping things in an orderly manner.

Make the most of your space

If you want to make the space a complete knockout, then I would recommend adding prints and images linked to your current project or topic and the means to hang or display the children's work both in progress and when it's finished. I'm also a big fan of interesting objects and artefacts on display for children to draw and paint. A fresh bunch of flowers or an old bike wheel can be equally inspiring if you present them in the right way. Viewfinders also are a great addition, teaching children to look at things in unusual ways.

Bright lights, big city – Year 1 curriculum project

Hugglescote Primary School

Sheep Dip Lane Primary School

I love this fantastic work by Hugglescote Primary School and Sheep Dip Lane Primary School for the Bright lights, big city project. See how they have used a range of materials to create 3D images and transient art.

Teaching essential skills

Of course, this is only one part of your art provision in Year 1; it's also crucial to make sure you allow time to teach children the essential skills of observational drawing, colour mixing, printmaking and 3D work. Good planning and a skills matrix will help you know how and what to teach. These practical skills sessions are ideal for parent helpers or classroom assistants to supervise as they often require one to one support and guidance to make good progress.

Art and Design – Essential Skills

Cornerstones essential skills for art and design help teachers plan and assess children's art.

Cross-curricular art

And last but not least, make sure you have plenty of opportunities for cross-curricular or topic art. Children need creative contexts to apply their skills and use their imaginations. Children need the skills, but the real key to developing young artists is to inspire them. So much artwork is now accessible online to view that there is no longer any excuse for not sharing examples of real art even with the youngest of children. The National Gallery's ‘Picture of the Month‘ will provide plenty of opportunity for talk with the children while the Tate's frequent posting of videos make compelling viewing. For example, watch ‘Kusama’s Obliteration Room‘ and inspire children to create spotty art!

And of course, never underestimate the power of visiting a real gallery. For Year 1 children, often the scale of a painting can be a complete surprise. Awe inspiring actually.

Whatever, you can do to have more art going on in your classroom, then do it. Children's talk will increase and become more confident, the collaboration between children will get better, their language will become richer, and horizons will broaden. And that's just in Year 1. Imagine what can happen in Year 2!

Melanie Moore
Curriculum Director and former Art adviser


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Melanie Moore

Mel is Curriculum Director and the author of the Cornerstones Curriculum. She writes, edits and oversees all curriculum materials and leads our creative team. Mel has over 20 years of primary teaching experience, including as a deputy headteacher. She has also been a teacher adviser and a local authority strategy adviser.

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