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See, Think, Wonder


This resource has been designed for teachers and guardians who work with ages 3 to 5 and helps to start conversation about artworks. It considers what we can “see” (e.g., “I can see a house”), what we “think” (e.g., “I think it looks warm and cosy”) and what we “wonder” (e.g. “I wonder who lives I that house?”) about seven different pieces. After taking a good look at each piece you can have a go at one of the suggested activities!

You can download the question prompts and activities, and a PowerPoint presentation with the artist’s names and artwork titles in the notes. To find out about how the activity fits in to the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage, download the “Early Years Art Resource Information” file.

Early Years – Art Resource (3-5 years old)

Be just like Mary Poppins and jump into a painting!

A resource that encourages artistic and communicative elements of the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage* which requires no art knowledge at all, just the use of three simple words to inspire children to engage with art: “See, Think, Wonder”.

The idea is to get children looking closely at artworks to investigate, imagine and to make their own interpretation of a piece, simply by answering some questions. There are no incorrect answers! But with a bit of time, a deep level of engagement with art can occur from inside your own home.

Each part of the activity is child-led: as they express their thoughts and ideas, these in turn spark further questions and conversation, which, if desired, can lead to a productive outcome based on the discussions that have been had.

1. Firstly, we question what we can SEE in a painting or drawing.

2. Secondly, we began to question what we THINK about what we can see.

3. Thirdly, we pose questions about the piece – what we WONDER about it.

Afterwards, children could be encouraged to do an activity related to the painting, such as creating a piece of art, or a dance, or more specifically we have suggestions such as making a pillow fort and testing whether things float or sink.

The resource provides some prompting questions and uses carefully selected paintings from our collection that allow a positive experience, although the technique could be used for any artwork. The examples used are all available in our online collection here. They begin with clear subjects and then move onto more abstract works to fire your child’s imagination.

Some fun strategies to encourage children to look carefully at a piece of artwork:

  • Get the children to make their hands into the shape of binoculars (two loose fists held together in front of the eyes) and look through them at the pictures.
  • Time them to have 1 minute looking at the picture, then they must turn around and try to describe it to you without peeking! This can be repeated as many times as necessary, or for a shorter/longer length of time as necessary.

Useful tip for adults: Sometimes it is helpful to reveal the name of a piece only at the end of the discussion – so that children’s imaginations can have free rein first!

While we hope the activity will be fun and lead to various positive outcomes, we do have some key learning goals that we hope our conversation prompts will achieve in participants:

Specific learning objectives:

  • To identify what they can see in a piece of art.
  • To explain what they think about an artwork.
  • To describe what they wonder about an unknown piece of art.

General learning aims:

  • To develop confidence in spoken communication of ideas.
  • To expand their vocabulary.
  • To introduce the concept of engaging with art.

Expressive arts and design: ‘involves enabling children to explore and play with a wide range of media and materials, as well as providing opportunities and encouragement for sharing their thoughts, ideas and feelings through a variety of activities in art, music, movement, dance role-play’ (DofE, 2017: 8-9).

Communication and language development: ‘involves giving children opportunities to experience a rich language environment; to develop their confidence and skills in expressing themselves; and to speak and listen in a range of situations’ (DofE, 2017: 8).

Creating and thinking critically: ‘children have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things’ (DofE, 2017: 10).

References/ Further reading:

Bethlem Museum of the Mind. (2021) ‘Gallery’ at Bethlem Museum of the Mind, at https://museumofthemind.org.uk/collections/gallery. (last accessed 16.02.21).

Department for Education. (2017) Statutory framework for the early years foundation stage: Setting the standards for learning, development and care for children from birth to five, at GOV.UK, at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/596629/EYFS_STATUTORY_FRAMEWORK_2017.pdf. (last accessed: 12.02.21).

National Galleries Scotland. (2019) ‘See Think Wonder: Ideas for starting a conversation about art (for all ages)’, at National Galleries Scotland, at https://www.nationalgalleries.org/visit/see-think-wonder. (last accessed: 16.02.21).

National Galleries Scotland. (online) ‘10 Things to do in an art gallery: For all ages’, at National Galleries Scotland, at https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/for-educators/10-things-art-gallery. (last accessed: 16.02.21).

National Galleries Scotland. (online) ‘Take a closer look: Ideas for starting a conversation about art (for all ages)’, at National Galleries Scotland, at https://www.nationalgalleries.org/visit/take-closer-look. (last accessed: 16.02.21).