Even before we are able to form a concept about something in our environment, we begin to test it for information; for texture, for taste, for relationship. Then, in as much as it feels (for instance the satin edge of our first blanket) or behaves the same way at each encounter, ie., feeds us when we cry, we make a valuation of it in connection to our own wellbeing, and catalog it for future reference.
When we determine that an experience, a sight, or a sound, was a positive one, obviously it increases the likelihood we will be willing, or actually eager to experience it again. And so it is with Art. If, within the reasonable bounds of safety (and an acceptable surface!), we are encouraged to experiment, we may attempt to recreate something that resembles (though how, often only a grandparent can see) an original.
But one thing I have discovered for a certainty, initially, most little ones desire to please! And they thrive on genuine, upbuilding praise. Surely, they will push at the boundaries! And granted, some much more frequently than others, but often only to make sure that they are safe, and the fence will not fall down.
Art is a very different “animal”, in regard to where the outer limits lie, as to a thing even being considered art, not to mention process. And then there is moral value, another conversation entirely!
So, all that said, my first suggestion for you is, make positive, leading statements. Ask questions! Rather than say, “I LOVE your, uh…purple armadillo??”, and risk tears, and much shredding of paper, try, “Please, tell me about your painting!” “I see you really like yellow!” “What else can you think of that’s yellow?” “Would I be safe riding a bicycle, or going for a swim in the ocean with this?”
You might get an eye roll or two, but giggles are more likely! And what is there more beautiful than the laughter of a child !?