Ever noticed your child pull paint covered fingers over the smooth surface of paper? Or have you watched your kid’s little tongue protrude outwards and bend sideways as they scribble passionately across the page? These levels of concentration, glee and confidence are intoxicating. So why is it that art is so mesmerising for a child and what importance does it hold during those early years of a child’s life? While art making may simply seem like fun and games, there is actually a lot of active learning and skill development at play.
Art encourages communication skills. This is not simply through representation, but through the various mediums on offer as well. If you think about the different art mediums, they all have different qualities with an emotional counterpart. So for example, clay is messy and engaging with it may help a child get in touch with their more ‘messy’ feelings. Similarly collage and glue may help a child get in touch with their more ‘disorganised’ and ‘sticky’ parts of themselves. Similarly crayons may help them get in touch with the more ‘blendy’ parts that want to fit in with the world around them. This is incredibly cathartic as it gives your child the opportunity to communicate important parts of themselves that may otherwise not get any airtime.
Sometimes, kids produce art that is an expression of themselves, but often the physical process itself is an act of creativity. Imagine the toddler pummeling playdough, or a cross child creating a work and then tearing it up, giving him a chance to be cross and throw those horrid feelings away. In this way, art allows a child to work through hard feelings and show the adults outside what may be happening inside emotionally.
When faced with an artistic challenge, kids have the chance to try and solve problems creatively. Art gives the freedom to explore different outcomes, to get frustrated when things don’t work out, or to try things again on a fresh page if things get overwhelming. These are all important opportunities for learning.
Social and emotional skills
Art encourages kids to come to terms with themselves and the control they have over their efforts. In art classes, kids also have to take turns, show appreciation and respect for each other’s works and learn from what their peers are doing. In this way, art provides a place to practice being big, while in a safe facilitated environment.
Fine motor skills
Fine motor skills refers to the ways in which your child can work a knife and fork or turn the page of a book. Art making provides more opportunities for this kind of skill building, for example a paint brush will need to be held in a certain way to produce a specific mark. Or squeezing the liquid glue will build hand dexterity.
Talent vs creativity
These are not the same thing and really a child should not simply be praised for creating a good drawing, but rather should be encouraged for the act of creating itself. When viewed through this lens, art is a process and not a product. While it’s tempting to have talented kids, artistic talent is reserved for very few in this world, while creativity is open to all.
The bottom line
Instinctively we all know that art is important for our kids. We experience this through the osmosis of watching them engrossed in their artworks. But beyond this, there are facts that prove how important art is for early child development. Proving that art gives our kids a space for deep interaction with their inner worlds, their relationships, their bodies and their brains.