Proven benefits of children learning about and participating in art while they are young.
- Art stimulates both sides of the brain.
- Art promotes self esteem and allows for self-expression.
- Art encourages children to give more attention to the physical space that surrounds them.
- Art develops hand eye coordination, stimulating perception.
- Art teaches children to think creatively to solve problems with there being the possibility of more than one solution.
- Children can share and reflect on their work of art and learn something about the world they’re in.
I feel strongly that what many refer to as “arts & crafts” projects available for children should be as open-ended as possible. A child’s originality must influence the outcome of their personal project. Without originality, children focus on doing it “right”. If our goals are creativity, exploration, self-esteem, self-worth, and self-expression, then there isn’t space for right or wrong.
The development of a child’s imagination is a very important step in learning good problem solving skills and becoming a lifelong learner. For me the process a child experiences when engaged in expressing themselves through an art project is an important part of them developing their creativity. I also understand that there are times the product also has value. The project however is still driven by the child’s originality.
When the focus is the process there is not a finished piece by the teacher shown for demonstration purposes or hung up as a model. That type of model sets limitations on a child’s creative response – they want to do it just like the teacher – they perceive there to be a right and wrong way. As the teacher setting the stage for the experience it’s important to remember to have fun, encourage exploration and creativity.
Creative arts projects for young children can enhance such skills as eye-hand coordination, small muscle development, problem solving, decision making, following multi-step directions, and self-esteem.
Many times the creative experience does not just involve the creative process, but is tied into other learning experiences, such as books, expanding the learning.
Here’s an example:
We used footprints and handprints, which are always fun for children, to add to a collaged background to demonstrate the learning happening around Maine lobsters as part of our unit on Maine.
It’s important that parents early on understand the value of process over product. Working with parents so that they do not expect to always have that recognizable finished product supports their children remaining comfortable trying, exploring, and taking risks. Encourage them not to ask “What is it?” Ask open ended questions that draw out the process the child participated in to arrive with the project they are sharing. It can be difficult to convince parents of all the learning that is going on, so it’s important to share information from whatever learning guidelines you use in developing the curriculum for your program.