As parents, we’re proud of the splatters and swirls of paint that decorate our child’s art. We’ll stick a drawing on the refrigerator and share another over social media. While you appreciate their effort and think about the meaning, do you ever wonder why art matters?
How you view art and its role in your child’s early years impacts their experience. Experimenting with art has enormous benefits for a child for years to come, as they’ll learn new skills and processes that affect the way they do things for a lifetime.
Art impacts everything we do. As grownups, we use art in our working and personal lives to make things look and feel more interesting. Businesses use it in marketing, engineers use it for design, and even medical professionals use art to reconstruct body parts.
But aside from its long-term impact on our lives, art has immediate benefits for children’s learning and development. Art matters to kids because it:
- Gives children a sense of belonging
- Helps them be in the present
- Teaches them to express themselves and understand others
- Develops their fine motor skills
- Encourages them to explore broader concepts and topics
1. Children’s art matters as it gives them a sense of ‘belonging’
In the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF), experiencing ‘belonging’ is about knowing where and with whom you belong. Children’s art doesn’t just depict pretty pictures or relatable shapes. For a child, art is a powerful means in which to express their identity.
A child can use art to express who they are, their cultural connections and their place within the wider community. At Petit, one of the ways we inspire a child’s expression of belonging through art is to guide them to draw or paint their family and their place within it.
By inspiring, appreciating and sharing your child’s art, you also help them to develop a sense of belonging. Your child feels part of a bigger community. Our early learning program also creates a sense of belonging by displaying and documenting your child’s art.
2. Art matters to kids as it helps them be
Doing art helps kids be in the present. Children’s art collector and curator, Dr Barbara Piscitelli, on the ABC’s Art Show, observed children’s spontaneous and immediate reaction to art. It sparks a creative idea that children attempt to realise the here and now.
‘Being’ encompasses the doing, creating, making and producing. But it’s also about children making meaning of their world and their place in it. Rather than requiring children to follow strict instructions, children should be free to imagine and generate their own ideas.
Art gives children a means to communicate. It’s a powerful language through which they can create ideas and see the world. It can:
- Give a voice to a child’s experiences
- Connect their interests
- Express joy in the things they like doing.
Felicity McArdle in Children, Meaning-Making and the Arts writes, ‘Being is as much about the process as the product’. She suggests that not all art is about producing something to be documented or displayed. Children exploring art can learn in the moment about:
- Colours, shapes, patterns and textures
- How to sort or categorise
- Literacy, numeracy and science
- Art for art’s sake.
3. Art teaches children how to express themselves – ‘becoming’
Art assists children to explore who they are, who they are becoming and how they see others. It is often used to understand differences, diversity and divergence. By using art as a means, children can learn about other cultures but also express their own personalities.
Exploring ideas through art supports children in learning and developing their identity, knowledge and relationships. Encouraging participation helps them to grow into confident, involved learners.
Having a wide choice of art materials readily available encourages a child’s imagination and decision making. It shows that you respect their ability to explore and experiment. Rather than teaching them how to create an end product, have confidence in their ability to discover on their own.
Art is a means for children to:
- Learn how to process and construct an image in their own way
- Support risk-taking and exploration
- Develop resilience and perseverance to realise ideas
- Grow into capable learners.
4. An art curriculum develops your child’s fine motor skills
By holding paint brushes, crayons and pencils children are exercising and developing the small muscles in their hands and wrists. The same muscles used in finger painting and clay modelling are also used in writing.
As well, art helps children to develop hand-eye coordination. By cutting out shapes, a child learns how to hold and use scissors while exercising the small muscles in the hands and fingers and coordinate the cutting with the eye.
Art activities with a wide choice of materials improves dexterity, strength and flexibility in your child’s fingers and hands. Children’s fingers grow stronger when they:
- Squeeze glue
- Scrunch up paper
- Roll playdough
- Use different sized paint brushes
- Cut out shapes
- Squish clay or putty into balls.
5. The benefits of art include exploring concepts like cause and effect
Aside from exercising fine motor skills, art has other benefits too like learning about broader concepts like cause and effect or the ability to identify and draw shapes. Children can explore cause and effect when mixing primary paints together like yellow and blue.
Model making or creating dioramas from recyclable art items like cardboard rolls, different sized boxes and ice cream sticks also guides children to learn about broader concepts. This type of artistic activity invites children to learn and explore science or cultural topics.
So, why is art important?
The list above is by no means exhaustive, but it shows that there are many varied ways in which art effects children. From the development of the individual, to the physical development of muscles, the impact of art on a child lasts a lifetime.
So, next time you stick your child’s art on the refrigerator, consider all the benefits your child has gained from producing this proud artwork. And while many artistic experiences won’t make it to the fridge, they are displayed forever in your child’s development.
Discover why art matters at Petit ELJ
Art has many benefits for young children. We’d love to discuss how an early learning, play-based art curriculum can help your child grow and develop.