What may look like a random splattering of paint or a drawing that in no way resembles the intended animal is a priceless expression of your child's inner self and a light towards their ongoing development. The inclusion of arts education in primary aged children carries with it a large variety of benefits that last longer than the paint smeared on the wall. According to the Americans for the Arts (2013), some of the benefits include:
- Stimulates and develops the imagination and refines cognitive and creative skills.
- Has a tremendous impact on the developmental growth of every child and has proven to help level the “learning field” across socio-economic boundaries.
- Strengthens problem-solving and critical-thinking performance, and goal-setting, which are skills that are needed to succeed in the classroom and beyond.
Children as Artists
When children take part in physical activities, their minds become engaged. The same is true when they participate in artistic exercises. The act of producing art, either through drawing, clay models, or painting has been shown to positively influence other realms of learning, with significant growth in the areas of oral language expression and social interpersonal skills which are thought to occur through both producing and communicating about their artwork (Liu, 2009).
By nurturing the creativity within children, the society can benefit as a whole. Through the introduction of an understanding and appreciation of a variety of forms of art, children can develop a whole host of skills and attributes which will help society after they leave the cups of watered down paint behind as they advance through school. Arts involvement is thought to assist in developing individuals to gain adaptable skills, become informed consumers, critical observers, and critical thinkers, as well as responsible decision-making skills (Katter, 2009), all of which can benefit society.
It is important to remember that art is not just relegated to paint or drawing skills, which as they are an effective outlet for creativity, can be limiting to children who may not enjoy such things. By engaging children in a variety of artistic explorations, creativity can be nurtured. Some additional options include visual arts, dance, music, and storytelling, all of which allow young children to develop imagination and creativity (Korn-Bursztyn, 2012).
The recent shift for children to engage in more academic driven curriculum has led to an environment that emphasizes formal reading and math instruction, rather than free time to be spent engaging in expressive activities, with opportunities to engage in imaginative and creative interaction greatly diminished (Brouillette, 2010). Such a change can be detrimental, as it reduces the possibilities of children from grasping the essential and useful tools which they can gain through engaging in artistic expression.
Children Appreciating Art
While the physical act of engaging in artistic expression has been shown to be quite beneficial and essential to child development, viewing art is also an important aspect to consider. Through integrating museum trips into the regular academic curriculum, children can understand the relationship between humans and material objects and the creative spirit that leads to the creation of such items in the museum (Unrath & Luehrman, 2009). By learning through observation, the experience of a museum visit, while informal in learning approach, can stimulate curiosity which can evolve into a desire to learn, both inside and outside of the classroom.
However, while viewing reproductions can allow for an increased appreciation of the items, the actual trip to the museum offers a range of experiences that are not able to occur within the classroom setting. Being in the presence of the material, the museum setting, and the activities that are present in the unique settings, such as being able to interact with and ask questions of the artists, can be an invaluable experience. Additionally, teachers should involve students in critical thinking aspects regarding the pieces by asking questions regarding (Barrett, 2003):
- Historical and cultural significance
- Formal qualities including composition, form, shape, and color
STEM to STEAM
With the increased focus on science, technology, engineering, and math, the valuable skills and pure enjoyment factor that are associated with the arts may be lost. However, by including, or even reintroducing arts into the academic curriculum, other areas can reap the rewards. The crossover and applicability of the skills gained through the arts, such as creativity, confidence, problem solving, perseverance, and focus, not only can other, more traditional school subjects see an increase in scores, but society can benefit as well. Through both creating and observing art, children can have a better chance at achieving success in both the academic realm and in their personal life.
Americans for the Arts (2013, March). 10 Reasons to support the arts. Retrieved from http://www.americansforthearts.org/pdf/get_involved/advocacy/research/2013/10reasons.pdf
Barrett, T. (2003). Interpreting art: Reflecting, wondering, and responding. Boston: McGraw-Hill.
Brouillette, L. (2010). How the arts help children to create healthy social scripts: Exploring the perceptions of elementary teachers. Arts Education Policy Review, 111, 16-24. doi:10.1080/10632910903228116
Katter, E. (2009). Why kids need art. SchoolArts: The Art Education Magazine for Teachers, 108, 2.
Korn-Bursztyn, C. (2012). Young children and the arts: Nurturing imagination and creativity. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Pub.
Liu, P. (2009). Integrating thinking, art and language in teaching young children. International Education, 39, 6-29.
Unrath, K., & Luehrman, M. (2009). Bringing children to art-Bringing art to children. Art Education, 62(1), 41-47.
Christie Hunter is registered clinical counselor in British Columbia and co-founder of Theravive. She is a certified management accountant. She has a masters of arts in counseling psychology from Liberty University with specialty in marriage and family and a post-graduate specialty in trauma resolution. In 2007 she started Theravive with her husband in order to help make mental health care easily attainable and nonthreatening. She has a passion for gifted children and their education. You can reach Christie at 360-350-8627 or write her at christie - at - theravive.com.