Why the Arts Play an Important Role in Early Childhood
While the arts are conventionally seen as a fun way for children to explore and express their innate creativity, they also have far-reaching developmental benefits. The first 1000 days of life lay down the architecture of the brain, and exposing children to the arts during this time sparks a curiosity about the world as children make connections while experimenting with different materials, tools and techniques. Whether your child is a toddler just beginning to explore with paint or crayons, a kindergartener shaping play-dough or pretend acting, or a school age child testing different art forms and techniques, their creative pursuits are contributing to their mental, physical and emotional development in myriad ways. Let’s explore five important life skills that children learn through the arts:
Developing strong motor skills is an essential part of early childhood. The arts particularly help with the development and growth of fine motor function as acts like holding and guiding a crayon or paint brush, practicing a dance movement, or using a prop during dramatic play, all help children develop dexterity and strength. This in turn lays the foundation for other skills such as learning how to write and feed and dress oneself.
Every effort a child makes in the creative or performing arts is an opportunity to boost their self-confidence. Be sure to say words of encouragement and open the lines of communication with them. Allow them to talk about their work and why they made certain choices such as using a particular colour, shape, or medium. This gives them a chance to verbalise their thinking and decision making. Every small success motivates a child to reach further and keep reaching for future opportunities to excel. At the same time, as children grow, receiving constructive feedback about a performance or visual art piece helps children learn that feedback is part of learning and it is not something to be offended by or to be taken personally.
The arts teaches children to approach problems as exciting opportunities to challenge their skills and creativity. Through drawing shapes or deciding what quantity of clay is needed to create a particular object or even counting beats in music, children make connections that become the building blocks of future math skills. Exploring patterns, shapes, colours and symmetry helps young learners acquire the skills they will need to later understand and work through real world problems. Moreover, the creative freedom intrinsic to art allows young people to develop a sense of innovative thinking that equips them to thrive in later life.
Creating pieces of art or even playing a musical instrument on a consistent basis involves patience and perseverance. Children realise that as they spend more time on an activity, they are able to get better at it. In an increasingly competitive world, perseverance is essential for success, and arts education provides the necessary space to practice and acquire it right from a young age. Studies show that while adults tend to throw away the ideas that may seem beyond the margins of reality, a child will accept these ideas with open arms and build on it.
Empathy & Cultural Awareness
The arts offer a fascinating channel through which to learn about world cultures. Introducing children to varied forms of artwork, creative or performing, teaches them about the incredible diversity of the world around them. Viewing or learning about other people’s work exposes children to differences in perspective and helps them start to appreciate multiple points of view. This shapes them into open-minded and empathetic individuals who are equipped to thrive in a globalised world.
To sum, art in early childhood is a wonderful way to foster growth in many areas of children’s development. It is an essential tool to instil creativity, open thinking, and a lifelong love for learning, One study identified a need to provide children with greater recognition of their efforts in the arts as well as more adult models or users and makers of art. It concluded that where arts-based approaches to learning are derived from research, and refined through embedded practice, children are able to learn in ways which are naturally suited to their human condition and therefore better equipped to take part in cultural and artistic elements of life as identified in the United National Convention on the rights of the child.
“Art is as natural as sunshine and as vital as nourishment.”
– MaryAnn F. Kohl