In recent years, educational approaches have shifted to a heavier emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and math. Reading is also prominent. But what about the arts? Although some may regard art education as a luxury, simple creative activities are some of the fundamental building blocks of child development. Learning to create and appreciate visual beauty through “arts and crafts” may be more important than ever to the development of the next generation of children as they mature socially and academically. Sectors of the STEM movement have recognized the many benefits of art and how art plays a vital role in understanding and learning science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. As a result, STEM has been expanded to include art. STEM is morphing into STEAM. The addition of art has given steam to the educational development of students, young and old. Here are seven benefits of artistic and creative endeavors for children:
#1. Refines Motor Skills
Many of the motions involved in making art, such as holding a paintbrush or drawing with a crayon, are essential to the growth and development of fine motor skills in young children. According to MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine (NLM), developmental milestones for a preschooler should include drawing circles, squares, and stick figures.
#2. Enriches Language Development
For very young children, making or talking about art provides opportunities to learn words for colors, shapes, materials, tools, and actions. When their toddlers are as young as a year old, parents can do simple activities such as crumpling up a piece of paper and calling it a “ball.” The activity takes on a second layer of instruction with something as simple as using different colors of paper. The “ball” is now a “green ball.” By the elementary years, children can use descriptive words to discuss their own creations or to talk about what feelings they have when they see different styles of artwork.
#3. Strengthens Decision Making Skills
According to a report by Americans for the Arts, art education strengthens problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. The experience of making decisions and choices in the process of creating art carries over into other parts of life. When kids are making art, they are exploring, thinking, experimenting, and trying new ideas. In this soil, the seed of creativity has an opportunity to take root and grow.
#4. Sharpens Visual Learning
Drawing, making things with modeling clay, and threading beads on a string all develop visual-spatial skills, which are increasingly important in today’s technology-driven society. These days, even toddlers know how to operate a smartphone or tablet, which means that even before they can read, children are taking in information visually. This information consists of cues that are received from pictures or three-dimensional objects from digital media, books, and television.
Art teaches young learners how to interpret, evaluate, and use visual information. They learn how to make choices based on it. Some understanding and knowledge about the visual arts, such as graphic symbolism are especially important in helping kids become wise consumers and navigate a world filled with marketing logos and icons.
#5. Stimulates Inventiveness
When children are given the opportunity to express themselves and take risks in creating art, they sharpen innovation that will serve them well in their adult lives. Thinking, inventive people who seek new ways and improvements move themselves and society forward.
#6. Informs Cultural Awareness and Discernment
Society is becoming increasingly diverse. Images of different cultural groups in the media may also present messages that need some discernment. Teaching children to recognize the decisions an artist or designer makes in portraying a subject helps kids understand the idea that what they see may be someone’s interpretation of reality.
#7. Enhances Academic Performance
Some studies seem to indicate that there is a connection between art and achievement in other areas. A report by Americans for the Arts states that young people who regularly participate in some form of the arts — three hours a day on three days each week through one full year — are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to participate in a math and science event such as a fair or competition, or to win an award for writing an essay or poem than those who do not participate.
Paint, paper, glue, and glitter — these are not just toys; they are tools that can be harnessed as powerful engines that encourage learning.