“What adults call ‘wrong’ in Child Art is the most beautiful and most precious. I value highly those things done by small children. They are the first and purest source of artistic creation.” — Franz Cizek
One of our favorite homeschool co-op activities is called, “Art in the Park,” and the genius of it is its simplicity. We read a book, do some mindfulness exercises, and then a roll of brown paper is rolled out. The children swarm around the paper with trays of swirling paint, markers, colored pencils, crayons, glitter, seashells, leaves, sponges, and anything else they can find. It’s marvelous to see what they create! I thought I would share the photos because we can all use some joyous creative expression in our lives. They have it in spades!
Look at those busy bees! They are lost in their own creative world and it’s truly a thing of beauty. From a developmental perspective, activities like this are of the utmost importance. There is so much focus on math and reading in most schools today that many of us forget the benefits of art education. Here’s a short list of those benefits:
Cultural Awareness: Our society is wonderfully diverse and art is a great way to teach children about different cultures, history, and empathy. Art has long been a way of sharing political beliefs; making statements about war, innovation, hardship, traditions; and documenting significant events throughout history. It offers us a way of viewing the world through someone else’s eyes and it helps us to connect to one another.
Motor Skills: While creating art, the children hold paintbrushes, pencils, markers, crayons, scissors, etc. The movements involved in painting on an easel, cutting paper or fabric, sewing, twisting off lids/caps, and manipulating clay are essential to the growth of fine motor skills in young children. They are also building these skills while having fun, socializing, laughing, and interacting with others.
Look at the progression here with Caleb’s grip and position. Watch him adjust angle and wrist positions:
After a short time, he held the brush like a pro and even said how much easier it was after making the adjustments. He transitioned from painting and using markers on an easel to holding a pencil and writing letters with ease. Occupational therapists often recommend that children regularly work on a vertical surface in order to encourage strength and flexibility throughout the upper extremities.
Decision Making: 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 course of creating art carries over into other parts of life. “If they are exploring and thinking and experimenting and trying new ideas, then creativity has a chance to blossom,” says MaryAnn Kohl, an arts educator and author of numerous books about children’s art education.
Visual Learning: Developing visual-spatial skills is incredibly important. When children draw, sculpt, thread beads on a bit of yarn, they are utilizing a must be able to analyze shapes and colors, estimate distance, and identify an object’s spatial properties (orientation, location, etc.). Parts of the brain used: hippocampus, parietal cortex, perirhinal cortex, and entorhinal cortex.
Visual-spatial processing helps with:
- making visual images to “see something in the mind’s eye” or “get the picture”
- remembering and differentiating left and right
- combining disconnected, vague or partially hidden visual information patterns into a meaningful whole
- manipulating simple visual patterns or maintaining their orientation to see things in space
- mentally manipulating objects or visual patterns to see how they would appear if altered or rotated in space
- finding a path through a spatial field or pattern
- estimating or comparing visual lengths and distances without measuring them
- understanding mathematics concepts in geometry, calculus and other higher math
- remembering letter formations and letter patterns
- reading charts, maps and blueprints and extracting the needed information
- arranging materials in space, such as in their desks or lockers or rooms at home
“Parents need to be aware that children learn a lot more from graphic sources now than in the past,” says Dr. Kerry Freedman, Head of Art and Design Education at Northern Illinois University. “Children need to know more about the world than just what they can learn through text and numbers. Art education teaches students how to interpret, criticize, and use visual information, and how to make choices based on it.”
“All work and no play doesn’t just make Jill and Jack dull, it kills the potential of discovery, mastery, and openness to change and flexibility and it hinders innovation and invention.” -Joline Godfrey
When children are encouraged to be creative, share their ideas, and place them in an environment where they can bring those ideas to life… we lay the groundwork for positive change in the world. We want to raise our children to be able to look around, see what is wrong, and come up with solutions.