The Importance of Art for Young Children

Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Art is one of those things kids can do on their own with no assistance necessary by parents or teachers.  We're not talking formal art concepts and mastery here, just exposure to art materials and the experiences that early art can bring.  Think of a list of actions, etc that children can do 100% on their own, no assistance needed (and still be considered safe).  We teach them to tie their shoes.  We keep them within certain boundaries either by doors, gates, or fences.  We make sure they're only watching appropriate television shows.  We train them in socially acceptable behavior...all with their best interest at heart.  Art for young children doesn't fit into this category.  Of course we want to purchase safe, non-toxic materials and supervise our children when these materials are being used but do they need models of art?  Do they need boundaries as to how to use materials? Do they need to be given specific guidelines for what art to create? No way!  In order to foster creative thinking, higher cognitive abilities, and confidence, we really need to step back and realize that the art our children create reflects their level of development.  If we force them to do beyond that level, we are missing foundational connections that need to be made.  If we hold them back, we keep them from making progress in these areas. If we truly have their best interest at heart, we will allow them to explore with art materials in ways that we aren't used to, even if (and when) they make a huge mess!

Art exposes children to sensory experiences by means of texture, expands children's vocabulary and comprehension of words as they experience, hands on, the words rough, sticky, smooth, bumpy and so on.  Art allows an escape from the typical rules that apply in so many other areas of their day.  Their art can be whatever they make it.  In fact, it doesn't have to be anything at all (and many times, it won't be).  If we want to comment on their art we can refer to the shapes, lines, or colors we see.  Rather than asking, "What is it?", we can say, "Wow, That's a very nice, long purple streak of paint across the paper" or "Tell me about your picture".  These types of statements and questions add meaning to children's art and validate their work.

*Think about it: Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, and the Wright brothers weren't geniuses because they kept their ideas "within the box". 
Jen Mitchell 3/23/2010 12:51:00 PM

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