Art is very important for children
Research shows that art activities develop brain capacity in early childhood; in other words, art is good brain food! Art engages children's senses in open-ended play and develops cognitive, social-emotional and multi-sensory skills. As children progress into elementary school and beyond, art continues to provide opportunities for brain development, mastery, self esteem and creativity.
We are all born creative
Picasso wrote "Every child is an artist".
By assisting and encouraging a child's creativity, you set the stage for endless opportunities for that child's imagination. A healthy imagination not only creates a resourceful and productive individual,but it also builds self-esteem, which is an important tool that will be used for the rest of that child's life.When a child creates a work of art, they are not just drawing a picture, they are also creating aspects of self-importance, individuality and engaging in self-expression.
Art is a Language
A picture is often worth a thousand words. Visual images communicate emotions and complexities that words cannot. The ability to communicate non-verbally is particularly important for children. Art is a powerful tool that gives children the ability to express their thoughts and emotions long before they can fully express themselves with words.
Once you acknowledge that art is a language, the importance of respecting a child's artwork becomes obvious. Yet too often adults praise art before really looking at it, offering routine comments like "What a pretty picture!" Comments like these can actually be damaging to a child's self esteem, causing him to feel misunderstood. Pictures sometimes communicate sad or angry feelings that are not "pretty" at all. It's far better to view a child's art slowly and with quiet interest before making any comments. Over time, with authentic and respectful support from adults, children will use art as way to draw out real feelings.
What Art is Not
Art is not coloring books or mimeo sheets. Art is not copying or coloring between the lines. Art is not restrictive. To be art, a work has to demonstrate individuality. I like to distinguish between "fine art and applied art" another way of saying "arts and crafts." Both fine and applied arts can demonstrate individuality. If a child's painting or Treasure Box looks like everyone else's, then there's no creativity or imagination involved. What's the quickest way to tell if it's art? If a child can't recognize which project is his at the end of the day, it's not art!
Take time with a child's art
Show respect for the art and the artist's process
Comment on lines, shapes and colors: "I see you used three colors."
Show curiosity: "How did you get this effect here?"
Comment on changes: "You're drawings look bigger these days."
Ask open ended questions: "Will you tell me about your picture?"
Provide fuel for creativity: "What other materials do you need?"
Collect recycled boxes, tubes, lumber scraps. Make 3-D creations
Provide a variety of drawing, painting and clay materials
Avoid coloring books
Art skills - drawing, painting, sculpting what you see - can and should be taught to children. You have to know the rules before you can break them: no-one would suggest that you can play great music without years of music lessons, the same with art skills.