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TheImportanceofArtinChildDevelopment

ByGraceHwangLynch

Inrecentyears,schoolcurriculaintheUnitedStateshaveshiftedheavilytowardcommoncore
subjectsofreadingandmath,butwhataboutthearts?Althoughsomemayregardarteducationasa
luxury,simplecreativeactivitiesaresomeofthebuildingblocksofchilddevelopment.Learningto
createandappreciatevisualaestheticsmaybemoreimportantthanevertothedevelopmentofthe
nextgenerationofchildrenastheygrowup.

DevelopmentalBenefitsofArt

MotorSkills:Manyofthemotionsinvolvedinmakingart,suchasholdingapaintbrushorscribbling
withacrayon,areessentialtothegrowthoffinemotorskillsinyoungchildren.Accordingtothe
NationalInstitutesofHealth,developmentalmilestonesaroundagethreeshouldincludedrawinga
circleandbeginningtousesafetyscissors.Aroundagefour,childrenmaybeabletodrawasquare
andbegincuttingstraightlineswithscissors.Manypreschoolprogramsemphasizetheuseofscissors
becauseitdevelopsthedexteritychildrenwillneedforwriting.

LanguageDevelopment:Forveryyoungchildren,makingartorjusttalkingaboutitprovides
opportunitiestolearnwordsforcolors,shapesandactions.Whentoddlersareasyoungasayearold,
parentscandosimpleactivitiessuchascrumplinguppaperandcallingitaball.Byelementary
school,studentscanusedescriptivewordstodiscusstheirowncreationsortotalkaboutwhat
feelingsareelicitedwhentheyseedifferentstylesofartwork.

DecisionMaking:AccordingtoareportbyAmericansfortheArts,arteducationstrengthens
problemsolvingandcriticalthinkingskills.Theexperienceofmakingdecisionsandchoicesinthe
courseofcreatingartcarriesoverintootherpartsoflife.Iftheyareexploringandthinkingand
experimentingandtryingnewideas,thencreativityhasachancetoblossom,saysMaryAnnKohl,an
artseducatorandauthorofnumerousbooksaboutchildrensarteducation.

VisualLearning:Drawing,sculptingwithclayandthreadingbeadsonastringalldevelopvisualspatial
skills,whicharemoreimportantthanever.Eventoddlersknowhowtooperateasmartphoneortablet,
whichmeansthatevenbeforetheycanread,kidsaretakinginvisualinformation.Thisinformation

consistsofcuesthatwegetfrompicturesorthreedimensionalobjectsfromdigitalmedia,booksand
television.

Parentsneedtobeawarethatchildrenlearnalotmorefromgraphicsourcesnowthaninthepast,
saysDr.KerryFreedman,HeadofArtandDesignEducationatNorthernIllinoisUniversity.Children
needtoknowmoreabouttheworldthanjustwhattheycanlearnthroughtextandnumbers.Art
educationteachesstudentshowtointerpret,criticize,andusevisualinformation,andhowtomake
choicesbasedonit.Knowledgeaboutthevisualarts,suchasgraphicsymbolism,isespecially
importantinhelpingkidsbecomesmartconsumersandnavigateaworldfilledwithmarketinglogos.

Inventiveness:Whenkidsareencouragedtoexpressthemselvesandtakerisksincreatingart,they
developasenseofinnovationthatwillbeimportantintheiradultlives.Thekindofpeoplesociety
needstomakeitmoveforwardarethinking,inventivepeoplewhoseeknewwaysandimprovements,
notpeoplewhocanonlyfollowdirections,saysKohl.Artisawaytoencouragetheprocessandthe
experienceofthinkingandmakingthingsbetter!

CulturalAwareness:Asweliveinanincreasinglydiversesociety,theimagesofdifferentgroupsinthe
mediamayalsopresentmixedmessages.Ifachildisplayingwithatoythatsuggestsaracistor
sexistmeaning,partofthatmeaningdevelopsbecauseoftheaestheticsofthetoythecolor,shape,
textureofthehair,saysFreedman.Teachingchildrentorecognizethechoicesanartistordesigner
makesinportrayingasubjecthelpskidsunderstandtheconceptthatwhattheyseemaybesomeones
interpretationofreality.

ImprovedAcademicPerformance:Studiesshowthatthereisacorrelationbetweenartandother
achievement.AreportbyAmericansfortheArtsstatesthatyoungpeoplewhoparticipateregularlyin
thearts(threehoursadayonthreedayseachweekthroughonefullyear)arefourtimesmorelikelyto
berecognizedforacademicachievement,toparticipateinamathandsciencefairortowinanaward
forwritinganessayorpoemthanchildrenwhodonotparticipate.