What Children Learn through Art

What do children learn through art
Self-portrait work with a 3-year-old

What’s art got to do with it, got to do with it?

“You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul.” George Bernard Shaw. I can think of nothing more descriptive of art than those words. Oh, how true they are. A child creating a work of art is the equivalent of a songwriter pouring emotion from the depths of their soul into lyrics that will touch the world. The only difference is the song will last throughout the ages and be hummed in a moment of emotional upheaval. The child’s art will go on the refrigerator until it falls to the floor and is discarded with yesterday’s newspaper. As parents, we do not consider what children learn through art. That is something we need to change. What children learn through art is a myriad of emotional expression, language and literacy, social studies, math, science, fine motors, eye-hand coordination, self-awareness, spatial awareness, creativity, and confidence. That’s what children learn through art!

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” Albert Einstein

Too often, teachers are concerned about what the parent will think if their child gets dirty during the day. Let’s face it, don’t they get dirty at home? At the park? In the backyard? Children are explorers and artists and engineers… people who get their hands dirty doing what the love… and, what do children love?? Getting dirty!! I want to share with you some words that were given to me.

When Your Child Comes Homes Messy

Your child probably…

Worked with a friend, solved a problem, created a masterpiece, negotiated a difference, learned a new skill, developed new language skills.

Your child probably did not…

Feel lonely, become bored, do repetitive tasks that are too banish, do worksheet tasks that are too easy, do sit down work that is discouraged.

You probably…

Paid good money for those clothes, will have trouble getting the red paint out, are concerned that the teacher isn’t paying enough attention to your child.

The teacher probably…

Was aware of your child’s needs and interests, spent time planning a challenging activity for your child, encouraged your child to try new things, put painting smocks on your child, was worried that you might be concerned about the mess.

If, as adults, we look back on our childhood, our favorite memories probably involve times when we got messy. Remember that food fight? Paint fight? Mud fight? Remember the mud pies you and your best friend created and served to your doll baby guests? Or what about riding your bicycle as fast as the wind through every puddle you could find? If you think you were always a clean child, talk to your parents! I believe they would beg to differ.

“Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.” Claude Monet

It’s easy to understand the emotion tied to a piece of art, but what do children learn through art?

  • Cognitive Development (thinking skills) – problem-solving, decision making, spatial relations, visual thinking skills, and the ability to focus.
  • Emotional Development (feeling skills) – communicate feelings, sensory stimulation, an outlet to reduce stress and/or trauma, dedication.
  • Social Development (relating skills) – sharing materials, practicing social skills, confidence builder, non-verbal communication, accountability, cultural awareness, seeing the world through another person’s eyes – perspective, teamwork.
  • Sensory Motor Development (coordinating skills) – fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, self-esteem, using the five senses, how to properly hold the tool.
  • Language Development – conversation, expansion of vocabulary, turning feelings into words, answering open-ended questions.
  • Creative Expression – expressing emotion, experimenting with colors, shades, shapes, tools, perspective, calming and therapeutic release.
  • Math Development – counting, colors, shapes, sorting, comparing, patterns.
  • Science Development – color combinations, textures, experimenting with different types of art and tools.

“Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” Henry Ward Beecher

Now, we know what the child learns from art, but what can the parent learn?

Did you know that art activates both the left and right side of the brain? The left hemisphere is logical and sequential and is activated by reading, math, and problem-solving. The right hemisphere is creative and intuitive and is activated by art, music, and drama.

Did you know that arts and crafts are different? Art is open-ended and unstructured. Crafts are goal oriented and structured. An example of art would be free-painting. An example of a craft would be making a wreath. Crafts have specific steps you must take while art is simply the flow of the hand.

Did you know that art is one of the best learning by doing activities? Researchers have proven that more information is retained when learned from hands-on activities. Here’s the breakdown of what children retain:

  • 10% of what they read.
  • 20% of what they hear.
  • 30% of what they see.
  • 50% of what they hear and read.
  • 70% of what they say.
  • 90% of what they do.

Impressive isn’t it? In other words, if you want your child to retain 100%, you must tell them, let them read it (if possible), show them how, have them repeat what was said, and let them do it. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… the more senses you can involve in learning, the better the child will learn and retain the information.

Author: Belinda Davis ©2018