Art has traditionally been an important part of early childhood programs. At our school, art is often used to represent what we are learning. We focus on the process of art, rather than product-based art. Here, art making is about self-expression. The ‘process’ in process art refers to the process of the formation of art: the gathering, sorting, collating, associating, and patterning. Process art is concerned with the actual doing and often entails an inherent motivation, rationale, and intentionality. Most young children are not especially interested in the final product – they’re more into “doing” art.
This means that children should be encouraged to explore and experiment with a variety of art mediums without being made to feel that they should complete a specific project that looks a certain way.
We know that children feel a sense of emotional satisfaction when they are involved in making art, whether they are modeling with clay, drawing with crayons, or making a collage from recycled scraps. Making art also builds children’s self-esteem by giving opportunities to express what they are thinking and feeling. When friends work on art activities together, the feedback they give to each other builds self-esteem by helping them learn to accept criticism and praise from others. Small group art activities also help children practice important social skills like taking turns, sharing, and negotiating for materials. For very young children, art also is a sensory exploration activity. They enjoy the feeling of a crayon moving across paper, squishing finger paint between their fingers, and seeing a blob of colored paint grow larger.
Art activities also help children develop their fine and gross muscle control. The large arm movements required for painting or drawing at an easel builds coordination and strength; the smaller movements of fingers, hands, and wrists required to cut with scissors, model clay, or draw or paint on smaller surfaces help develop fine motor dexterity and control, ultimately helping children gain confidence in writing. Eye-hand coordination is also developed through art exploration.
“If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow. The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil. Once the emotions have been aroused – a sense of the beautiful, the excitement of the new and the unknown, a feeling of sympathy, pity, admiration or love – then we wish for knowledge about the subject of our emotional response. Once found, it has lasting meaning. (Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder, 1965)
Recently, a new term has been in the news: Nature Deficient Disorder.This is a term coined by author Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods in order to explain how our societal disconnect with nature is affecting today’s children. According to Louv, we have entered a new era of suburban sprawl that restricts outdoor play, in conjunction with a plugged-in culture that draws kids indoors. Some ideas for preventing Nature Deficient Disorder include:
Understand What Drives Creativity
Studies show that nature fosters creativity and calms children struggling with information overload. Water, trees, bushes, flowers, woods, and streams are the best kind of toys because unlike action figures or collectables they can be anything.
Allow for Controlled Risk
Schedule Outdoor Time
In a parenting culture chock-full of driving from one structured activity to another, parent may need to actually schedule time to stop and literally smell the roses. If that means writing “gone outside” on the family calendar each week or (ideally) each day, then get that pen out! There are lots of great activities for getting outside, even in your own backyard.
Your child only has one childhood. Why not make it the best it can be? The Preschooler is now your go-to place for questions about your child, early childhood education and the issues your family may face.