“Art has the role in education of helping children become like themselves instead of more like everyone else.” – Sydney Gurewitz Clemens
Remember how much fun you had as a child, painting your hand with PVA glue and peeling it off? What about the endless finger paintings that mum stuck on the fridge?
We all know how much fun our children have with arts and crafts, the mess they leave is proof enough! But did you know that while your children are creating their masterpieces, they are also cultivating important skills that benefit their development?
How Children’s Art Changes As They Grow
Children show their first signs of ‘art’ at around 18 months old, when they start to make scribbles and explore different materials. At around the age of three, these drawings will begin to represent concepts, such as a circle and two lines to show a person.
As children develop, both physically and cognitively, their pictures will become more recognisable and complex. From a young age it’s good for children to have access to a range of arts and crafts materials and the freedom to be creative. Child-led play is a key part of a balanced play diet and art is a great opportunity for this.
The Department for Education in England acknowledges the importance of art and design for children’s learning and development, as this is part of the Early Years Foundation Stage as well as the National Curriculum for key stages 1 and 2.
Six Skills That Art Helps Children Develop
There are lots of developmental benefits of arts and crafts for children of all ages:
- Sensory Exploration
Art is a great experience for younger children to exercise their senses, whether it’s the colour and smell of the paint or the texture of the materials they use. For example, creating a collage by sticking pieces of paper or glitter, or using finger paints. Children can become familiar with different colours by experimenting with them, and learn what happens when they mix different colours together.
- Fine Motor Skills
When children grip a paintbrush, manoeuvre scissors or mould clay, they are developing their fine motor skills. These skills are important for self-care, such as holding a fork to eat or doing up a zip on their coat. Drawing with a pencil or crayons also encourages children to use the tripod grasp, which is important for learning to write.
- Cognitive & Problem Solving Skills
A child’s cognitive development is all about how they think, reason, and gain an understanding of the world around them. When children mix paints together to make a new one, or they figure out that using glue helps stick objects together, they are developing their cognitive skills. Fostering these skills allows your child to understand the relationship between cause and effect.
The beauty of art is that there are no right or wrong answers, so it offers freedom of thought and experimentation. Children can explore their imaginations and find out what happens when they mix certain colours or textures, try different approaches and explore ideas. “How can I make this paint darker?” “How long does this clay need to dry?”. All these questions will help your child develop reasoning and problem solving skills.
- Self Expression & Personal Development
Children who find it difficult to communicate verbally may find it easier to do so through art, where they can explore their thoughts and feelings through a different medium. This can also lead to a potential opportunity to discuss issues that your child is currently going through. For example, if they draw a monster in their bedroom, you could start talking to them about fears.
Art also means that children can explore their individuality because they can make whatever they can imagine in their own style. Having a final piece is not key, as children will gain the most from the process of being creative, but something to show off at the end can also be good for building self esteem and confidence.
- Communication Skills
Young children can learn lots of lovely new language while doing art, from naming the colours and shapes they are using, to discovering what descriptive words like “squishy” actually feel like.
You can also get your child to talk about how and what they have created. This can be encouraged by asking your child open-ended questions, such as, “Tell me about your painting!” or, “Talk me through how you made this!”. Children will also pick up on new vocabulary that relates to their artwork such as abstract, texture, or sculpt.
- Concentration and Perseverance
Children often become very absorbed in creative activities. Activities that keep their attention are great for building concentration and focus, which are useful skills to have when they are learning in a classroom.
It’s easy to be put off when something doesn’t quite go the way you want it to! However as this is often the case, being able to keep trying is an important skill for future learning. Dealing with a misplaced paint splodge or a piece of cotton wool that just won’t stick will show children that if they don’t give up, they can still create a wonderful finished piece.
Good Art and Craft Toys to Get Children Creative
If you’re looking to update your art supplies or try something new, here are some great art and craft toys. These have all been tested by children and reviewed by experts, so you can be confident they’ll be a hit!
- Make anything you can imagine with the super-squishy, non-stick Playfoam (£9.00, age 3-5 years).
- Create masterpieces with easy clean-up with the Lionheart Super Washable Pens (£9.99, age 3-5 years)
- Make beautiful sand-based prints with the Sand Art Kit (£11.00, age 3-8 years)
- Use the Little Brian’s Face Paint Sticks for a fun, clean and mess-free way of face painting! (£19.99, age 3-8 years)
- The JUNKO Build! Kit helps you make whatever building you can dream up: castles, dolls’ houses, or even a spaceport! (£32.99, age 6-10 years)
For more art and craft toys and play ideas, visit www.goodtoyguide.com
There are lots of benefits of creating art for children that will help them in school and beyond. But above all, it’s fun! Here are a few final tips for getting more art into your child’s life:
- Provide a range of well-chosen tools and materials for your child to experiment with, ideally somewhere they can access as and when they’re feeling inspired. These don’t have to be expensive – junk modelling is great too.
- Give your child the time and space to get arty. If you’re not keen on mess, it may help to invest in a good art apron and stick your child in the garden, to minimise clean-up. It’s more than worth the benefits your child gets from being creative.
- Children are amazingly imaginative and often prefer the freedom to experiment, so don’t feel like you need to hunt down complicated play ideas to create Pinterest-worthy crafts. It’s all about enjoying the process.
Art can be a great way for adults to have fun and relax too, so consider picking up a paintbrush and joining in with your child’s next art session. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just enjoy yourself!