By Sinead Hamill
For years schools have emphasised the value of academic subjects such as reading, writing and mathematics. Children were encouraged to find the correct answers to questions, follow guidelines precisely, memorise facts and engage in rote learning. This is all well and good for developing the logical left-hemisphere of the brain but what did the right side ever do to deserve such neglect? With that kind of training I’m surprised we didn’t all topple over from the imbalance of it! Thankfully, educators are recognising more and more the value of creative, artistic endeavours, which help to develop and strengthen the right side of the brain. It is through the study and practice of art that children become more rounded, self-sufficient individuals, who are capable of functioning successfully in today’s society.
Art educates and helps children to reach their potentials in a number of ways:
Emotional Intelligence – Children learn to express themselves verbally and non-verbally through their art as well as interpret the feelings and thoughts of others through observation.
Creativity – Art exposes children to the fact that there is often more than one right way of doing things. It opens their minds to the views and opinions of others and encourages them to think outside of the box.
Critical Thinking – Art encourages children to find solutions to problems, to develop their ideas and make connections between objects, thoughts and actions. Their abilities to analyse, interpret and think in the abstract are also developed.
Sensory Awareness – Working with a wide variety of materials, colours and shapes, in varying spaces encourages children to be more aware, appreciative and respectful of their environments.
Language Development – Art provides endless opportunities for discussions to take place where children may acquire new vocabulary, learn to express themselves coherently, engage in question and answer scenarios and develop debating techniques.
Social Development – Art projects can be great fun and are a strong bonding tool. Done in groups children learn to collaborate with others and enjoy social interaction. It encourages them to observe and consider other people’s ideas and choices. They must also learn to share and take-turns.
Physical Development – Gross and fine-motor skills are practised and fine-tuned. Eye-hand co-ordination is developed.
Development of a Positive Self-Image – The beautiful thing about art is that there is no right or wrong. Children are free to let loose and create their own masterpieces without the fear of failure. They can experience the joy and pride of completing a project or task successfully, whatever their knowledge or skill-level.
How can we as adults support these positive learning experiences provided by art?
Encourage your child’s sense of well-being by admiring and displaying their art work. Keep in mind it is mostly about the artistic process and not so much the finished product!
Asking open-ended questions about their work will help you and your child connect as they describe their ideas and the thought process behind them.
Provide a variety of safe art materials, which your child has free and easy access to.
Now and again you could set achievable challenges. It’s best to keep them quite open, allowing for creative interpretation. Always start simple and develop the ideas and materials in accordance with the child’s level of ability.
Have fun! Why not roll up your sleeves and dive right in there with your child? Children love when adults get involved and have fun with them.
With society now recognising the value and importance of creative entrepreneurs, why would we even consider the old belief that reading, writing and arithmetic are the only way forward? Of course these subjects are important and hugely beneficial to children on their life journeys but our progressive world now calls for much more creativity and by including the study and practice of art we are helping children move towards the road of reaching their full-potentials. After-all, they don’t call it the ‘art’ of living for nothing!