I don’t normally publish articles like this, but when I first read it caught my interest. Why? First, because I am an uncle and will do anything I can to introduce my nephew to art. Second, because I will be a father one day and you know for sure my kid will be introduced to art. So without further ado, on to Marlene.
“What a child doesn’t receive he can seldom later give”. – P. D. James
Children and Art
Children and art just go together like strawberries and cream. All children like to get to grips with things that squidge and slide and slip and if the result is something they can keep, can take home and see proudly stuck on the fridge, then so much the better. The looks on their faces when they spread the finger paint over a lovely clean piece of paper, or when they make a real live rainbow with a handful of coloured pencils are something which every parent or carer should cherish; those expressions are the outward sign of creativity at the moment of its birth.
Art is Fun and Educational
Parents can always tell what their children enjoy and art is something that never fails to amuse and engage a child. Memories of their own childhood come to the surface as well as simple observation of the child’s pleasure. It is an intriguing look into a child’s mind as they interact with what they see and turn it into a visual interpretation that, although it may not look too much like the original to anyone else, they can recognise. If they are going through a time of change, such as a move or starting nursery or play group, art is an essential outlet through which they can express what is happening in their world. Even if they don’t have any worries to work out, children still get a huge amount of pleasure from the creative process and if allowed to just ‘dabble’ will enter a very calm period, when they can lose themselves in what they are doing. If encouraged gently at this point, it can give them a creative pathway that they can follow lifelong, even if at a very amateur level.
Learning Communication Skills
Artistic endeavour contains so many of the most important life skills which will set your child on the right pathway that it should be considered one of the most important parts of a child’s development. Most other things happen to a child – they watch TV, they are taken from A to B, they are taught eventually to count and read. But with art, the child is involved in a direct act of creativity and if it is done right, in other words, if the child is left alone to draw green cows and a purple sun, then they will learn a lot about themselves, their family and peers and the world around them, through the media of colour and shape. Some children find it difficult to communicate in words and for them, art can be an excellent outlet. Looking at a child’s drawing needs an imaginative eye, and perhaps it can take a while for a parent to see that a mass of swirling colour actually represents a day at the zoo. Whereas an adult would paint the animals or people, the child has perhaps painted, with swirls and peaks of colour, the basic joy they got from seeing the animals and being out in the fresh air. Look for the orange peak that might be the giraffe house and the brown blob that is the dropped ice cream. In the early years, a child’s painting is unlikely to be representative, but can tell us a lot about what is going on in that little head.
Problem-solving is something that a child has to come to naturally. Many parents have found that setting deliberate tests for a child comes to nothing because a child can see through their subterfuge – they like their learning to come about without intervention; like most people. So when they are making something or painting or drawing something, they are problem-solving all the time. Why does my clay horse keep falling over? Because one leg is shorter than the other. Why does that tree look wrong? Because the leaves aren’t all joined together like that on a real one, they are separate bits. And so, the art gets more realistic, the models get more stable and the pieces of the child’s world click together just that bit more securely.
If a child is painting, drawing or modelling in a group with other children, they will learn social skills very quickly – snatching a paint brush is unlikely to create a social atmosphere and a child will soon learn how to share, how to say please and thank you and even how to ask for or provide help to others who are more or less adept than they are. Creating art in a group is also very good for the child who has ‘stalled’ in their creativity. It is all too easy – for adults as well as children – to be happy with what you can do and not progress. Seeing another child’s artwork and accepting that they can do things that they can’t is a good way to spur a child on to a higher level of creativity. Skills which they have not yet mastered, such as cutting out or finer pencil work can also be learned from peers with no pressure from a formal teaching session and are therefore much more likely to succeed.
One thing that it is very important for a supervising adult to remember is that children see art as creativity, not an expression of a talent. It is true that some children will never progress much further than stick men and daubs of colour, but if they are not criticised, but are encouraged to continue expressing themselves through artistic media, they will always have an outlet for their emotions which can stand them in good stead as they grow. Until they can express themselves fluently in words, art is a wonderful way for a child to share what they have going on in their heads and even when words come, it is certainly true that a picture – even if it is of a green cow and a purple sun – is worth a thousand words.
Marlene Stucker is a part-time blogger married with two kids and currently works at Photo Canvas, specialized in designing personalized photo canvas prints.