Art & Soul
(Tending the Circle)

by Kia Woods

Article #1 Growing With The Arts

© dwij 2000

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Kimberlite Painting by dwij


Kia Woods, M.A. , Expressive Arts is a curriculum designer, music educator and resouce teacher. An educator working with infant, toddler, preschool, elementary school, adolescent and adult education programs for over thirty years, her focus has always been on creative potential, personal development and artistic expression. Author of Art & Soul, a training course on creativity, Kia is producing The Children's Garden CD as a tool for parents.

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Why is it important for our children to sing, dance, paint and draw?

As an educator for over 30 years I have had the opportunity to observe children in many kinds of creative arts environments in homes, schools and in children's programs.

What is most obvious, of course, is that children are learning songs, dances, colors and tools for creating. However, if you look at their arts experiences from the perspective of developing the whole child, you can also observe other important benefits your child is receiving from their art play.

In this article I suggest eight areas of learning your child is engaged in when they are doing their art. The next time your child is singing, dancing, painting or drawing, whether it is in a formal music class or painting at home, notice all the learning that is happening. Knowing what is possible, makes it easier to support the nurturing moments that present themselves when your child is enjoying their artist self.

1  Self & Life Awareness

Children everywhere use art to help them understand the world they live in. There are so many concepts for fresh young minds to grasp. Songs, chants, movement, drawing and painting are all avenues for noticing, singing about, discussing and expressing the complexities of life.

Idea! Use your daily life to be the subject of your children's art. Make up songs about going to the grocery store. When you wash clothes, watch the sloshing suds and create movements for these. What does it feel like to go round and round? What else goes round and round? The next time you eat a piece of fruit, notice the color and get the paints out to find the paint that matches the color of the fruit. Paint a picture with the color. Where else in your house or outside do you find the same color?

2  Concentration

Creative arts activities help build attention span. While some children naturally have an attention span that allows them to focus, many children need assistance in developing this ability. Arts processes are a fun and easy way to engage children in purposeful activity that helps them hold attention. Being able to focus and concentrate is basic for all learning, especially in school environments.

Idea! When your child's attention begins to wane, capture their attention with a little clap or tap and then help them refocus on their activity a few seconds longer. Always make things fun, simple and with as little chatter as possible.

3  Imagination

The arts encourage rich use of our imagination and the ability to think outside the limits of time and space. Imagination requires active use of symbolic language which is the basis for creative right brain thinking. Developing a child's natural ability to imagine, through the arts, is a lifetime gift.

Idea! Make everything a story about the little boy or girl who . . . Children love to find themselves inside a story. To develop their imagination, consider changing the characters sizes and locations. Create new and unexpected endings. Dance, sing and paint your stories. Sometimes make little stories on little paper with little crayons or paint brushes. Sometimes make big stories on big paper with big crayons or paint brushes.

4  Creative Thinking

Confidence in our creative abilities transfers to creative thinking in all areas of life. This includes the ability to discover creative solutions. Being flexible and imaginative is important in creative thinking. When you and your child are actively playing with the arts, you are developing their ability to explore and discover new ideas and experiences.

Idea! Use the question, "what if?" every day. What if you could be star in the song "twinkle, twinkle litte star?" What would you see, feel or hear? What if we couldn't see colors? How would we know the difference in red, yellow or green peppers?

5  Multiple Intelligence

We have multiple intelligence. Right (creative) and left (operational) need to both be developed in order to work together and achieve their full capacity. Note that mentally brilliant people often are artists and musicians as well.

Idea! After children draw or paint a picture (right brain operation) ask them if there is anything they want to tell you about their creation. Processing the symbology of their picture is a left brain operation. Helping them do both processes will strengthen the full creative thinking cycle. Resist, however, the temptation to ask a child what this or that symbol is on a picture. Young children don't try to capture reality on paper. However, when they look at something they created, it can spark communication about their feelings or ideas about their work.

6  Inner Life

Having the tools to creatively and artistically express ourselves helps us navigate the terrain of our inner life and personal growth. Being able to communicate our ideas and feelings symbolically through music and art helps us be better communicators.

Idea! If your child wakes up from a frightening dream or is having difficulty with separation, you can sing, draw or dance the dream or problem. The simple act of artistically expressing the experience might be all a child needs. However, if they are willing and able, their art work can become a vehicle for communicating about their fears and concerns. You can also join them in their singing, drawing or dancing in order to gain another level of empathy for their experience.

7  Community Sharing

Sharing with others is natural and fulfilling. It creates positive bonds that nurture and sustain healthy relationships. Sharing something we have created is a natural way to experience intimacy with someone.

Idea! Have a special place or book for collecting and showing visual art work. Having a lot of work covering walls isn't necessary and can be distracting. However, having a special place for something the child decides is important to share with their family can be wonderful. Maybe even a frame that you can easily change the work inside. Recording children's songs or videotaping is wonderful for children to share their artist self with others. Be careful, however, not to stress performance at an early age. This can move the child's pure love of art into the need for getting attention through art which takes the focus off the childŐs innate creative spirit and can undermine their confidence in their own art experience.

8  Constructive Energy

Understanding and developing our creative abilities can help us direct energy into personally rewarding experiences. When your child feels frustrated or bored or is angry or experiencing some kind of emotional state, consider how music and art might help them re-direct their attention and express themselves in a positive way.

Idea! Since children have a limited vocabulary for expressing themselves they often move to primal means of communication such as screaming, hitting or biting. You can offer children artistic ways to express their frustrations. Why not a drum with a beater. What about jumping and other large movements. Maybe you can have taped music for just such occasions.

The next time you and your child are involved in singing, dancing, drawing or painting, keep in mind the full learning experience your child is receiving. Remember these eight different areas of learning and generously use them to grow your child through art.

"When we help our children develop their creative potential through the arts we give them the foundation to be creative individuals, confident in their ability to express themselves. We encourage them to know they have a powerful resource inside which they can use to think and communicate ideas and feelings. Through the arts we help children experience personal satisfaction in expressing themselves and the pleasure of sharing this with others. Our purpose is not to make professional artists and musicians of our children, although if they choose to pursue this path we have given them a rich base to build from."

Kia Woods, M.A.

© 2000 Kia Woods

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Editors Note:

The Children's Garden segment of Pathfinders is designed as a resource for parents as well as a networking vehicle for arts and music teachers of infants and toddlers.

Keep us updated on how Kia's suggestions have brightened the creative journey of your child and share your own creative discoveries with us.

Access the Children's Garden Studio website by clicking on the link below.

Children's Garden Studio


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