WITH THE ARTS
is it important for our children to sing, dance, paint and draw?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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