The Importance of the Arts in Early Childhood Development
Have you noticed how movies and TV shows portray toddlers? They're almost always drawing something on the wall with a crayon.
Why does this happen? Why do we see toddlers as curious, artsy rascals?
Because, in a way, they are.
Children are curious and adventurous. They interact with the world physically, experiment with sounds, and express themselves through art. That's why we always see a toddler with colored pencils in their hands. That's why we often come across musical instruments for children, coloring books, finger-painting stations, and more.
We've known that children need to express themselves through art for quite a long time. But why does this happen? Why is it essential to encourage children to follow their curiosity and explore arts?
The answer lies in the importance of arts and crafts during early childhood development.
How arts influence early childhood development
Artistic activities encourage intellectual, cognitive, and physical development in children. They stimulate both sides of the brain and increase memory capacity, attention, and fine motor skills.
The process of creating comes naturally to children. They engage all five senses in the process and explore the world around them the only way they know. Artistic activities enable toddlers to express themselves and improve their creativity and imagination.
Artistic activities help develop toddlers' socio-emotional skills
Emotions and creativity have a complex relationship. Emotional states can both help and hinder the creative process. But we're sure that artistic activities can help us feel a sense of emotional satisfaction.
Imagine a child playing with playdoh, magnetic sand, or making a macaroni painting. That is when they're the most focused and engaged in a task. Artistic activities bring a sense of control over the materials children use. The process is a journey where children decide how they're going to mold the materials and what they're going to make. It brings complete control over the situation and emotional freedom for children.
Child development experts and therapists often use art therapy to work with children. Children (especially toddlers) aren't good at verbalizing their thoughts and feelings. In such cases, non-verbal and sensory-based activities such as drawing and molding clay come in handy. Therapists use art therapy to help toddlers make sense of their feelings and sometimes to understand children themselves.
You'll have a fascinating read if you dive deep into Violet Oaklander's "Windows to Our Children." She talks about how children express themselves through art and remembers a few interesting cases from her experience.
Art in early years can help boost children's cognitive development
Jean Piaget's cognitive development theory features four stages proposing that intelligence grows and develops through a series of phases.
The first stage concentrates on infants and toddlers and is called the sensorimotor stage. During this time, children (0-2 ages) cultivate knowledge and absorb information through sensory experiences. Piaget calls these experiences manipulating objects.
From birth to at least two years, children interact with the world through basic sensations and actions (grabbing, sucking, licking, looking, and more). At this age, your toddler will already be able to understand that their actions cause things to occur around them.
Psychologists agree that this is a perfect time for children to engage in artistic activities since they allow children to manipulate objects and materials. They also engage in decision-making and can self-evaluate.
Artistic activities help toddlers develop fine motor skills
Development of fine motor skills involves improving those tiny muscles in your baby's hands, fingers, and wrists. They're small muscles, but they're responsible for the proper functioning of the human body later in life.
Correctly developed fine motor skills will allow your toddler to perform everyday tasks, such as brushing their teeth, writing, getting dressed up, eating, and more.
Drawing, coloring, and playing with playdoh and kinetic sand can help children develop small and large muscle groups. Tracing letters can also make a huge difference.
Exploring artistic activities can help your toddler find a hobby
Last but not least, experimenting with artistic activities can help your children find a hobby they enjoy.
While sculpting play-doh and doodling characters can help with physical development, it's equally essential to find something you enjoy and can fill your free time with.
Hobbies can provide an excellent outlet for energy for toddlers. For adults, it can be a source of happiness and enjoyment. So it's never too early to explore the activities that might turn into future interests or hobbies for your children.
Fun artistic activities for toddlers you can start doing now
First of all, it's always a good idea to experiment and explore. Make sure the process is fun and open-ended, easy to do, and the result can go on the fridge or the accomplishment wall.
Start painting and playing with colors
Painting sounds pretty straightforward, doesn't it? You can simply give your toddler crayons, a coloring book, or a blank page, or be a bit more creative and play with colors and different materials.
- Make raised salt paintings - you'll need salt, glue, and food coloring.
- Create a finger-painting masterpiece - all you need is paper and finger paint (store-bought or homemade).
- Draw back-and-forth with your toddler - finish each others' paintings and create an interactive game out of it. You can use watercolor, crayons, or colored pencils.
Start sculpting and modeling
Manipulating materials can be a lot of fun. It's a stress reliever too (as we already mentioned).
- Sculpting and modeling playdoh - use simple playdoh to sculpt animals, creatures, or everyday objects.
- Sculpting dry clay - get some dry clay for your toddler and start creating fun projects.
Start experimenting with music and movements
Exposure to music can help engage and stimulate the brain, boosting your toddler's language learning abilities. Besides, it's a lot of fun to watch your baby sing along and dance to popular songs.
- Singing Songs/Chanting Nursery Rhymes - find a tune that your baby loves and sing along to it together.
- Tell stories with sound effects or listen to fairytales - add sound effects to the books you're reading to your toddler or find a story with songs in it.
- Try free dancing - free dancing can be an excellent outlet for built-up energy.
The process of creating art comes naturally to children, but you can also foster a love for artistic activities in your kids. Encourage them to explore and experiment. Be present in the process and let them know you're there and you want to engage too. And don't forget to have fun!