The arts are often considered the height of cultural, emotional, and intellectual expression. And yet, we don’t always consider how important art can be in a child’s cultural, emotional, and intellectual development. Early arts education is key to helping children develop their own creative expression, critical thinking, and imagination, says Freda Locker.
The experimentation, discovery, and creativity that the arts inspire can radically change a child’s trajectory in school and in life. In several studies, students who studied art (physical or musical), were four times more likely to perform well in school–attaining higher academic achievement and better attendance records than their non-art studying peers.
Across the world, the countries whose students score the highest in math and science are the ones who have mandatory art classes in their schools. Unfortunately, those art classes are the first things cut when schools lack funding in America.
Early Arts Education Encourages Critical Thinking Skills Says Freda Locker
When you are creating art, you are given choices and encouraged to make decisions, says Freda Locker. Blue paint, green ribbon, yellow glitter… the possibilities are endless. And making these decisions, small though they may seem, teach children how to process their thoughts and develop problem-solving skills.
For instance, if you are told to build a bird nest and given a lump of clay, you have several problems to solve and decisions to make. And if it’s left entirely up to a child’s creativity, you’ll likely see several different ways to make a nest: with a bird or without, built like a bowl or like a pile of twigs, with eggs or without…
Art is a way for children to explore their understanding of the outside world. And it teaches them to really think about their surroundings and see them in a different light. These are the skills we need in an engineer trying to fix a bridge, a rocket scientist trying to fit more supplies on a shuttle to Mars, or a programmer designing a new video game.
The Arts Help With Motor Skills
The arts also help with motor skills and hand-eye coordination, says Freda Locker. As a rehearsal pianist for the Boston Ballet, she is particularly familiar with this benefit. When kids play with clay or paint or draw or play an instrument, they are performing new and complex movements. These movements fire off electrical signals in their brains that help build hand-eye coordination and improve their fine motor skills. This gives them better coordination and makes it easier to perform tasks like writing and using scissors at a younger age.
Art Encourages Language Development
The language of art is also a great benefit for children, says Freda Locker. The words for shapes, colors, art techniques, instruments, musical notes, etc.–all expand the vocabulary. Art also encourages children to use descriptive words for their creations and express what emotions and ideas they were attempting to show in their work. This is excellent for improving emotional intelligence and cognitive awareness.