How the Art Center Enhances Children's Development

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Children increase their artistic knowledge, skills, and creativity while enhancing emotional, social, cognitive, and physical development as they participate in art. They also are more likely to develop a “love of the arts” when they are exposed to art at a young age.

Artistic Development

Although most children will not choose to be professional artists when they become adults, they will nevertheless be surrounded by images. To be literate in today’s world, one must be able to understand, analyze, and critique these images. Through early childhood art, children can increase observation skills, learn art techniques, begin to understand the relationship of art to culture and history, and learn to appreciate and enjoy images and art. They will also have the experience of joy that comes from creating unique products (West, 2006).

Although the arts are often the first subjects to be eliminated when there are school funding cuts, Hetland and Winner (2001) make the following important point, “Cultures are judged on the basis of their arts; and most cultures and most historical eras have not doubted the importance of studying the arts” (p. 5).

Creative Development

Art enhances creativity, which is crucial for innovation and adaptation. Creative people have the ability to see multiple solutions to a problem, employ original thoughts, and use their imagination. As a field, art promotes these skills, encouraging unique and divergent responses and diverse ways of looking at things.

Many early childhood teachers previously thought the best way to enhance creativity in the arts was to use the noninterventionist approach. However, we have now come to realize the power and possibilities in the art as inquiry approach. As stated by HMIE (2006), a group in Scotland who researched creativity,

As pupils acquire experience, develop skills, and broaden their knowledge and understanding, they are able to use their increased control of materials, movements, media, and ideas to demonstrate a more mature level of creativity. Ironically, in contrast with the view that a climate of ‘anything goes’ is conducive to creativity, the opposite is the case. Higher levels of creativity usually result from an interaction of considerable knowledge and skill with a willingness to innovate and experiment. (p. 3)

Land and Jarmin tested people’s ability to think in divergent ways (creatively generate multiple solutions or ideas). Using the same instrument, they tested 1,600 children—first in preschool, then in elementary school, and finally in high school. When the group of children were tested as preschoolers, 98% were considered to be geniuses in divergent thinking. The test was repeated when the children were 8 to 10 years old and only 32% of the children still reached the genius stage. When the children were tested as 14- and 15-year-olds, only 10% still tested in the genius range for divergent thinking. Preschoolers who once had the ability to think in divergent ways had lost this ability through their school years (Robinson, 2005). While thinking divergently is only one characteristic needed for creativity, it is critical, since the other characteristics of creative thinking are built upon this skill. It is crucial that we encourage divergent thinking in the arts, as well as in all curricular areas in the classroom.

According to Robinson and the National Advisory Committee on Cultural and Creative Education (1999), four characteristics are necessary for an activity to be defined as a creative process: thinking imaginatively; being purposeful; generating an original thought, idea, or product; and having this thought, idea, or product valuable in relationship to the task or objective. As we plan our art environments, we need to think about these characteristics. Children who have learned the artistic techniques needed to represent their ideas and have the opportunity to explore topics and media in-depth, to revisit and add to their work, and to examine the same idea in different media are more likely to embody these four characteristics.

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