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How the Art Center Enhances Children's Development (page 3)

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

Emotional Development

Art experiences can also assist children’s emotional development. As children participate in art activities they gain self-confidence, feel pride in their work, and experience success (Koster, 2005). Art allows children to express strong emotions that they may have difficulty verbalizing. It may provide the child and others with insights into the child’s thoughts and feelings, thus allowing for conversation and further discussion. For example, Gross and Clemens (2002) discuss how preschoolers in their class used drawings, paintings, and clay models to re-enact the destruction of the twin towers in New York. Re-enacting the scene was therapeutic for many children, allowing them to feel a sense of control, and opening up dialogue with the other children and adults in their lives.

Social Development

As children examine art from various artists, in different time periods and diverse cultures, they have the opportunity to learn about and to appreciate differences. They come to understand that people have unique values and see things in different ways.

In many classrooms, children also have the opportunity to collaborate with others on murals and other large art projects. Again, children learn about diverse views, practice negotiation, and have tangible proof of how their work, when combined with others, can create something beautiful.

Cognitive Development

Through art, children learn about the world, record thoughts and ideas, and enhance academic learning. “Artmaking is a form of inquiry and way of learning about oneself and the world” (Tarr, 1997, p. 2). For example, as a child observes a flower and then draws a sketch, he notices details he may not have considered before. Slight imperfections in the petals raise questions. What caused the holes in the petals? Why are some petals turning brown while others are not? He notes that the petal is a graduated color and must determine how he will portray this. When the child is done, he shares his work with others. “Through sharing and gaining others’ perspectives, and then revisiting and revising their work, children move to new levels of awareness” (Edwards & Springate, 1995).

As with written language, the visual arts involve recording a thought or idea that then can be conveyed to someone else. For this reason, art is often considered the child’s first written language (Koster, 2005). This window into the child’s thinking makes her ideas visible to others. This allows others to engage in dialogue and ask questions that will assist the child to reflect even more deeply.

As children carefully study and discuss their art and the art of others, they are developing “visual perception or ‘visual thinking’ a cognitive process that takes images and gives them meaning” (Koster, 2005, p. 5). They are also seeing items from different vantage points and exploring spatial concepts (critical skills in geometry). In addition, while participating in art, children pose and solve problems, organize thoughts, and reflect on their learning. They learn about properties of materials and experiment with cause and effect. All of these skills are critical in other disciplines as well.

Physical Development

Art develops large and small muscles and eye-hand coordination. Unlike prescribed writing or art exercises, creative art provides a motivating climate for children to practice and perfect motor control. Some teachers use production-oriented art as a way of promoting fine motor control. However, children are typically more passionate about their own creative art. Therefore, they are often more committed to the repeated practice that is needed to master the skills.

As children participate in art they have opportunities to increase artistic skills, enhance creativity, and develop emotional, social, cognitive, and physical skills. However, for optimal development, the teacher must use the inquiry approach to art and must establish an environment that is conducive to learning.

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