In the last 100+ years, school curricula in the United States has shifted more and more toward “common core” subjects of reading and math, but what about the the arts in preschool education?
Many see art education as a luxury for the richest amongst us, but simple creative exercises are the building blocks of childhood development.
Learning to create and appreciate visual aesthetics will be more important to the development of the next generation of children as they grow up in a society of kids who lack these basic skills.
Preschool Developmental Benefits of Art
Benefit #1 – Improved Academic Performance: Kindergarten Readiness is a real concern for our families in Frisco, Texas. The FISD system is HIGHLY competitive with students and their parents getting upset if they make low A’s. Seriously, the faculty at FISD has received training to understand and deal with students who have breakdowns and feel like failures when they make a 90 on a test.
Studies show that there is a correlation between art and other achievement. A report by Americans for the Arts states that young people who participate regularly in the arts (three hours a day on three days each week through one full year) are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to participate in a math and science fair or to win an award for writing an essay or poem than children who do not participate.
Benefit #2 – Language Development: For very young children, making art — or just talking about it — provides opportunities to learn words for colors, shapes and actions. At the Musical Arts Schoolhouse we take this to a whole next level with daily classes in Theater and Music that give children a reason to speak both clearly and with projection.
Our students can use descriptive words to discuss their own creations and to talk about what feelings are elicited when they see different styles of artwork. Yes, different styles, because in our daily Art Class, the students learn about different famous artists, their specific styles and how to replicate the basic motions….and all the words that go along with their studies.
Benefit #3 – Motor Skills: Many of the motions involved in making art, such as holding a paintbrush or scribbling with a crayon, are essential for fine motor skills in preschool children. According to the National Institutes of Health, developmental milestones around age three should include drawing a circle and beginning to use safety scissors. Our three year olds are creating framable artwork on canvas.Around age four, children may be able to draw a square and begin cutting straight lines with scissors.
The Musical Arts Schoolhouse’s preschool programs emphasize the use of specific artistic paint strokes because it develops the dexterity children will need for writing. Nearly all of our students enter Kindergarten already writing the entire alphabet and their name.
Benefit #4 – Inventiveness: This is a core aspect of everything we do at the Musical Arts Schoolhouse. When kids are encouraged to express themselves and take risks in creating art, they develop a sense of innovation that will be important in their adult lives. “The kind of people society needs to make it move forward are thinking, inventive people who seek new ways and improvements, not people who can only follow directions,” says MaryAnn Kohl, an arts educator and author of numerous books about children’s art education. “Art is a way to encourage the process and the experience of thinking and making things better!”
We ARE NOT churning out the next generation of employee-bots. We educate inventive, resourceful children who will forge new paths never imagined by the test-taught masses.
Benefit #5 – Decision Making: The world is filled with individuals who are incapable of making a simple decision about dinner, much less the direction of their life. According to a report by Americans for the Arts, art education strengthens problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. The experience of making decisions and choices in the course of creating art carries over into other parts of life.
“If they are exploring and thinking and experimenting and trying new ideas, then creativity has a chance to blossom,” says Kohl. There is no failure in art. Our students are encouraged to develop ideas and run with it without fear of judgement and condemnation. This concept will travel with them throughout their life.
Benefit #6 – Cultural Awareness: Frisco, Texas is becoming increasingly culturally diverse, yet the images of different groups in the media may also present mixed messages. “If a child is playing with a toy that suggests a racist or sexist meaning, part of that meaning develops because of the aesthetics of the toy—the color, shape, texture of the hair,” says Dr. Kerry Freedman, Head of Art and Design Education at Northern Illinois University. Teaching children to recognize the choices an artist or designer makes in portraying a subject helps kids understand the concept that what they see may be someone’s interpretation of reality.
By immersing our students in various cultures through our daily Art, Music, Dance, Spanish and Theater classes, we are able to show them a variety of cultures and better prepare them for a world outside their immediate family’s experience.
Benefit #7 – Visual Learning: Daily drawing, sculpting with clay and threading beads on a string all develop visual-spatial skills, which are more important than ever. Even our three year olds know how to operate a smart phone or tablet better than many adults, which means that even before they can read, preschool students are taking in visual information. This information consists of cues that we get from pictures or three-dimensional objects from digital media, books and television.
“Parents need to be aware that children learn a lot more from graphic sources now than in the past,” says Dr. Freedman. “Children need to know more about the world than just what they can learn through text and numbers. Art education teaches students how to interpret, criticize, and use visual information, and how to make choices based on it.” Knowledge about the visual arts, such as graphic symbolism, is especially important in helping kids become smart consumers and navigate a world filled with marketing logos.
What are your favorite projects for teaching the arts in preschool education?