By Dawna Matthews
My daughter is a super joyful, healthy toddler who is almost three years old. Sometimes when I watch her and see how amazing she is, itʼs hard for me to remember the difficulties we faced when she was born.
Chloe was inexplicably born with a brain hemorrhage. As a new mother, I was already unsure of how to care for this sweet baby. Throw in major medical trauma and I was just overwhelmed. Over time, and with the guidance and care of so many — family, friends, birthing and other medical professionals — I was able to navigate through it all. Chloe had to undergo several evaluations with neurologists and therapists from birth until her second birthday. One thing they kept telling me about was the importance of art activities and crafts for her development as well as the development of all children.
Most parents know art is important for children, but we donʼt necessarily know why. Art and acts of creating foster brain development, especially on the right “intuitive” side of the brain. When children create art or engage in a craft activity, they expand their appreciation for the world while expressing themselves and communicating to us, meantime learning life skills as well.
Skills learned through art include the following:
Communication Skills: A young child is more likely to be comfortable expressing him/herself through crayons and paint (as a type of language) rather than through conversations about emotions and feelings. Talking can be extremely frustrating to children, especially when they lack the vocabulary to say what they mean. Children use art as a way to visually communicate and interact with the world around them while the sensory stimulation from art materials awakens the senses and introduces them to feelings.
Motor Skills: There was a definite emphasis on honing both gross and fine motor skills when Chloe worked with the neurologist and therapists. Holding crayons and picking up paintbrushes, and glueing cut shapes onto paper all aid in dexterity as well as hand-eye coordination.
Social Skills: Art instruction helps children to be open to other cultures as well as to collaborate, while fostering tolerance as they express themselves. Additionally, art encourages children to share ideas and appreciate other viewpoints.
Problem Solving: Artistic creations — whether a sculpture, a dance, or a beaded picture — are results of problem solving. When children explore an idea or decide which color to use, they are working through a challenge. Whatʼs even better is that they are just enjoying themselves and having fun while solving problems. All this practice develops reasoning and understanding.
Creativity: As mentioned, when children engage in arts and crafts, they are building the right brain, where creativity is located. By experimenting, explorin, and creating something, they have a sense of accomplishment as well as a meaningful artistic experience.
With all of these skills built and enhanced through art, you can see why it is important that we encourage and provide art activities for our children at home and at school. I remember wondering how finger paint could help Chloe until I watched her laugh and smile while splaying her fingers covered with color on paper. That alone was all I needed to see to become a believer in art for her development. To me, that smile was the result of her experimenting, discovering, creating and feeling. Learning the other skills was just extra.
For more information on art as well as art activities, visit