Early Years Alphabet: A is for Art
Expressive arts and design is classed as one of the seven areas of the early years foundation stage. It plays a vital role in developing children’s imagination and creativity, as well as their ability to use media and materials. Exploring art with your early years can come in many forms, from singing and dancing to painting and construction, and comes with many benefits for our little ones.
Children’s natural curiosity and want to explore, observe and imitate what they see and experience in the world helps them form connections in their brain and learn important skills for the future. Because of the instinct to create, art is the perfect way to enable children to manipulate different materials in an organic and unstructured way, exploring and experimenting with their own abilities and preferences.
As children begin to realise that they can control what marks are made on the page, their fine motor skills are beginning to develop and, as they strive more and more to depict what they want in their pictures, those skills are being honed day by day. Playing with musical instruments and building blocks and modelling clay also help develop gross and fine motor dexterity and control.
Art can also help with maths. As mathematics is not only numbers and counting but also patterns and problem solving, art can help children better understand the concepts around mathematics. Size, shape, making comparisons and spatial reasoning are all elements of creativity that are also the building blocks for mathematical abilities.
Music can accelerate brain development in the areas of language and reading skills. Learning to play an instrument has been found to improve both mathematical learning and memory skills. It also lets our children learn to express themselves in new and exciting ways. While expressing themselves, the children in our care also exercise autonomy over their own actions and can start to develop their own likes and dislikes, discovering more about themselves.
Sensory play is naturally a large part of art activities. The gooey-ness of paint, mould-ability of modelling clay or loud sound of a drum being played are all important sensory experiences that aid children’s sensory development and allows them to connect different skills in new ways. Describing their sensory experiences also encourages the development of a wider vocabulary and more analytical thinking.
Collaborating in arts and design activities such as in small groups on construction or painting activities, or in larger groups in music or dance, encourages children to learn how to work together and appreciate each other’s contribution. It builds relationships between children and enables them to forge friendships and build self-esteem as they know they are an important contributor to the group.
Early years arts and cultural activities can help children develop their sense of self and learn about their own community, background and culture while exploring other peoples’ heritage and way of living. This can also strengthen family bonds as children engage their families in their learning, providing more opportunities for shared experiences and communication.