Making and viewing art enhances one’s ability to excel — socially, professionally and academically. So why is it that today, in the United States, the extinction of art in schools is spreading like wild fire? It seems to be treated like the flowery and trivial cousin of math and science, despite the fact that there is indeed a correlation between art and academic (and personal!) success. It is critical that we remain committed to encouraging our children’s visual creativity — and home can provide the perfect studio for the budding artiste.
Making art for the “simple” sake of creating is vital to early childhood development. Art projects foster imagination and resourcefulness while introducing children to both their own senses and the relationships between things. As a mom with a background in art history, I try to infuse my daughters’ days with tactile visual stimulation. A non-tactile stream of imagery already floods our home in the form of TVs, iPhones, computers and iPads — there’s no escaping it. I accept that such imagery is ubiquitous, a daily feature in my children’s realities, which is precisely why I’m dedicated to nurturing their understanding of the visual realm. I aim to help them grasp the power of imagery and learn how to actively participate in it by making time for simple but profoundly effective art projects.
When your child learns to cut with a pair of scissors, or paint with a paintbrush, she is training her muscles and mind to write, while also observing the effect of her decisions on her environment (the paper changes shape as she cuts it, the canvas transforms before her eyes as she colors it). When she carefully selects colors to make a finger painting, she is engaging in decision making, while exerting independence and becoming aware of her own inclinations. And as she places one form or color alongside another, she is examining the relationships between things.When she is “finished,” she’ll likely step back and assess her creation, feeling a sense of pride while also beginning to realize the emotional capacity of colors and shapes. Even if she is not yet able to verbally articulate her psychological response to her work, she will start to recognize the world as a place brimming with imagery — imagery that is not to be ignored or accepted blindly, but rather critically evaluated.
- Gather friends and family for an art experiment. Set up a large table with paper and crayons, colored pencils, or paint.
- Together, decide upon a subject matter that you all wish to illustrate. For example, you could choose to draw a tree surrounded by flowers, or a house in the woods, or a starry night sky. Any subject matter will do—just be sure that you’re all on the same page, and can envision the subject in your mind’s eye.
- Create individual expressions of the same subject. Spend 10-20 minutes drawing or painting that subject—remember, you are not creating one work of art together; you’re each composing an individual expression.
- Share your art with each other, and explain to each other why you fashioned the subject the way you did. For example, if you colored a tree purple, explain why you were inspired to do so.
- Take notice of the different results. Very young children are likely to create more abstract, less obviously representational works — and what better way to demonstrate the subjective nature of perception?
Like all art activities, this collective project nurtures critical skill sets. Not only does it demonstrate that individuals see things differently because we are different, it also promotes your child’s ability to visually analyze and comprehend subjects from a variety of different lenses. Put simply, art helps your child engage with the world confidently and compassionately.