“Every child is an artist. The problem is how
to remain an artist once he grows up.”
- Pablo Picasso
Art and creativity are often relegated to the periphery when people think of education. However, art not only has a value of its own, but creativity itself is important and vital to learning in general. We can nurture creativity best by supporting a child’s imagination and natural creative tendencies from birth and beyond. Parents and educators help lay the foundation for children’s development by providing opportunities for free or guided play.
It is important to strike a balance between the activities we provide so a child’s own imagination and ingenuity are challenged. Children are natural learners and teach themselves through their own experience. We can add to their experience with specific goals and information, but need to keep the doors to creativity open.
The benefits of art, creativity, and play are manifold. When children play, they are essentially negotiating their way through the world, exploring how everything works. As they manipulate objects, they are investigating the relationship between them and developing their spatial skills. As they stack items, or depict a three-dimensional object on paper, children are developing problem-solving abilities: How can I stack these items without them falling down? How can I represent a round apple on flat paper? As children balance objects, mix colors, and glue different materials, they are exploring cause and effect. Children are empowered as their actions cause change. They can make; they can create.
When young children play with small objects and begin mark-making, they are developing fine motor skills necessary for future writing. Collecting shells and scribbling are important jobs. Gross motor skills are developed during activities such as running and climbing. Teachers around the globe have been observing that more and more children are entering school without an adequate level of fine and gross motor skills as our cultures move towards a sedentary life and an excess use of electronics. Play is essential.
Creative work teaches complex concepts in an organic way. If you ask five children to pictorially represent the same emotion, you will get five different and equally valid pictures. This inherently teaches about the multiplicity of solutions, that problems can have more than one solution and questions can have more than one answer, a huge life lesson and skill. Similarly, this celebrates a multiplicity of perspectives, that there are many ways to see and interpret the world. This combats uniformity and celebrates diversity, respecting people as individuals with different and new ideas.
Let us not forget the social skills gained during collaborative art and play. When children have their own or a given goal in mind, they naturally enter a team-building mentality, where they negotiate their leadership and collaborative skills. Adults can then support children in their own areas for growth.
Art is one of our natural languages. Children draw, make, and create without being prompted. Working with visual art helps refine our ability to read and discuss visual cues, and our culture is full of visual information. When we immerse ourselves into art, we are learning to “speak” one language of the world, one in which some children express themselves best. Art allows children to express what cannot be easily conveyed in words, and for some, art is one of the only ways to express themselves. We can meet them at their natural starting point and help them flourish in other areas.
While we teach children to reach and “become,” we must remember what they already are. Children are already artists, engineers, scientists, and explorers. They are active participants and owners of their learning, gaining information and honing their skills. They can reach their full potential if we support them in their expedition and add to their experience and knowledge. We can value art, creativity, and play. That is their modus of learning. When we keep a child’s nature at the centre, we can see that learning is often, essentially, child’s play.