Dabbling in art and craft activities can be hugely beneficial to a child’s development and it is never too early to start. Here are 10 reasons why.
By Aruna Raghuram
For Gautam Menon and his daughter, Ananya, Sunday was a day to relax and do fun activities together. And, this Sunday was no different. Both father and daughter decided that they would spend the morning colouring pictures, an activity which Ananya enjoyed immensely. From the colouring book, they selected a picture depicting a scene from one of the Panchatantra stories, ‘The monkey and the crocodile’.
“You colour the river water while I would colour the trees,” said four-year-old Ananya, leading the way. Gautam felt proud by the way his daughter had taken charge of the situation.
Being a doting father, Gautam could not take his eyes off his daughter, who was absorbed in colouring the picture. Holding a crayon firmly in her fingers and eyes set on the picture, little Ananya was a picture of focus and concentration. She seemed to be enjoying the activity.
As they coloured together, Gautam also narrated the story. And, while doing all this, Gautam was thinking, “this is a great way to bond with my daughter. I should pick up more colouring books.”
Doing art and craft activities requires the involvement of the mind, body and emotions. As such, they play an important role in the holistic development of children. Here are a few ways art and craft activities can benefit your child.
1. Improve motor skills and coordination: Doing art and craft activities aid in the development of both large and small muscles and eye–hand coordination. They also help children learn fine motor control, which is crucial for writing. Activities like gripping a colour pencil or a paintbrush, using scissors, squeezing the bottle of glue or rolling play dough develops and improves dexterity. Since, children use both the hands for these activities, their coordination also improves.
Bengaluru-based art therapist Seema Mullick says, “Art activities have the ability to heal the body and the mind. The environment, processes and art materials all have a positive effect on young children. However, art expression needs a safe space, choices and some limits. Only then can art help in the expression of emotions, release of stress and development of self-esteem. Depending on what a child needs emotionally, different art materials help the child be in control or find comfort in letting go.”
2. Enhance cognitive skills: These activities employ the senses and encourage neural connections. Children’s brain synapses (connecting points between brain cells) are stimulated as they experiment and create. Also, art promotes ‘executive function’ – a set of mental skills that help us pay attention, switch focus, plan and organise, multitask, remember details and manage time.
3. Encourage self-expression: Children love to visualise and express. However, lack of adequate language skills prevents them from conveying their thoughts. So, they are always looking for ways to express what is there in their mind. Art and craft activities allow children to express themselves freely. Also, these activities provide children with a creative outlet to explore and communicate their feelings, and deal with scary emotions in a safe way.
4. Teach self-regulation: Art activities relieve stress, promote calm and self-regulation. For instance, when using water colours to paint, children need to wait for some time for a coat to dry before applying the next one. This teaches them to persevere and be patient.
5. Develop self-esteem: Creating a piece of art, however simple, enhances children’s self-esteem. When a child completes an art and craft activity and adults praise him, he feels happy and confident. So, it is important to choose art and craft activities based on the age of children. Also, adults must keep in mind that when a child finishes his activity, he should be praised for the effort he put in and not the product.
6. Boost creative skills: Art is a domain where children can use their active imagination productively. According to the US-based International Child Art Foundation, children who are exposed to art acquires the special ability to think creatively, be original and discover new things.
7. Nurture problem-solving skills: Dealing with an artistic challenge helps develop problem-solving skills. Planning and executing a creative project require children to make choices and take decisions. Working independently, evaluating their own decisions and, perhaps, changing them sharpens critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.
8. Foster social skills: Working together on creative activities gives children an opportunity to share and interact with each other. Also, putting materials away and cleaning up after they are through with their activity, help children learn about team work and being responsible.
9. Adapt to changes: There is no right or wrong way of exploring one’s creativity. After drawing a picture or painting an image, often, children would look at their work, contemplate and make changes. This helps them learn to make and accept changes, and adjust to them.
10. Augment visual processing skills: Art activities that help children recognise patterns, colours and shapes, enhance visual processing skills. These skills are an important part of cognitive development, especially during the early years of life.
Integrating art with other subjects improves the quality of learning. Art engages children more than textbook learning as it is immersive and fun. Creating or observing art helps children absorb concepts better. For instance, if young children are made to draw and colour numbers, they are be able to memorise them more easily. Art can aid in developing language skills too. For example, students can be taught a new word, for example, umbrella, and be made to draw it. This also helps sharpen observation skills.
Finally, art and craft are a good way for children to understand themselves and the world around them. It’s also a great way for parents and children to bond with each other. So, this weekend, get lost in the world of art together with your child.
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