It’s all about the arts: encouraging development in the early years

It’s all about the arts: encouraging development in the early years

by Carly Williams
Stripes Europe

When considering child development within the early years and beyond, it is important to understand the benefits of incorporating the arts into everyday activities. Doing so will give children opportunities to express themselves such as using their imagination, building strong bonds with others and develop an appreciation for the arts and cultural activities. It will also enhance development in other areas such as motor skills and literacy.

In simple terms, the arts generally comprise of the visual arts (painting, sculpting, arts and crafts, etc.), dance, drama, and music. Children of all ages benefit from regular participation in these areas and they are offered regularly as part of school and preschool curriculums.

All areas of the arts emphatically aid in child development because they encourage children to use their imagination and the activities engage the right side of their brains. Participation in the arts helps children build their self-esteem and confidence while helping them evolve their understanding of the world and their place in it. They also begin to develop their cultural identity through their connection with the arts and begin to establish an appreciation for other cultures too.

When parents sing to their young children, dance with them around the kitchen, participate in role-playing games such as “hospitals”, or create mini masterpieces with paints, they are aiding in their child’s learning in meaningful ways. Not only are they giving their children the time and attention that they need to thrive, but they are stimulating social and communication skills, and giving themselves the opportunity to respond to their child’s individual needs and interests. Besides all that: it’s fun!

Using paintbrushes, crayons, glue sticks and modeling tools encourages the refinement of fine motor skills. It helps to develop their concentration skills, attention to detail and memory. Learning colors and counting or grouping materials develop mathematical skills and experimenting encourages scientific thinking. Mark-making is, of course, the first steps towards writing.

Drama can be a useful tool for developing literacy skills because children learn to use language for a purpose, and vocabulary is enhanced and extended. Props such as books, newspapers and travel brochures become recognizable texts to children who use them appropriately within their play. In addition, comprehension skills become more sophisticated when children are encouraged to retell favorite stories and fairy tales in the form of plays.

The power of music in early literacy development is considerable. Listening to music, songs and rhymes increases phonological awareness and helps to develop the ability to break down words and sentences into shorter sounds. This helps with language development and eventually reading and writing. Vocabulary is enriched through the use of music, and children also become familiar with patterns and repetition, which are important in mathematics. In terms of other skills, action songs and rhymes can help to develop coordination as well as gross and fine motor skills. Music also encourages children to pay attention and refine their listening practices, which are critical skills needed for school.

Besides being fun and engaging, dance also has developmental benefits for young children. It aids in the progression of gross motor skills, encouraging movements such as skipping, hopping and jumping, as well as strengthening balancing ability. Coordination is improved, and children also get opportunities to develop spatial awareness and respect the personal space of others through dance. Early literacy skills can also be extended by using dance to tell stories, act out characters, and complete imaginative tasks.

Basing activities with your child around the arts will aid in their learning and provide them with the freedom to express themselves. Trips that invoke the arts such as visits to museums, galleries and the theater will provide stimulating experiences and will open your child’s mind to different ideas and cultures. Most importantly, engaging in activities such as painting, crafts, dance and singing are truly a fun way for all children to learn!

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