Why Art Is Critical to Your Child’s Development

When the No Child Left Behind Act passed in 2002, our lawmakers’ had good intentions. It promised to provide extra help for disadvantaged children and reform education.

The government felt it was important to focus on the basics: reading, writing, and mathematics. Regular testing would determine a school’s success in helping its children reach specific standards and test scores would impact funding levels.

The overall intent was to boost our children’s skills most related to economic success. Sounds great, right?

Well … let’s see what’s happened.

Since 2007, nearly seventy-one percent of schools in this country have reduced instruction time in history, arts, language, and music.

Why? Now, test scores matter more than ever.

In fact, in some schools, the art classes remain available. However, the schools will make students who lack proficiency in basic skills to take instead remedial courses emphasizing the three core elements of reading, writing and mathematics.

Oddly enough, physical education wasn’t affected like arts and music programs were but that’s because the government is also concerned about child obesity.

You can imagine what I have to say about all of this, right?

Art is important. For the moment, let’s disregard all the arguments about how art can resonate with our very soul. Let’s just keep to a few basic truths.

 Art Helps Children with Development of Motor Skills

Playing with crayons and a palette of colors looks like child’s play but guess what? Motions that require the creation of art – the way a child holds a pencil or crayon – builds motor skills in children.

In fact, the National Institute of Health has established milestones that children should be meeting:

  • By age three kids should be able to draw a circle and begin to cut in straight lines with scissors.
  • By age four, kids should be able to draw a square.
  • By the time your child enters elementary school, he or she should be able to describe their own creations.

Art Helps Children Develop Decision-Making Skills

Americans for the Arts released a study indicating that the creation of art by children helps them develop and strengthen problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

Think about it. Children have to decide what to draw, and then they need to decide what colors to use and what directions to take the brush or crayon. These are all important skills.

Visual Learning Skills

How would your children develop visual-spatial skills if they didn’t have clay, crayons or beads to thread?

Have you been around a toddler lately? Toddlers are likely to use an iPad and play games on it.

Again, this seems like child’s play but experts say this type of activity helps kids become smart consumers and learn out to pick up cues. There are so many reasons why art is critical to your child's development.

Art Encourages Originality

When kids are encouraged to create items with Legos, macaroni, or crayons, they learn to express themselves in a visual manner.

Think about Silicon Valley and the millions of applications that abound in the world. Creative people have ideas that advance the world and move the economy.

Art Encourages Cultural Awareness

Over time, art helps children to recognize when artists portray a subject purely as their interpretation of reality.

What your child draws may not appear to be a chair or the family dog to you but it does to your child. Similarly, children learn to accept that others have their perspective and that sometimes that perspective is driven by cultural values.

Art Courses Improve Academic Performance

Numerous studies indicate a strong connection between art and scholastic achievement.

According to The Importance of Art in Child Development:

“… young people who participate regularly in the arts (three hours a day on three days each week through one full year) are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to participate in a math and science fair or to win an award for writing an essay or poem than children who do not participate.”

So the next time your school discusses cuts to arts programs, bring this research to the school board and fight for the inclusion of art courses as part of your child’s academic training.

goose girl paints

Elizabeth B. Martin is the author and illustrator of six picture books for children. You can view her books here for free.