Arts Experiences for Young Children

Barnardos. (2019). Arts Experiences for Young Children.
When the arts are mentioned, some people might initially be put off, thinking of what they see as highbrow activities such as opera or ballet that are created and enjoyed by only a select few. But the arts are any expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, and include any opportunities to create and to enjoy creativity in yourself and others. This might be literature, including poetry and prose, performing arts such as dance, music and drama, or visual arts including drawing, painting, photography and sculpting. When we talk of arts experiences for young children, therefore, we mean any experiences that children take part in through their play that allows them to creatively express their own ideas and share with others in their delight in discovery. We know that all early experiences have an impact on brain development. It is not surprising, therefore, that several studies have uncovered significant positive long-term impacts of creative environments and arts experiences on children’s cognitive development by enhancing language development, numeracy, literacy and understanding of other people. Arts experiences in early childhood are all about exploration. Your child’s natural curiosity to try things out and use materials in many different ways is a foundation for the development of imagination and creativity. Using open-ended materials such as sand, water, twigs and mud, for example, will give your child opportunities to experiment and to try and try again with no right or wrong answers. Engaging in arts experiences can also help your child to understand that there is not just one way of doing something – there are many ways to create a picture or model of a person, to move and dance, or to sing. Through the arts, your child will therefore learn a ‘can do’ disposition that will support them when solving problems and facing new situations. By encouraging creativity and imagination, you can promote your child’s ability to understand their world, which will support their developing independence, thus increasing their self-confidence. As your child explores a variety of arts experiences, they will come to know themselves better. Using materials they have found as costumes and props in imaginative play will also support them to know and understand others, as they imagine what it might be like to be an animal or a character in a story, a doctor, librarian, ambulance driver, shopkeeper or rocket scientist, or even someone they know like granny, baby sister or daddy. As they put themselves into the shoes of other people, your child is taking steps to develop empathy. Arts experiences will also support your child’s physical development, including both fine motor skills developed through holding a crayon, using scissors and threading beads, and gross motor skills that come from big movements such as dancing or large actions to nursery rhymes. Other benefits to be gained from activities such as movement and dance include a deepening of your child’s awareness of their own body and the space around them, and a joy from being in control of and challenging their body. Experiencing arts activities with adults and other children will support your child’s ability to express and control feelings, to help others, and to negotiate and interact with the environment and others in it. This will also provide opportunities for your child to see themselves as capable and competent as they develop secure relationships with those around them. Children who are secure in these relationships are generally happy to explore their environments extensively and develop interests that they can build on in the future.