Why Art is Important for Kids

Interview with Lisa Medoff, PhD, Child Psychologist.  Lisa works with students of all ages, consulting with families and schools to help them provide the optimal home and school environments for their children. She has taught child & adolescent development and psychology courses at Stanford University and other schools in the Bay area, and is the author of a weekly child psychology column for the website Education.com.

We here at Kiwi Crate are big believers in getting kids involved in hands-on activities, like art and crafts.  Aside from just the fun of it and creating great gifts for grandparents, is there any science to show it’s helpful to kids down the line?

There are many reasons that giving children a space to create artwork is extremely important.  Supporting their explorations in art fosters creativity, which is not merely helpful in an extracurricular sense.  With the fast pace of change in the technological and business worlds, creative people who can engage in abstract, flexible thinking will be more in demand than those who can merely memorize information and regurgitate it on an exam.

So if my son keeps working on his pictures of Luke Skywalker battling purple dragon bats, he may actually get a job someday – whew!  My daughter is younger, so her forays in artwork are more about exploring materials – practicing with markers, paintbrushes, scissors (oh, the adventures with scissors!)  Are there benefits to that?

Definitely – in addition to the impact on creativity, there are huge physiological benefits from engaging in art.  Art engages both gross (large parts of the body, such as torso and arms) and fine (smaller parts of the body, such as fingers) motor skills, which means that children will get practice controlling the parts of the body that will be necessary to use when they are learning a wide variety of skills in school, from kicking a ball on the field to mastering writing. Working on artwork helps children learn how to coordinate different physical movements to create a desire result.

How about MY desired result of getting the caps back on the markers?

Well, I can’t guarantee that, but there are other benefits too.  Art can help children express feelings that they do not yet have the language to communicate.  Talking about feelings in the context of art can validate what the child is experiencing, as well as helping your child to remember new words to express himself by directly connecting a word to an experience.  Art can capture a feeling that a child does not yet know how to share verbally, but give her a sense that sharing emotions feels good.

I knew that it “felt right” to encourage my kids’ interest in art, but it’s great to hear that there are so many real benefits to them.  Anything else you’d like to share?

Last, but certainly not least, art is fun!  In a world where children are increasingly pressured to achieve in many areas from younger and younger ages, it is important that they learn how to relieve stress and enjoy themselves.  Children who discover when they need to lose themselves in a joyful escape from a stressful situation may be better at coping with difficult situations when they do arise.

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