Early childhood education – The importance of integrating crafts

Don’t be fooled by watching a child finger-paint. By all means consider the fun they are having, but notice their intense focus and concentration as they enjoy that sensory experience. In that moment, they are deeply involved with the world around them.

Educators today note a definite correlation between art and academic achievement most likely because art offers so many important and necessary skills that are required in other areas of the school curriculum. In short, art successfully addresses the needs of the whole child.

Art presents children with an opportunity to express what they are thinking and feeling, a chance to express their own creativity and communicate their ideas. Simultaneously, art provides life skills lessons such as communication and problem solving, as well as social, emotional and fine motor skills. When teachers ask students to draw a picture of a story or to illustrate a daily journal, they are offering young children the opportunity to create visually what they may not yet be able to communicate in words. Here a child can share his or her ideas, feelings and reactions. Listening to children describe their drawings is much like listening to oral stories as they often express an abundance of emotions.

These conversations, whether at home or at school, also deepen language skills as parents or teachers provide children with the missing words and thus enhance vocabulary. That one-on-one conversation also lends itself to initiating and developing critical thinking skills as questions about a picnic, such as “What would have happened if it had started raining?” This makes young children consider effects and consequences. Simply deciding what to draw, already builds on the processes of selection and decision making skills.

Art also offers a way to support children to develop strong problem solving skills. Watch a child decide which type of crayon to use or what colour to choose or how to create new colours through exploring new techniques or mixing colours together. Simply learning how to use a variety of art materials effectively allows for children to take on challenges and assess outcomes. Art centres in the classroom or even the kitchen table, need only offer a few items such as coloured paper, scissors, beads, glue and markers but will still provide children with independent decision making opportunities as they select an activity as well as the chance to practise and develop those particular skills.

In addition, classroom art activities teach children social skills such as the polite way to share and take turns, as well as how to express appreciation for the efforts of others. It is a place where we learn to value other’s strengths and weaknesses and learn to praise each other and lend support.

In terms of fine motor skills, cutting, pasting, glueing and squeezing teach control over different materials. Cutting, whether cutting out pictures from magazines, letters or shapes, supports the dexterity and control required when learning to hold a pencil and beginning to write. Considering that children are born into a digital world , drawing and creating objects with play-doh and clay or stringing beads supports the much needed visual spatial skills required in our technological world.

Taking time to acknowledge a child’s artwork and pasting it up suggests your pride in that art piece because essentially it is exactly that …a creation! Forget striving for perfection but complement the effort that went into recreating that day trip to the zoo, remembering a special moment or simply drawing a family picture. It is a huge step in creating self esteem. When setting up art materials for children, focus on allowing them to make their own decisions, invent and take necessary risks. This will offer them an essential opportunity to acquire an appreciation and sense of inventiveness they will further develop as they mature. Children experience healthy, emotional satisfaction at their creations and reinforcing that satisfaction builds confidence and self esteem.

The key at home or in the classroom is to provide as much variety as possible. Online catalogues such as www.Hobbyworld123.com make the selection much easier, especially the way this online craft store categorizes their items. Parents and teachers will find everything they need to boost their child’s creativity by browsing through seasonal or holiday craft supplies online, or looking in sections for example itemizing paint, modeling clay, plastecine, beads , buttons and then ….. let a child’s imagination soar!

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