Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Importance of Art and Self-Expression in Toddlers

The Importance of Art and Self-Expression in Toddlers

The toddler years are full of discovery for a child. Not only is she learning about the world around her, she’s also learning about herself.

One of the most discussed aspects of toddlerhood is how children learn to use words to convey their thoughts and feelings. But children also learn to express themselves in other ways during the early years.

One of the most intriguing ways that youngsters express themselves is through art. If you hand a young child a crayon and a piece of paper, she will almost certainly start scribbling away contentedly. While this may not look like art to an adult, it’s fascinating to young minds.

Toddlers are not consciously aware of color co-ordination and spatial relationships. But art can give them a sense of these things. And this is only the beginning.

Some of the many benefits of art for toddlers include:

* Art boosts a child’s confidence. Even monochromatic scribbles on a piece of paper give kids a sense of accomplishment, because they've created something that wasn’t there before. And as they progress toward using multiple colors and forming recognizable shapes, they gain even more confidence.

* Artistic activities are soothing. Being a toddler can be frustrating, and participating in a quiet activity provides a chance to calm down. Art takes a child’s mind off of the source of frustration and channels it into something enjoyable and productive.

* Art lengthens a child’s attention span. The simple act of putting crayon to paper or squeezing a ball of clay requires a child to pay attention to what she’s doing. And while toddlers tend to spend most of their waking hours on the run, art can keep them sitting still for several minutes at a time. As their skills develop, so will their attention spans.

* Art builds motor skills. Holding a crayon, finger painting, squeezing and flattening clay or play dough, and gluing shapes onto paper all require kids to use their hand muscles in different ways. Such activities also promote hand-eye coordination.

* Creative activities promote abstract thinking. When a child takes an idea and puts it on paper or models it in play dough, she is creating a physical representation of something that exists in her mind. Learning to use this type of thinking early will help your child learn more efficiently throughout life.

Self-expression is a critical part of every child’s development. Speech can help toddlers convey what they’re thinking and feeling, but it can hardly keep up with their constantly evolving brains.

Art provides another much-needed outlet for budding young minds, and at the same time it teaches important skills. It’s also lots of fun for them. With all of these benefits, it’s easy to see why encouraging toddlers to be artistic is so important.

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