From a very young age, children use art to communicate. Even those who don’t think of themselves as arty will have used art as a way to express themselves: from “painting” their high chairs and faces with their pureed food as a baby, messy crafting with toddlers and young children, to teens doodling on the back of their schoolbooks.
Art has a variety of unique, positive effects on preschoolers, young children, and teens that other activities don’t provide. We explore the benefits of art classes for kids, types of art and how they link with developmental milestones.
The benefits of art for kids
Art can help develop motor skills in kids
Art encourages children to develop fine motor skills from a young age. From the first time they grab hold of a crayon, colour within the lines, use scissors, manoeuvre a needle and thread, or sculpt shapes out of clay, children develop the dexterity they need for other life tasks. Developing hand-eye coordination and motor skills at an early age will help them to write when they get to school, as well as things like tying their shoelaces or doing up the buttons on their coat.
Art can support creativity and problem-solving skills
It’s no secret that anything arty is good for developing creativity in children. But, did you know that creative thinking can be a great skill beyond the art class? Thinking creatively supports the development of logic and problem-solving skills, encouraging kids to think outside the box!
Art can help children develop resilience
Art is an excellent tool for helping kids take a creative vision from start to finish. From concept to completed artwork, children will work through mistakes, and learn about using different strategies to reach their end goal and overcome challenges.
Art classes encourage self-expression and confidence
Unlike lots of the subjects children encounter at school, there is no “good” or “bad” art. There might be styles to learn about or simple rules to follow, but art is a wonderful way of building confidence by allowing children to express themselves without fear of a “wrong” result.
Art helps to develop Visual-Spatial Processing
Art activities often involve understanding and representing visual-spatial relationships. For example, drawing a landscape requires an understanding of space and perspective. Even at a more basic level, children drawing their pet or friend requires an understanding of the size and shape of things in relation to each other – known as visual-spatial processing.
Developing spatial awareness is essential for mathematical and scientific thinking, as well as day-to-day tasks like a child being able to envisage where a toy is in their bedroom. The great news is that good visual-spatial processing extends beyond these functional skills and leads to better memory and self-control.
Art is good for wellbeing
Studies have shown that taking part in creative arts and crafts activities is good for wellbeing – actively reducing stress and lowering anxiety. In one study, professor Girija Kaimal of Drexel University and the president-elect of the American Art Therapy Association, discovered that creating art for 45 minutes had a significant reduction in cortisol, the main stress chemical in our bodies, and that the brain's reward pathways become active during art-making activities like doodling.
Art ideas for kids of all ages
Arts and crafts ideas for toddlers and young children
One of the best ways to develop a love of art in young children is through messy play. it is also cheap and easy to do messy craft play at home. Head to places like The Works or Hobbycraft for cheap and cheerful water-based paints, crafting kits and jumbo chalk. Get them involved in bubble printing, finger painting and potato printing – all of which are great art activities for toddlers and young kids, but also give them that all-important sensory input which boosts their development.
In the summer, you could head out into the garden and create chalk art on the patio, or, if you’re feeling brave, lay out some wall-lining paper and get them to do body painting! If you’d rather keep the mess on the other side of the front door, then there are lots of art classes for toddlers that you could try out.
Arts and crafts ideas for 7-12 year olds
Although they might not admit it upfront, tweenagers will often LOVE getting involved in some of the messy play ideas that younger kids enjoy. Blow painting delivers the same great calming sensory input for older kids as it does for toddlers. However, as children get older, they may focus more on the end result than the process of making art. Activities such as rock painting, jewellery making, tie-dying and candle making are likely to appeal. There are plenty of great ideas in this Crafts for Tween blog from Childhood 101.
Arts and crafts for older children and teens
Children who have developed a love of art at a young age are likely to have developed their own style by the time they hit their teen years. If not, art can be a great way to get children of any age talking (so much so that art therapy is rapidly gaining momentum). Grab some crayons, a hairdryer, a canvas or card and some black paper and make colourful silhouette art following this YouTube tutorial, visit the world for plain wood jewellery boxes that are begging for some artistic flair, or buy some origami papers and test out their origami skills for something a bit more challenging.
A brief history of art for kids
Art can be traced back to the beginning of time – when people decorated caves with sticks, twigs and berries. The oldest known cave art that still exists dates back to 64,000 years ago!
In the early 1900s, art was an Olympic event, with medals given out for sporting-inspired masterpieces of architecture, music, painting, sculpture and literature. The founder of the modern Games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, believed that a true Olympian should be both a talented artist and sportsperson.
This video gives some key milestones in the history of art – from Renaissance and Classical art, to more modern styles such as impressionism, cubism, surrealism, pop art and minimalism. Twinkl also has a history of art timeline which can be great for teaching children about the different eras and styles. Getting children to create self-portraits in the style of famous artists such as Picasso can be a great way to encourage an interest in famous artists.
Looking for more information about art for children?
The simplest way to get kids involved in art is to find a kids' art class near you. However, there are lots and lots of lovely books available, as well as some great YouTube content such as @artforkidshub which allows children to self-teach. Artist Ruth Millington has curated a list of her favourite art books for kids, while MrsArtastic has a different list – both feature some great books to get your kids interested!
Ready to look for an art class for your kids?
Head on over to https://bookpebble.co.uk/activities/categories/arts-and-crafts and search by postcode for a class near you.