Mommy, look what I made! It’s so exciting when your toddler creates his/her first work of art. You admire it and post it on the refrigerator. There is so much hidden in this simple picture; so much more than meets the eye.
Art is so important for children’s development. It provides emotional satisfaction, giving children control of the materials and autonomy in decision making – what color to use, where to paste the eyes. It helps build self esteem by allowing them to express what they are thinking and feeling through artistic expression. It works on motor development in both the large and small muscle groups. Modeling clay, painting and drawing help small muscles while large mural painting and drawing on the floor or easel work on the large muscles. Deciding where to place objects, what details to include in a picture all help eye-hand coordination; they learn to coordinate what they see with the movements of their fingers. For younger children, art can be a wonderful sensory-exploration activity. Handling clay, finger painting, gluing are messy, fun activities.
It’s easy to introduce your children to art. A simple box filled with crayons (chunky ones for little hands), washable paints, feathers, tissue paper, glue, paper plates and construction paper can provide hours of entertainment. A backpack with crayons, paper and stickers can be a perfect restaurant companion. Handmade cards to family and friends are so special for both the artist and the recipient. Just remember…it is the process, not the product. When you are presented with a beautiful “work of art”, don’t assume you know what it is. How awful to complement the pretty flower, only to be told it’s a dog. Ask your child to tell you about her picture and you may be surprised by the response. “It’s just a picture”, or…a paper painted brown can be “the suit daddy wears to work”.
Once you have given your budding artist the tools to create – be prepared. Your refrigerator will be covered, your walls will be full, you’ll be sending pictures to grandma and other unsuspecting relatives. The guilt over throwing out your child’s work – that’s a subject for another day!
This guest post was written by Lois Glass, Director of Long Island Gymboree Play & Music. If you are interested in art classes for your child, Gymboree offers one hour age-appropriate art workshops for children 18 months to 5 years old where they can explore themes through stories, songs and artistic expression. If you have not experienced a Gymboree art class, call 631.266.1114 for your complimentary trial class – a great chance to see what it’s all about. Visit our Community Resources for more information about Gymboree Play & Music and the exact location of their Long Island centers.