Being creative or displaying an interest in creativity can positively impact children.
According to the Public Broadcasting System, children show the most interest in the arts AND artistic activities are building blocks of child development.
Mary Ann Breisch, executive director of Valley Art Center in Chagrin Falls, and Lisa Yanofsky, performing arts teacher at Hathaway Brown School in Shaker Heights, both said exposure to artistic experiences can help inspire children, especially in academic situations.
At Hathaway Brown, early childhood students are introduced to movement and music activities.
“It breaks down into two major categories of rationale,” Yanofsky said. “We know that movement and music strengthen brain development and promotes certain patterns in the brain – patterns that lead to literacy skills and social-emotional skills, and certain movement patterns relate to brain development.
“But, being exposed to movement and music and having that be a rich part of your life is a way of knowing, exploring and framing the world. It’s a natural fit for children, who are prone to exploring.”
Yanofsky said children at Hathaway Brown are receptive to their movement and music programs, which is based on open-ended creative prompts. Each class is cooperative, but have moments where children can explore their interests, she said.
“Having these moments, that sets children up for the skills they need to do more academic learning and being a functional person,” Yanofsky noted. “Since we come at it from a sense of play, we hope they’re also building a love of learning any ways that will continue to support them.”
At Valley Art Center, children can explore art through tangible mediums like painting, clay work and jewelry making, allowing them to explore their personality and goals from a young age.
“Art is a language, and they learn to speak it very early,” Breisch explained. “It’s color and form and lines and textures, but it’s also thoughts and feelings. They’re having a conversation with the things they make and they’re self-editing. They’re freed up to experiment in an inner dialogue between themselves and the material, and the feelings they have about what they’re making.”
Breisch said a big part of artistic experiences is learning how to express oneself, which is a key step to make as a developing child.
“There is an important connection with pleasure, especially making a meaningful mark and claiming it, that you want to start early on,” she said. “Children who make art early are less likely to be self-critical. They don’t get down on themselves because they’ve made a mistake. They keep going.”
Breisch added art also makes connections to more straightforward concepts like math and history – especially through sequencing and studying the past.
Artistic experiences also allow children to take a step back and view the world in a larger, fuller sense, Yanofsky stated.
“One thing the arts does marvelously, and perhaps better than anything else, is to teach taking social perspectives with the ability to zoom out and find what experiences are and are not being told,” she explained. “It gives students agency over the story being told, to have perspective and to do that in new, fresh ways. I’m a big believer in being able to access these different creative tools. It’s a way of seeing the world.”
Parents also play a key role in encouraging artistic experiences and exploration.
“They can make or break a budding artist, a fertile little mind,” Yanofsky said. “We don’t encourage parents to make their kids take an art class, but to follow their interests. Some kids are more interested in visual arts, music or dance, but it’s important to expose them to other experiences so they’re comfortable in that world.”
Breisch said, “The more parents can integrate these experiences, the more it’s normalized.”