Kids Brains on Art: How Art Benefits Youth Development
By: Emma Keinath-Lopez
February 07, 2023
Children’s brains are like sponges. Studies show that between the ages of 2-7, children’s brains absorb information quite rapidly. Throughout formal education, youth are bombarded with new ideas in all different subjects. This period of absorption is critical for development, but so is the act of releasing. It can be an incredibly cathartic and empowering experience for a child to create rather than being on the receiving end.
Many people are starting to realize the power that art education has on youth. In fact, 91 percent of Americans believe that the arts are vital to providing a well-rounded education. The Brookings Institution conducted a large-scale study of over 42 elementary and middle schools that examined the sustained reinvigoration of school-wide arts education. They found that “a substantial increase in arts educational experiences has remarkable impacts on students’ academic, social, and emotional outcomes. Students in the study receiving arts education experience “a 3.6 percentage point reduction in disciplinary infractions, an improvement of 13 percent of a standard deviation in standardized writing scores, and an increase of 8 percent of a standard deviation in their compassion for others.” When they restricted analysis to elementary schools, they found that “increases in arts learning positively and significantly affect students’ school engagement, college aspirations, and their inclinations to draw upon works of art as a means for empathizing with others” (Brookings). These findings support the message that art education is vital to a child’s well-being and development. The benefits of art can be seen in quite a number of different ways.
Builds skills both physically and academically
Creating art improves children’s fine motor skills and develops their creative problem-solving skills. Simple acts such as cutting paper, gluing, or finger painting helps children become independent thinkers and aids in developing coordination. Building these skills helps with academic achievement. In fact, a report from Americans for the Arts concluded that children who regularly engage in artistic activities are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement. Outside the world of academia, these skills are beneficial to children outside the classroom as well.
Creates a sense of self
Many children struggle with finding their own voice and identity, which is a natural process of growing up. When a student engages with the creation of art, they are responsible for the outcome, and the process it takes to get there. By being put in the driver’s seat of creation, they learn more about their likes, dislikes, style, and overall personal identity. It can be easier for youth to form their identity in a visual way rather than trying to make sense of the twirling turbid thoughts of adolescence. According to the International Child Art Foundation, “Research indicates that a child who is exposed to the arts acquires a special ability to think creatively, be original, discover, innovate, and create intellectual property—key attributes for individual success and social prosperity in the twenty-first century.”
Expression beyond words
Not everyone finds it easy to express themselves vocally or through writing, and that’s okay. Art is an outlet for expression, especially in children who oftentimes have to cope with uncontrollable situations and strong emotions that can be overwhelming. For little ones who don’t yet have the vocabulary to express themselves with words, art is their voice. Even older children who have the vocabulary oftentimes prefer to speak through art. Every human has a different way of sharing what they are feeling, and art can be an incredibly helpful medium for expression.
Many can think back to an art project they did when they were younger. My memory is of a scratchboard of a wolf. I remember each stroke of the tool used to detail the individual hairs on the creature. I went on to make scratchboards of many different animals, mostly ones that could be found out west in the wide array of public lands. Today, I find myself in Wyoming, still admiring the animals I used to create, but now seeing them in the flesh. As with many of the activities we engage with in youth, art can shape where we go, what we do, and how we interact with the world around us.
As one creates art, it simultaneously moves, shapes, builds, and transforms the self. What can a child take from engaging in art? The answer is different for every child, but most often centers around a greater understanding of the self, and the world around them.
Enrich your child’s development by not only making art accessible to them, but also putting them in environments that foster a growth and creativity mindset. This week Wednesday, February 8th, Youth Class Registration for the Spring 2023 begins. At this time, parents can register their children for after school classes and Spring break camps. Don’t wait too long, since classes fill up fast!