Art is basic. Of course, every subject area is important, but no program for young children could succeed without emphasizing art. Through making, looking at, and talking about their own artwork and the art of others, three-, four-, and five-year-old children are doing the following:
- Expressing their feelings and emotions in a safe way. They learn to control their emotions and recognize that they can express and handle negative as well as joyous feelings through positive action.
- Practicing and gaining fine muscle control and strengthening eye-hand motor coordination. By holding paintbrushes and learning how to control paint, crayons, scissors, and other art tools, children gain the skills necessary for later writing activities as well as a feeling of control over themselves and their world.
- Developing perceptual abilities. Awareness of colors, shapes, forms, lines, and textures result as children observe these and try to replicate them through art.
- Being given the opportunity to make choices and solve problems. How do you get the legs to stick on a clay figure? What color should I use? Making art offers children a multitude of choices and many decisions to make.
- Seeing that others have differing points of view and ways of expressing these than they do. Comparing children’s drawings, paintings, or models gives children concrete, dramatic examples of how different people express the same thing in different ways. While learning that their way is not the only way, they learn to value diversity (Strasser, 2001).
- Becoming aware of the idea that, through art, culture is transmitted. Becoming acquainted with the art of the past, children are involved in learning something of their origins and themselves.
- Experiencing success. Because art leaves the end open to the creator, all children experience a measure of success. This is why art activities are appropriate for children with special needs. Regardless of the physical or mental need of the child, there is some art media and activity through which he or she can experience success.
- Making connections between the visual arts and other disciplines. Art integrates the curriculum. Content from every subject matter can find form through art.
Mathematics. Children become aware of different sizes, shapes, and parallel lines and use every mathematical concept as they discuss their art and the art of others.
Science. Paint changes texture as it dries, powdered paint and chalk dissolve in water, and chalk produces bubbles when dipped in water. Also, paints change color when they are mixed together. The physical sciences are ever present as children produce art.
Economics. This and other concepts from the social studies develop. Children become producers by making art and consumers by using the materials of art.
Language. Children learn to talk about their art and the art of others and develop the vocabulary of art.
Beginning reading. Children make and read symbols that represent reality.
Social skills. By sharing paints and paper, cooperating to create a group mural or other project, and assuming responsibility for cleaning up, children gain valuable social skills through making art.