We've all been there.
As parents, we've all had that moment when our child has just spent time coloring, drawing, or crafting a work of art. They proudly waltz over to you as if someone just handed them a winning trophy and then ask, "Mama, do you like it?" You, like me, probably did your very best to NOT say, "what the heck is that?" Instead, you smile lovingly and say, "Tell me about your creation, darling." It isn't until then that you realize that what looked like a blob with a tree on it's head is actually a very carefully drawn unicorn. You then follow up with, "Honey, that is the most beautiful unicorn I have ever seen."
Don't judge. We've all been there at one time or another. We don't ever want our children to know the feeling of not being good enough. We build them up and shower them with all kinds of lavishing words to make them feel good about themselves. Fostering creativity is a huge part of parenting and it is exactly the focus of this post. What is the value of fine arts when it comes to extracurricular activities?
While there is a plethora of great fine art activities, I am going to lump it all into two categories: music and art. Let's first talk about the benefits that these two areas have in common. Both music and art use the creative brain. Musicians use creativity to represent thoughts or feelings. Low, somber pieces probably represent some kind of sad or disappointing moments and bubbly, bouncy pieces probably represent excitement or joy. Art is similar, but instead of audible creativity, its all visual. Bright, swift paint strokes probably represent something happy or new, while dull colors with long, smooth strokes might represent peace or a sense of calm. We don't need to limit creativity to instruments and painting though. There are loads of way artists can show their creativity. Think about beat boxers, composers, singers, photographers, potters, wood carvers, and people who sew, crochet, or knit. Creativity is a huge part of the process for all of these creators.
Fine Motor Skills
The other piece that makes both music and art similar is the fact that both of these areas grow fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are those little movements that we make with our hands and fingers. I know very few pianists who learned to play piano with their knees and elbows. Fine motor skills are what enable us to make small movements with the smallest parts of our bodies. Kids need to develop these so that they can learn to write with pens or pencils. These skills are also needed to use electronics such as keyboards and tablets. Doctors and scientists needs steady hands to do much of the work that they do. Fine arts are a great way to develop fine motor skills that will be used for years to come.
What is it about art that is so important?
We've identified a couple reasons how music and art are similar, but let's identify why art is so important. According to pbs.org, there are seven reasons that art is valuable for kids, but I am just going to hone in on a few.
Believe it or not, language development is one of the most important benefits of incorporating art activities into your child's life. At the beginning of this post, I mentioned about your child wanting to describe his or her drawing or creation to you. That is exactly where the power lies. As children grow, they learn how to describe things based on what they hear in their surroundings. Allowing them to create and then explain their creations to you is a great way to encourage language development.
You will see a progression of word difficulty as children age. Check out the picture to the right. As a toddler or preschooler, your child may call this drawing of a flower a "pretty." It may later become a "flower." Then, at last, they identify it as a "rose." All three of those words could be used to describe this exact same drawing. That is an example of the language development piece of art.
Another reason why art is important for kids is because it teaches decision making. When children are being creative, they have to decide what to do next. It forces them to make a decision about what they are going to draw. They have to choose media, colors, and process to come to a final work of art. How many of you have kiddos in your life that cannot make up their minds? (Hand raised.) Yeah. We need more art in my house. That's for sure.
A beautiful benefit of involving your children in art is cultural awareness. Many different kinds of art derived from various parts of the world and each can teach us something about another culture. For example, because of my family's impending Haitian adoption, we travel to Haiti fairly frequently. The art we see in Haiti is very different from art here in the States. Some paintings are of Haitian woman carrying water and are bright in color. Metal art is also very popular in Haiti. Both of those things are a testament to the Haitian culture. Keep in mind that each kind of art comes with its own story. Don't miss out on teaching your children about the beauty of each culture.
What's in the music?
We've talked art. Now, let's talk tunes. Once again, pbs.org has done a great job of sharing many reasons why music is so important for kids. Allow me to hit what I think are the most important parts.
You've likely seen pictures (or were in one) of pregnant women playing classical music on their round bellies. Well, as crazy as it seems, there very well may be value in doing that. Exposing children to music has been linked to studies showing an increase in children's IQ. If your child has an interest in music or a desire to take music lessons, don't miss the opportunity! There are benefits that will pay off in many other areas such as how the brain processes information. After all, what parent doesn't want a super bright and intelligent child?
Better Test Scores & Problem Solving
Children who have had musical training have also been known to be better test takers. Their ability to recall information is much higher and they are able to focus better. Additionally, musically trained children are good problem solvers. Problem solvers typically end up in science, technology, engineering, and math fields, which is likely why the abbreviation S.T.E.M. recently became known as S.T.E.A.M. After studies showed this cool phenomenon, they went ahead and added "A" for Arts.
Music and art activities are great for anyone, but especially for kids who love music and art. Increased fine motor skills, creativity, and problem solving skills are only some of the incredible benefits that come from these extracurricular activities.
Overall, fine arts do play a huge role in our children's development. In the Austin area, there are oodles of music and art opportunities to involve your kiddos in. From Girls Rock Austin to The Austin Artery, you can't go wrong. Do your research and find the perfect piece to add to your kiddos extracurricular puzzle.