How young is too young to begin teaching art to children?
Community School of Music & Arts teachers start working with young artists as they begin to draw, paint and sculpt as early as 15 months old! Classes for the youngest students are fun and process-oriented, meaning the focus is on the steps of creating rather than achieving an ideal end result. Studies show a strong connection between art education and a student’s academic, social and emotional outcomes* and kids this age are wide open to learning new things.
Lena Boot has worked as a preschool art teacher at CSMA for more than eight years and is a believer in the value of art for young children: “Art education offers another language with which children can express themselves, as well as bringing great joy, delight and wonder to a child’s life! It provides a time for them to explore the materials directly and learn about their various properties, which helps build a foundation of knowledge and understanding of art media. Through repeated encounters with materials and tools, young children build their confidence.”
In CSMA’s Little Artists 1 class for children 18 months-3 years old, students and parents are encouraged to express themselves through different mediums. As families enter the classroom, the students don tiny artist’s aprons, are greeted by their teacher and make a choice between four activities.
Usually, two tables will have a painting project using different tools. Sometimes students use paintbrushes, on other days fly swatters, toy cars or their hands.
The other tables are filled with sensory activities. One week children will work with water beads, sometimes they have fun with shaving cream with watercolor mixed in. Lena says, “Sensory experiences can provide wonderful opportunities for problem-solving, language development, fine motor development and social interaction.”
The students are encouraged to take part in the activity that speaks to their soul that day. One day, a child might spend their entire time at a sensory activity. The following week that same child might create 10 different pieces of art. “That is OK. They are doing what they need,” according to Lena.
As the class winds down, Lean signals that it is time to wash up with a cleanup song. After everyone is somewhat paint-free, the students end the class by ringing a bell and shaking hands with their teacher. When a timid child approaches Lena with a hug, it is clear that this class is about more than art, but also allows for social growth.
“These classes offer parents and children a place to enjoy new experiences together,” Lena says. “Art offers parents another view of their capable and competent child.” Students also gain fine motor skill development, decision-making skills, visual learning and focus.
CSMA is enrolling now for Winter art classes for kids (and parents!) of all ages. For more information go to www.arts4all.org.
*Menzer, Melissa. “How Is Arts Participation Linked to Social-Emotional Development?” The Arts in Early Childhood: Social and Emotional Benefits of Arts Participation, Dec. 2015, pp. 7–10.