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5 Things You Didn't Know Art Does For Your Child's Brain

1. Self-Esteem & Confidence

When your child creates something, whether it is a cardboard structure assembled with duct tape and glue or pipe cleaners twisted together to create a cat, the fact that it first started out as a thought in their head and then came into existence by sheer doing, is one of the most powerful ways they can show their talents to the world before they even have the ability to talk about them!

Their “creations” are their masterpieces and if you’ve ever heard a child say “look at my picture,” “look at my building”, “look at my painting on the wall”, then you’ll remember the sound of pride in their voice (and the elbow grease and scrubbing that followed).

Give your child the gift of joy and pride by allowing their creative juices to flow.

2. Decision Making

When children are given a paint brush, paint and something to paint on, that’s when magic happens. With their very first move, they are making choices.

They are deciding what they want and then going for it. What color first? How much? Paint brush or finger? Swirls or dots? Lines or squiggles? These may seem like no brainers, but anyone under the age of 25 has an unfinished prefrontal cortex and therefore may struggle a bit with making decisions.

Give your child's prefrontal cortex a little workout.

The prefrontal cortex controls the execution, order and timing of sequential acts toward a goal, so, in other words: decision-making…

Humans need practice to get good at these things and art is one of the most pleasurable ways to achieve that practice. Sure, you can provide a decision-rich environment and include choices like “would you rather eat brussel sprouts or liverwurst for dinner tonight?” to get them to practice those skills but why not give them some fun choices too…

The more art-ing they do, the quicker they’ll be able to decide what shirt they want to wear that day and isn’t that reward enough?

Art is an important tool for your child's emotional, spiritual and physical development.

3. Fine Motor Skills

We’ve all been there… Watching our child practice a skill for the first time (or maybe the 50th time)... whether they are trying to cut in a straight line or trace something or tie their shoes, we sit patiently-ish on the sidelines, encouraging and watching, not helping. Not helping… Not helPing… but, when it’s an “activity” that they are “supposed” to be doing a certain way, isn’t there a part of us willing our hands to remain in our laps? It’s not that we don’t want them to achieve these things on their own, we just . want . to . helllppp, right?! Wrong. We all know that helping won’t really help in most cases.

So, instead of torturing yourself with “activities”, the best way for children to practice all of these fine motor skills is by letting them “have at it” so to speak. Give them a mish mash of tools and mediums… glue sticks, scissors, paper, glitter (or glitter glue if you just had a panic attack because I included that on the list), markers, crayons, paint, pottery, popsicle sticks and the forever favorite, googly eyes… and just let them create! Willy nilly… no set craft.

Throughout their creative process, they will have practiced so many skills and they won’t have even realized it. And, after all that fun, they’ll be that much closer to mastering that skill they might be struggling with (like scrubbing paint off the walls). Cool, right?

Kids need art. It is crucial for emotional and social well-being.

Art is therapy. Art is important. Self expression results in pride.

4. Expression

This is the biggie for me, the one I shout to the roof-tops about as often and as loudly as I can. Kids need and deserve a safe way to express themselves, especially their BIG feelings. Sometimes when I see a little human in the middle of a tantrum, my heart is just torn to pieces because much of what they are saying to us in that tantrum is that they don’t know how or why they are so upset and also that they don’t know how to stop it.

Have you ever seen an adult have a tantrum? Yeah, me too… It may look slightly different than that of a 3 year old (or not), but it is essentially the same thing, an inability to express one’s emotions in healthy ways.

Art provides a healthy and safe means of expressing emotion.

The thing is, kids have not learned those skills yet. They are like, super new to the planet Earth and anger and frustration just feel really, really bad to them. If we can offer them safe spaces to express themselves in non-verbal ways, the results are often a super relaxed, chilled out kiddo.

To me, the fact that tiny humans can express huge amounts of emotions through the use of color and movement in art, before they can even talk, is a miracle of miracles. It’s why art therapy is one of my favorite things. Ever.

Art forms bonds and fosters connections. It's not just a fun activity, but a parenting tool.

5. Connection

As if your kiddos getting to express themselves to the point of zen-ness wasn’t enough of a reason to pull out those paint brushes (see #4), check this out… Art creates bonds. If I had to do math, I would say that in our house, a good 80% of our “together time”, “mommy time” or “family time” is some form of art. We draw together, paint pottery together, glue googly eyes on random scraps of paper together. And, you know what we do WHILE we’re gluing said scraps together? We’re laughing and talking and yep, bonding.

Even through the silent moments when everyone is focused on their own masterpiece, there is a kumbaya type of thing going on, true connections building and fun being had. It’s one of the things I cherish and I know my kids do too. Art is the perfect way to change the trajectory of any day. It can make a hard day better and a great day, pure bliss. For the record, the other 20% of together time is spent pretending to be a monster or get this, “pretending to be a mommy” (pretty easy acting job for me, I gotta say).

Founder of Pottery Awesomeness, mom & artist
Stephanie has an Master of Fine Arts degree from the Savannah College of Art & Design

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