Children and the Arts
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Updated 9/11/02.

Children Learn through Play

Young children are active learners; they learn through play. The art area is a place to play. A piece of paper at the art table or easel is a playground and crayons, markers, and paints become play tools. Scraps for collage and construction, play dough, and clay also serve as creative tools for play and self-expression.
Amanda Painting at an Easel.
Bredekamp and Rosegrant (1992b) described the developmental cycle of learning. The learning cycle begins with awareness that leads to exploration, inquiry, and utilization. Children need to play with paint, crayons, markers, chalks, pencils, glues, paper, play dough, cardboard, collage, and scrap materials. Through play children discover how materials feel, smell, look, and sound, what can be done with them, and how far they can be controlled. Children need the widest variety of materials possible to enable them to examine the values and discover the properties of these materials. Opportunities to try materials in new ways, including finger, hand, and foot painting, paper tearing, paint flicking, and blow painting, increases discovery and understanding.

Children need opportunities to develop their own marks and symbols while drawing, painting, and making three-dimensional projects as their own imagination directs them. Some children have not been encouraged to do so or have not been given the opportunity and time. Many children and adults are taught to think there is only one way to use visual art tools and materials. Although the child needs to be shown skills and the safe use of tools, adults should value any willingness by the child to improvise and experiment. Many young children show a preference and aptitude for the expressive arts. These spatial, musical, and kinesthetic intelligences, as identified by Howard Gardner (1993), need to be nurtured and encouraged.

"Children and the Arts" includes sections entitled Children's Art Develops through Play, and The Cycle of Learning. This chapter also discusses the development of children's art and emergent writing.

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