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Values & Education

More Than A Pretty Picture

I am a big subscriber to the fact that art is more than just the ability to paint a pretty picture. Many a time I have friends, family and strangers asking me if I can take art classes for their children on the lines of what I do with my son P. My answer all the time is a vehement ‘No’.

Importance Of Art In A Child's Life - More Than A Pretty Picture

Not because I cannot or don’t have the inclination to but I believe the introduction to art or doing creative things has to be with the parent as it is probably the best skill building exercise for the child and the best stress buster for the parent, even if the parent doesn’t possess a single artistic bone in her/him.

Art is probably the only medium that opens up all the 5 senses of a child along with the intellect. Art needs to be an experience and process not a neatly packed end product. And this experience is best when the parent is the facilitator/bystander. You don’t need to be a Picasso or Ravi Varma to do art projects with your child. Just flexing your fingers in clay or hand printing with your child can go miles in his/her developmental journey.

Art with P, has given me peeks into my son’s thoughts, behaviour and characteristics – something that I could have never caught on otherwise. Art has contributed in more ways than one in P’s sensory, language, emotional and social development. Let me explain how.

Sensory development:  Younger the child, greater the role of sensory play. Everything in his or her life pretty much has to be concrete and sensory. So dunking their tiny hands into paint, clay, water bead troughs, dried flowers, coloured rice and daal, introduces them to textures, shapes and colours. Adding fragrant oils like eucalyptus, lemon grass to dried flowers or rice/daal help in smell identification and distinctions.

Language development: Most of P’s vocabulary has been built during our art and book reading sessions. Since our book reading session is almost always followed up with an art session – be it a simple drawing of the character or making it out of some material, there is always talking, questioning, sequencing and storytelling. When a project involves multiple steps, I keep repeating it. Later in the day he retells the same to his dad/grandparents. This way his sequencing, vocabulary and storytelling abilities are sharpened.

Many a time P adds his own two-bit imaginary steps into the story at which point I don’t correct (unless it’s way off from the subject) to ensure I don’t curb his imagination and the ability to think on his feet.

Social language skills can be practised when working with many children. The kids get opportunities to use ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’. They learn to share, negotiate and wait for their turn in case supplies are short.

Emotional development: Nothing teaches an individual the virtue of patience and perseverance, like art. Of course in the pre schooler’s world of ‘instant gratification’, these virtues are non-existent. But they can be introduced and built through art. Making them wait till the paint is dry before displaying or further colouring, waiting a while before the glue sticks properly or having to redo a spray painting that got smudged, teaches the child not everything is a success or got readily.

I am a big fan of process art – where the importance is not to the finished product but the process itself.  This also means the child leads the activity and the adult is merely a facilitator. For example finger painting, splash art, spray painting etc. Younger children are engaged longer when the activity is open-ended, process based and not lead by an adult. Yes it is lot messier but the benefits of sensory and language development is far more than the mess it creates. And the insights into the little one’s mind during the art sessions is something no art teacher or art class can give you.

A teacher to children with challenges by profession, Maya is an artist by passion. In her free time she dabbles in art with her preschooler son. You can follow their arty journey on