Art. Perhaps the most fluid, adaptable, subjective medium for self expression. It is for this very reason that most children take to it so naturally; every child is an artist in some way. From cave art to scribbles on walls by toddlers, there is enough evidence to show that art is primordial in us!
The influence of art on a child
Art can be whatever the child wants it to be. For some it is a talent to be honed over the years, for others, the experience can be cathartic; art allows the child to give vent to many pent up emotions. When given the space to pursue art without rigid rules, children find confidence and peace – as art gives them room to express their individuality.
A basic sense of direction and space can be gained from an involvement in art. Art forms such as sketching and sculpting hone a child’s fine motor skills (hand-eye coordination) and spatial skills (sense of distance, size and shape). Art is also a great way to develop cognitive and analytical function of the brain. Imaginative and creative abilities are also bound to improve. The heightened sensory awareness that is required of art also results in the child becoming capable of intense concentration and focus.
Art can also be therapeutic, for children with emotional difficulties, or those who have been subjected to abuse. Where words fail (the child may be unwilling, withdrawn or simply lack the necessary verbal or language skills), strokes and chisels may speak. It is precisely for this reason, that autistic children who are non-verbal, take to art as a medium to express and communicate. In addition, art can be used to help children deal with unusual stress. For example, the George Washington University Art Therapy Graduate Program conducts several art therapy sessions for children undergoing cancer treatment at the Cancer Institute in Chennai, and also at Saraswathi Kendra Learning Centre for Children (a school that provides unique educational experiences for children with special needs, learning disabilities, autism, ADD, and ADHD).
Involvement in art – the process
A child as young as two years starts differentiating colours and form. Most preschools initiate children into exploration of art.
Structured art classes are apt for children who are four plus and according to Mukta Ajaykumar, a New-Delhi based graphic designer and experienced art teacher, finger/hand painting and craft are the best ways to begin. Vijay, an art teacher at Jain International School, Bangalore, starts off beginner fiveyear- olds by asking them to recreate drawings. “This gives them the knowledge of different anatomies – an animal, a tree. It also gives them a fair sense of picture composition; what should be in the background, the relative sizes of the various elements etc. Once they have a good grasp of all these, I let them draw from their imagination.”