By Edeline Anne Goh
“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” – Confuscious
Ever wonder why teaching modules in kindergartens involve music, colours, drawing, drama and playtime or why children who are enrolled in art classes tend to score better in school than students who are not involved in arts? Perhaps you’ve noticed that corporations are starting to revamp the concept of the office — adding a creative touch to the interior design.
With relation to the words of Confucious, art is about expressing oneself through visuals such as paintings and sculpting or through actions such as drama, music or dancing. The power of art has been recognised for eons. For instance, tribes use art to create their identity and culture such as through dance and music that is passed on from generation to generation. Art also helps educate future generations about their roots.
Neuroscientists are still in the midst of discovering the relationship between art and learning development. Numerous researches have proven that art-rich education modules help to improve learning in schools. There is no doubt that art contributes to the growth of your skills, allowing you to exercise your creativity, social skills and emotions. Aside from enhancing your imagination and creativity, art encourages critical thinking and cognition.
Unfortunately, many parents and even schools think of art as a waste of time, choosing to eliminate it when budget constraints arise. Truth is, art does wonders in developing the emotional and mental capacity of a child or an adult.
ART AND COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT
To truly understand the impact of art and brain development, it is important to start at the beginning. During the brain’s early years, neural connections are made at a rapid pace. Many of the activities that children participate in involve play, dancing, singing and drawing. These activities engage all the senses and wire the brain for successful learning.
When children start attending school, these art activities need to be continued and enhanced. Getting your child involved with art, at a young age, helps to develop the brain as the child learns to identify images, words and phonics through songs and images.
Aside from that, when you connect your child to an art-rich environment, you are helping to increase memory power through practice. For instance, a child who is enrolled in a music class is required to practice in order to improve his or her music skills. This process helps to stimulate and increase your child’s ability to remember.
Dancing, on the other hand, helps to develop gross motor skills during your child’s early years, as well as improve coordination. This will help turn your child into a fast learner as he or she copes with new dance routines in class.
ART AND EMOTIONS
Art provides a creative way to channel emotions. From visual art, literary arts to the performing arts, many choose art as a way to express feelings.
Art, among the young, is believed to produce positive emotions such as happiness and curiosity while promoting greater emotional intelligence. It can also help young people handle tricky, negative feelings such as sadness, fear and anger.
In school, subjects related to art can help students deal with difficult emotions in a healthy way. This leads to an ability to tackle difficult situations in the future — hence contributing to a higher chance of success in life.
Likewise for adults, composing music, painting or writing poems are all about expressing feelings. For instance, soldiers who compose rap songs as a way of expressing and managing their emotions during a war are better able to cope with the myriad of emotions that arise in the chaos and challenges of the battlefield.
ARTS AND MATHEMATICS
Who would ever think that art would help to improve mathematical skills?
If your child is facing difficulties dealing with numbers at school, consider investing in music lessons, which will help to enhance your child’s mathematical abilities. Counting beats and reading notes will help your child with numbers.
During your child’s early years, apply art techniques — using collages or beads — to teach your child math as it helps them remember and count better. For instance, teach basic addition and subtraction using different visuals placed on a collage.
Also, make learning fun with art by sculpting different shapes and sizes with cardboard or paper and introduce your child to the various shapes that you have sculpted together.
ARTS AND LITERACY
Results from research as reported in The Arts: Critical Link To Students Success by Deasy and Stevenson has proven that children who illustrate pictures of stories they have read, will improve their reading and are motivated to read new material. After reading a storybook, encourage your child to draw illustrations of what he or she understands from the story.
You can also apply this technique on yourself when you are learning a new language. You will notice your level of understanding increase as art helps to enhance the memory, making learning easier and fun.
Creating visuals after reading a passage of text also helps when studying for an exam as most children find it difficult to remember information directly from a book. Drawing simple images based on the key words or remembering information by visualizing it in the mind helps a student recall the information and score better in exams.
Art can help enhance the ability to absorb knowledge and this makes learning easy and fun.
YOUR ROLE AS A PARENT
Art can be incorporated into family activities. Allow your child to exercise his or her cognitive and creative skills by providing your child with necessary tools that can be used to explore and learn. You do not need expensive tools. It is far more important to provide a variety of tools for your child to choose from such as cooking utensils, playing blocks or crayons and paper. However, be sure the tools are child friendly. You should also be by your child’s side while they play so you can contribute to their learning experience and while you’re at it, identify what your child’s interests are and assist your child in the learning and development process based on his or her interest and skills.
EXERCISE YOUR CREATIVE SKILLS AS AN ADULT
Adults are just as creative as children. Put your creativity to the test and you might just develop a new interest, which helps to improve your memory and keep your mind active and young. Enroll yourself in an art class for adults or learn to dance, sew or sing. These activities not only keep you occupied but it keeps your brain healthy too. Remember, it is never too late to introduce art into your life and watch it’s amazing effects.