The Benefits of Art Therapy

The creativity practised by children is dynamic, changing and fluid. Its greatest satisfaction is in the process and not the product. It is a state of “becoming”. It is also an intensely personal process since the creativity lies within the child.

Art classes have traditionally been an important part of early childhood programs. Friedrich Froebel, the father of kindergarten, believed that young children should be involved in both making their own art and enjoying the art of others. To Froebel, art activities were important, not because they allowed teachers to recognise children with unusual abilities, but because they encouraged each child’s full and all-sided development.

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.

Twyla Tharp

Art classes have the ability to develop cognitive, social and motor abilities as well as critical thinking and problem-solving which together add to overall academic achievement. It teaches children life skills such as developing an informed perception, articulating a vision, learning to solve problems and make decisions, building self-confidence and accepting responsibility to complete art projects. Art classes also develop team building skills, respect of alternative points as well as being aware of other cultures.

Art classes for very young children are important as it allows for sensory exploration. Children enjoy the feel of cold paint on paper, clutching a crayon as they sweep it across a piece of paper. Smelling and tasting are part of the process. Art classes give children an opportunity to make decisions and self-evaluations.

Later on, children will use objects or symbols as they move away from sensory exploration and drawing will become an activity that symbolises what they know and feel. Art therapy is also an outlet for children who have limited written or verbal skills.

Art develops motor skills such as fine motor skills essential for writing and drawing while large arm movements that are required for painting or drawing at an easel or on the floor, build coordination and strength. The smaller movements of the fingers, hands and wrists required for cutting, model clay, painting and drawing develop fine motor dexterity and control. Making art also develops hand-eye coordination and helps develop aesthetic values in children.

Finally art is non-invasive and is therefore a less demanding form of therapy. This is especially useful for children who are going through a traumatic period as they can find solace in making art as it is a natural vehicle to release tension.