Art is good for your kids—and here’s the 10 reasons why


Dr.Anna Bryant

DM Magazine Executive Writer

Kids who doodle, finger paint, or design bead jewelry aren’t just making art—they’re boosting their brainpower.

Making a masterpiece—or just a stick-figure drawing—is actually a problem-solving project for kids: First a child looks at the materials and decides what they want to make and how they’ll make it. Then they’ll engage motor skills by manipulating tools to make and adjust their art until they’re happy with their creation … or not. (Dealing with disappointment is good life practice too.)

Creating art can even make your child a kinder friend. Neurologists have found that creating art at least once a week can increase introspection and empathy because the act strengthens the brain’s default mode network, regions that are active when thinking about others and your own actions. Art can also help kids be kinder to themselves. In one study, professor Girija Kaimal of Drexel University and the president-elect of the American Art Therapy Association, discovered that creating art for 45 minutes had a significant reduction in cortisol, the main stress chemical in our bodies.

Making original art instead of, say, coloring in a coloring book might have benefits as well. Studies have shown that free drawing keeps people more focused on the activity than directed art, and significantly improves creative thinking skills. “Improvisation totally lights up the brain,” Kaimal says.

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Here are the Ten Reasons Why Art is Good for Kids and the World:

1) Art Generates a Love of Learning & Creativity. Art develops a willingness to explore what has not existed before. Art teaches risk taking, learning from one's mistakes, and being open to other possibilities. Kids who are creative are also curious and passionate about knowing more.

2) Art Develops the Whole Brain. Art strengthens focus and increases attention, develops hand-eye coordination, requires practice and strategic thinking, and involves interacting with the material world through different tools and art mediums.

3) Art Prepares Kids for the Future. Creative, open-minded people are highly desired in all career paths. Art and creative education increases the future quality of the local and global community. Being creative is a life long skill and can be used in every day situations.

4) Art Teaches Problem Solving. Making art teaches that there is more than one solution to the same problem. Art challenges our beliefs and encourages open-ended thinking that creates an environment of questions rather than answers.

5) Art Supports Emotional Intelligence. Art supports the expression of complex feelings that help kids feel better about them selves and helps them understand others by ''seeing'' what they have expressed and created. Art supports personal meaning in life, discovering joy in one's own self, often being surprised, and then eliciting it in others.

6) Art Builds Community. Art reaches across racial stereotypes, religious barriers, and socio-economical levels and prejudices. Seeing other culture’s creative expression allows everyone to be more connected and less isolated – “see how we are all related.” Art creates a sense of belonging.

7) Art Improves Holistic Health. Art builds self-esteem, increases motivation and student attendance, improves grades and communications, nurtures teamwork, and strengthens our relationship to the environment.

8) Art is Big Business. At the core of the multi-billion dollar film and video game industry are artists creating images and stories. Every commercial product is artistically designed, from chairs to cars, space stations to iPods. And a Leonardo da Vinci painting sold for 450 million dollars.

9) Art Awakens the Senses. Art opens the heart and mind to possibilities and fuels the imagination. Art is a process of learning to create ourselves and experience the world in new ways. Arts support the bigger picture view of life: beauty, symbols, spirituality, storytelling, it also helps us step out of time allowing one to be present in the moment. Art keeps the magic alive.

10) Art is Eternal. Creativity and self-expression has always been essential to our humanity. Our earliest creative expressions were recorded in petroglyphs, cave paintings, and ancient sculptures. One of the first things kids do is draw, paint, and use their imaginations to play.

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