A toddler in art class will amaze you.
They will amaze you with what they make. Imagine, a paint splattered sheet as a planet, marked by a fleck of red, a rocket’s landing pad. But the art is just the beginning.
They will amaze you in how they made it: working with focus, mixing colors (colors that they shared with other kids), holding thin brushes, dabbing glue and more.
Finally, they will amaze you in what art does for them. The rewards of an art class for young ones are deep and varied. The bibliography of studies is endless. Motor skills, self confidence, language growth, are just a few of the benefits. At the Philly Art Center thousands of toddlers have marched into our classes to take their place as artists.
There’s more than numbers and words.
As toddlers grow, they learn the value of describing themselves and the world around them through numbers and words. But we know there’s more. We know and experience beyond what can be said or counted. Art invites kids to feel, to discover and to express themselves in new ways. They can feel that pink, glopped on paper and smeared with an elbow, says something fun. Something fun like what your stomach says at the top of the slide.
Little things make big changes.
A drop of dark purple in the yellow changes a sun into an eyeball. A dab of glue transforms the bendy straw into a chimney. With art, toddlers learn subtlety.
Imagination and reality can be friends.
In art, toddlers learn how to think — wonder, explore, experiment — through materials. By beginning with a swirl of glossy blue paint, a toddler may find to their surprise that they’ve made a cloud and wind, which then encourages a swipe of green below for the grass, and as the green paint dries, darker where it’s thick and lighter where it’s thin, they suddenly see homes for elves and caterpillars.
Paint, glue, paper, clay, and more have their own suggestions to offer, and through art making, toddlers learn to work with them, to follow the interplay between the stuff of imagination and the stuff of stuff.
In many ways, toddlers already know these lessons. Much of it belongs to the “lateral thinking”, the nimble and imaginative ways of knowing that kids have in spades but that often, through a check-the-box education, lose as they grow up. Art gives little ones a place to keep that imagination alive, to strengthen it, and make it part of the world.
And there’s more…
In a practical sense, an art class teaches listening and sharing. It teaches a kid to transition from one activity to another, to say goodbye to the crayons and hello to the clay. It teaches kids to clean up in cooperation with each other. It teaches focus, to dig into an idea, a problem, a material. It teaches them to explore, and sometimes to start over and try again.
Toddlers in an art class, simply by holding a brush or pinching the clay, are refining motor skills. By building a house of cardboard, they are engineering, problem solving, coming to grips with physics. The squiggles, spirals, circles and lines that travel around their drawings are the precursors of numerals and letters. They are the beginning of literacy itself.
In a big sense, an art class teaches a toddler about their own capacities. They will create. Where there was clay, there will be a cup. Where there was paper and paint, there will be… well… anything! And they will have made it! They’ll swell with surprise and pride and the urge to create more.