Creativity plays a vital role in a child’s emotional development
We all know that creativity is important to a child’s early development - that working with paints, crayons, scissors, glue or clay improve their fine motor skills, hand eye co-ordination and aids muscle development.
We know all of this because online parenting vlogs, books and magazines are full of brilliant ideas on how to get your toddler to use creative play for development.
But what a lot of people do not realise is the importance of continuing to use creativity to develop and grow as human beings, into childhood, into our teens, into adulthood and old age if we can. We may physically stop growing in our teens but our minds continue to expand and grow throughout the rest of our lives.
In these current Covid times we are all trying to deal with unrecognisable emotions, it is a time of uncertainty for all of us but none more so than our children, especially those of school going age, or not school going as the case may be! We can and should use art in all its forms to help them navigate these emotions in a healthy, positive way.
I have been working in the arts for my whole life and when I say my whole life, I mean my whole life; my earliest memory of working on a large-scale art project was at the age of four.
My parents both come from artistic backgrounds, my father worked in stage set design and construction and my mother who worked in costume design and creation and came from families of musicians, composers and actors.
At weekends I would join them painting scenery or pasting giant sheets of tin foil onto parade floats or manning make and do stalls at Cork City Carnival. Now I don’t know if they realised this or not, but while I was doing all of these things I was learning, growing and engaging with my emotions in a healthy way. It turned out that being creative was extremely valuable and here is why:
While we worked on art projects we would talk. Being creative helps children to communicate their feelings in a different way. Asking a child what they have made or drawn helps to open up communication channels, will often give you a deeper understanding of how your child is feeling and will help the child to develop communication skills in the long term.
As a result, I have always been able to go to my parents and tell them anything, we created works of art and a bond at the same time.
I learned how to problem solve. As a child who created, I would often get spontaneous ideas. While working on any arts project, you learn to make choices and come up with solutions, developing problem solving skills and self-reliance.
By the time I reached the complex emotional time of my teenage years, I was capable of acknowledging feelings of failure or rejection and knew that the solution was either to talk to my parents or to get it all out on the page.
Because of art, I became more self-confident. As I got older, I started to act as well as draw and paint. Creating something with my own hands and characters for the stage gave me belief in my own abilities and enhanced my self-confidence. When other people react positively to your work with laughter or applause, it helps you to feel they that your work has value and that you have something to contribute to society.
I was able to concentrate and focus for longer periods of time then my peers who were not taking part in artistic extra-curricular activities. Being creative in a peaceful environment helps to calm the mind and trains a child to focus for longer periods of time. Taking part in dance and drama also helps with memory function, discipline and posture.
And lastly, I had and continue to have fun. Life can be stressful - 2020 has been enormously so for our children and we need to address that.
We can do so by introducing them to art, be it music, dance, drama, painting or crafting. Art is about making mistakes, making a mess, expressing yourself and experimenting in a non-judgmental environment and those that study it at any level as children, inevitably grow into interesting, capable and emotionally intelligent adults.
Our children discover, grow and can heal through creativity, I know I did and continue to do so in during these emotionally challenging times, and I will be eternally grateful to my parents for the gift that keeps on giving. The gift of art.