Art engages young children’s senses and unfold the creativity in them. When a child paints a picture, it is not just a fun activity for him or her. It involves the motor skills and cognitive development of the child. It is both a multi-sensory experience and an intellectual process. For example, when a child draws a firefighter who is engaged in fighting fire with a water hose, it involves going through his or her mental processes the motions of carrying out the firefighting task. Some form of strategic planning and thinking skills are needed in the above activity.
A child unfolds his creative potential through art. Research studies indicated that art activities enhance a child’s intellect and creativeness and these benefits will surface later in life. Unfortunately, this creativeness during early childhood is often overlooked in an education system that places much emphasis in the academic subjects and formal assessment. Teachers and parents anxiously prepare young children to master the 3Rs (Read, wRite and numeRacy) which are necessary skills for a smooth transition to Primary one.
The late Dr Viktor Lowenfeld (1965 cited in Britain 1985), a research professor in art education, once cited a conversation he had with the Director of Art in Moscow city, Russia. The art director mentioned that in their country, it placed a lot of emphasis in unfolding creativeness in young Russian children through art. However, when these children arrived at high school level, the school system was regimented according to Russian doctrines for economic reasons. ‘Children to us are sacred…We would like to bring out everything that is in them, and we have realized that art is a very important subject in the elementary classroom…Once creativeness is unfolded, we have to channel it, we have to discipline it, whether it is in the Sciences or in the arts. For us, nothing is useful that is not useful to the country.’ said the Director of Art (p.9). It could be one of the reasons why the Soviet Union is so successful in grooming great scientists and in its scientific endeavours.
Creativity unfolded in the early formative years of children will certainly surfaced down the road. We need to unfold this creativeness in young children so as to nurture creative and thinking citizens in future. Perhaps, a curriculum reform in the early years is the way to go.
(The above article is adapted from the speeches by the late Dr Viktor Lowenfeld, transcribed from tape recordings by Britain W. L 1985, Viktor Lowenfeld Speaks on Art and Creativity, National Art Education Association, VA.)