I know that art projects can seem overly messy, and even slightly intimidating at times, but I encourage you to think of the wonderful benefits that partaking in art experiences offers your child! Yes, even babies can “do” art, and what better time then during our extended physical distancing!
When engaging in artistic play with your child, focus on the process and not the product. Take the time to have fun, explore the materials, and think of it as a type of special science experiment. Research shows that art is universal, important in our lives, good for mental health, and can play a wonderful unique role in brain development.
Letting your child finger-paint, scribble, glue, sculpt, and experience messy play, engages their sensory system. It lets them feel different textures, smell new smells, see the process as their art develops. Exposing them to new sensory experiences is a great learning opportunity and grows those brain connections!
They also start discovering what mixing colours does, what happens when they bang a paintbrush down, how much glue do they need, does it look different when they press hard on the marker, and so on. They are learning and creating neural pathways, while also having fun and raising serotonin levels!
Art is different every time, and is constantly changing. Many of us as adults have been socialized to think we aren’t “good” at art, or that we aren’t “creative” enough. That’s not true. Everybody can be artistic! It shouldn’t be something that just artists do, rather should be a pursuit we do for fun! Remember, any fun activity you do with your child encourages bonding and makes lovely memories.
Furthermore, doing art projects helps your child develop their fine motor skills and their hand eye coordination. Even for teeny babies, putting some non-toxic or edible fingerpaint on their hands allows them to practice controlling their movements to create beauty. As they get more control they practice copying and making lines, then shapes and patterns. As young as 8 months you can introduce markers or crayons. I prefer markers because they are easier in some ways (don’t have to press as hard, can’t take bites out of them), just make sure you get the ultra washable. You can tape baby’s paper down so it doesn’t move. Let them watch you scribble, and then they can try banging the marker on paper to see what happens. It might just be little dots at first, that’s great!
Let your little one choose their paper, their paint or marker colour and so on. Even babies can reach towards the one they prefer. Learning to hold and use writing and painting tools is a developmental milestone whereby they aren’t just using their hands to cause effects anymore, they are actively using a tool to get results. Offer the “tool” at midline so they can reach for it with either hand.
Toddlers learn and practice various grips when using crayons, markers, paintbrushes, chalk and so on. They learn to be more precise and make different types of marks when they press hard, lightly, use the edge or back of the item. Encourage them to use both their right and left hands at different points.
Getting to make choices, experiment, and express themselves through art, changes and develops pathways in the brain and also encourages self-regulation (an important skills for emotional development!). Plus it is just plain fun.
So let go of your apprehension and get messy and creative with your little ones while you contribute to a fun, developmentally positive experience! Be sure to send us photos of your creations.