When my son Jasper was three years old, I decided to take my career experience as an art professor, turn it homeward and make some pocket money in the process; I transformed my garage into an art studio and invited all of the neighborhood preschoolers over for weekly art lessons!
With freshly painted lime green floors and cute little tables and matching stools, I set about planning creative yet developmentally stimulating art projects. A few gestural drawing activities to get the hands moving, a neat-o printmaking project involving favorite toys, and lots of painting that would quickly evolve into fingerpainting, whether it was meant to or not. Now, teaching three year olds is basically like herding cats, and I was quickly shown up by a spider someone caught sight of in the corner and the paintbrushes became sticks and swords as I lost all the boys to the allure of spider hunting.
Twelve years now into the field of art education, I’ve learned that art education isn’t about planning for a developmentally stimulating project outcome. To do so is to miss the point. Often parents and even educators believe that art for art’s sake (aka ‘having fun’) is great and all, if time allows. The brilliance of art, however, is that the process is the point. Developmentally, art is beneficial to every aspect of a child’s growth, from fine and large motor skills, social skills, to being mentally, emotionally, and even physically therapeutic, all while under the clever guise of just ‘having fun.’ Art for kids is the educational equivalent of pureeing veggies to add to your mac ‘n cheese; healthy without kiddos even knowing that they are eating healthy!