Arts and Crafts Teach Critical Skills in Kindergarteners


With budget cuts affecting schools across the nation, even arts and crafts school programs are being affected. After all, those arts and crafts materials don’t come free, and some less creative types are even questioning the importance of art programs in elementary classrooms. However, repeated research shows us that teaching art and craft projects in the classroom helps kids in a multiplicity of ways. If you find yourself needing to justify the continuation of art programs in your classroom, or if you question their value in an increasingly hi tech world, this article will help you see some of the benefits of art and craft programs in Kindergarten and early childhood education.

Art Projects vs. Craft Projects

As we discuss the benefits of arts and crafts in the classroom, it is important to keep in mind that the two terms are not interchangeable, as they are often used. Art projects and craft projects are different, although they may use the same arts and crafts materials. Arts and crafts teach different skills, and should both be used in the early childhood classroom.

Think of it this way: craft projects are pre-planned out by a teacher. With craft projects, kids are learning to follow the directions and use the supplies in the right way. Art projects are not completely planned out by a teacher. An art project can be totally unstructured and open ended, or it may include some structure but allow for creative freedom. For instance, a teacher may teach an artistic technique to use in an art project, and the students decide how to use it (such as whether to use a rubbing technique in a picture of water nymphs or a picture of a war battle). Both art projects and craft projects teach early elementary children important things.

Art Projects

Art projects are unstructured projects that allow a person to express feelings, release emotions, and express their inherent creativity. Examples of art projects are drawing a picture or creating something with clay. An art project that becomes unnecessarily structured will lose some of its value in developing creativity. Art projects that nurture creativity will help kids tap into their creativity, which they may use in later life in hundreds of different jobs, from engineering to songwriting to software development to animation. As you help children feel comfortable expressing their creativity and letting the creative process develop, you are teaching them far more than how to succeed at drawing or sculpting or other process. You are teaching them about this creative side of self, which too often is squashed and neglected the older people get. In almost every profession, a truly creative person who can tap into this creative state of mind will be more innovative, more interested in his or her work, more curious, and more successful. Early elementary school art programs that utilize a wide variety of arts and crafts materials allow children to develop skills to envision three-dimensional forms in their mind as well as two-dimensional shapes. Art projects can be used to teach kids how to plan ahead and follow through.

Craft Projects

Craft projects, on the other hand, are structured and goal oriented. Examples of craft projects include building a bird feeder using specific instructions or using a pattern to cut out colored paper pieces that you will then glue together to make a jack-o-lantern. Craft projects teach more about the process and about critical thinking skills than they do about developing creativity. Craft projects also help children learn to stay on task and focus long enough to complete a project.

Some of the benefits of teaching arts and crafts in early childhood classrooms include the following.

· Crafts and art projects teach children hand eye coordination in an engaging, entertaining manner.

· Art projects allow children to express their creativity, which isn’t nurtured in a traditional classroom setting very much.

· Arts and crafts projects teach kids how to use different equipment and supplies (glue, stapler, scissors, paintbrush, etc.). Kids develop coordination while learning to master the task of using different arts and crafts materials.

· Craft projects teach children how to follow directions.

· Art projects teach children how to tap into their creative frame of mind and truly create something.

· Craft projects help kids learn to strategize and figure out what steps of a project to do first (should I glue Santa’s hat brim on first, or his hat?).

· Craft projects can be used to teach children how to interact with other children and share craft supplies.

· Group art projects can be used to teach children teamwork and how to sort out differences. To do a group art project successfully, children must learn to discuss ideas, respect others’ ideas, and agree together on a plan.

· Both art and craft projects teach children critical thinking skills they will use their whole lives. Children are learning to make independent decisions and learning to predict the outcome of their choice.

· Craft projects teach kids problem solving skills. They encounter a set of directions and must use the tools and materials provided to complete the project. Using a wider range of arts and crafts materials allows children to explore a wider range of problem solving skills (including using different materials and employing different methods).

· Arts and crafts projects allow children to explore different types of sensory stimulation. This is an important part of development, and sensory art projects can be used to identify children with sensory issues or sensory disorders. Early childhood teachers commonly identify sensory disorders for the first time in children as old as Kindergarten-age (5 to 6) or even as old as first grade (6 to 7).

· For children with sensory disorders, arts and crafts activities can be used in the classroom to help them learn to explore and not fear new textures and materials.

· A classroom full of a variety of arts and crafts materials allows children of differing abilities and functioning to participate in fun projects together, while allowing them to learn and develop critical thinking skills at their own level.

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