Artfully Montessori: 7 Reasons Your Children Need to Make Art Everyday!


Ah! The mesmerizing power of the process of making art!
All photos were taken by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

Every Friday afternoon, when I arrive at my Montessori Music Class in the Lower Elementary Room at Fountainhead Montessori, I often come upon that group busily finishing up their creations from their Art Class. The room has a delightful feeling of calm, beauty and intense quiet, yet the art work being produced is alive with excitement and playful energy! 

These whimsical and gorgeously colorful masterpieces in this post were the result of their recent art lesson about the CONCEPT of ORGANIC SHAPE. 

Each student started their project with a string (!) to create their shape in such a way that the results were left to chance and not constructed with a specific end in mind. The surprise of the string's shape sparked the imaginations of the children to go on to make art that is wild, like nature, yet thoughtfully executed with design elements of eye-catching color, subtle symmetry (or asymmetry, too), illusion of texture, and amazing spacial effects using combinations of mixed media. 

 "The Monsters Collection": Mixed Media Art 
from 5-7 yr olds in the Lower Elementary Montessori Room at Fountainhead Montessori 

Coincidentally, I would be teaching my annual Montessori Institute AMS Art Workshop the next day, and my mind immediately went to the many, many benefits children reap from the process of making art. 

My Montessori training workshop students (Montessori teachers & Interns) always spend quite a bit of time developing their RATIONALE STATEMENTS, and this year's group came up with an impressive array of REASONS WHY ART IS IMPORTANT IN THE EARLY CHILDHOOD ENVIRONMENT.
You can read some more about the importance of art in the Montessori curriculum at my past posts 
CLICK HERE: Here Is An Art Rationale You Can Really Use
And HERE: The Elements of Art: They are Organic to the Montessori Classroom

Making art is happens naturally!

I think you will agree that the art area of an early childhood environment is often the most popular activity area for the children. Even with the youngest of children, making art is oftentimes spontaneous and bold! Give a toddler a fat marker, crayon, or a paintbrush and a large sheet of paper and voila!...the first masterpiece happens. 

Many scholarly studies have concluded that creating art is a crucial part of a child's development. 
From The College Board for the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards, Jan. 2012:
"Executive Summary Introduction:
In recent years, there has been great interest among educators in the links between arts-based learning and human development. Research initiatives of the past decade have linked arts participation to cognitive growth and academic skills, including the strengthening of long-term memory and reading ability (Gazzaniga et al., 2008), creative thinking skills, and writing fluency (Deasy et al., 2002). Arts participation has additionally been linked to positive social outcomes, including overall engagement in school (Deasy et al., 2002), increased graduation rates (Israel, 2009), and increased community engagement and pro-social activities (Catterall, 2009). In an effort to strengthen research efforts linking arts to overall health and well-being across the lifespan, the National Endowment for the Arts established an interagency task force on the arts and human development in the fall of 2011 (Hanna et al., 2011), ensuring that such research continues to inform and strengthen arts educational practice nationwide."
I highly recommend checking out the full article here: CHILD DEVELOPMENT & ARTS EDUCATION, A Review of Current Research & Best Practices. That article is not only chock full of research-based information, it is also a comprehensive outline of HOW we as educators can implement these important learning experiences for students from early childhood all the way through college level!

Making art helps the child develop 
the small muscles of the hand for writing.

If you ignore all other of the many reasons for children to make art, this one has to ring a bell loud and clear! The materials and mediums necessary to make art require a refinement of skills that are based on the use of the small muscles of the hands...just the ones a young child is developing for writing. 

Here's what Dr. Montessori wrote:
"The exercises we have described as 'drawing' actually were intended to train the hand so that it would be ready to write. These exercises were taken as a part of the complex preparation by means of which a child's small hand, still uncertain in the movements, could execute that minute kind of drawing that constitutes writing. The Discovery of the Child, p. 280."

Painting, drawing, cutting, gluing, carving, sculpting, print making, etching, handicraft fabrication, and even doodling require using that famous "pincer grasp" that originates with the first art experiences in the young child's world. Even creating shapes with a stick in the sand or making handprints on the walls of caves (like the earliest know art of the caves of Lascaux) requires the coordinating of actions of the hand/eye/mind to communicate an idea through a picture. Creating art truly is ancient!    

Making art helps the child 
communicate ideas.

Before a child begins to write down ideas, s/he usually makes marks & designs on a piece of paper. Not only does making art help the child's small muscle development, it also helps the child "tell her story!" 

The first time my son made a painting at the easel in the art room of his preschool, he told me it was "going fishing." There were two gigantic strokes of orange paint on the oversized piece of paper. One line was moving upward and the other line was connected, curved and moving downward, quite reminiscent of a fishing pole. And yes, he had just gone fishing when we were camping out the weekend before.

Don't you agree: a picture is worth a thousand words!

Making art helps the child develop 
creative thinking skills.

Creativity seems to always be in a sentence describing the process of making art. But, consider the obvious "thinking outside the box" that is evident in so much of the history of art. Artists have traditionally been the pace setters in everything from film to fashion, to home decor, and of course, computers and technology. 

The first showing of the French Impressionist painters "faced harsh opposition from the conventional art community in France." 
From Wikipedia:
"Impressionism is a 19th-century art movement that originated with a group of Paris-based artists whose independent exhibitions brought them to prominence during the 1870s and 1880s. Impressionist painting characteristics include relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time), ordinary subject matter, inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles."
Young children are new to the world and seem to have less inhibition when it comes to making art. Their art often captures the imagination because it is so unusual, inventive, and unique. When a young artist "envisions" her composition, the process of putting the idea into concrete form doesn't necessarily follow the conventional rules of painting, drawing, and sculpting. The child's mind is creating something new without any constraints. Developing creative thinking skills is one of those necessary skills for our young students to build their "higher order thinking abilities."  So, art is an ideal vehicle for people of any age to stretch their capacity for thinking creatively. You can read more on this topic here: 
Eduscapes: Professional Development Resources for Educators & Librarians.
And here: 
Skills You Need.Com

Making art helps the child develop concentration skills.

All of us early childhood educators have observed the extreme concentration a child can exhibit in the midst of creating a painting, a drawing, or a sculpture. Working with art mediums requires both exploration and precision, and that kind of concentrated effort is just what we want to cultivate in the young child! 

That level of immersed attention is felt in the wonderful and peaceful atmosphere of the Montessori style art studio where the children are allowed the time and space to focus, uninterrupted, so that concentration skills develop naturally.   

Making art helps the child develop organizational skills.

Children benefit from both structured and unstructured art experiences. The Free Choice Art Shelf in the Montessori room holds attractive baskets filled with materials like
  • markers 
  • pens 
  • colored pencils 
  • glue 
  • collage materials 
  • scissors 
  • staplers 
  • stamps & ink pads 
  • tape 
  • pipe cleaners 
  • clay 
  • wire 
  • wooden shapes 
  • water colors 
  • oil pastels 
  • colored chalks 
  • and an assortment of paper. 
When a child conceives of his/her art creation, s/he formulates a mental plan and then gathers the materials needed to complete the project. There is a step by step process in art production that builds organizational skills out of a sort of "basic necessity." If the project isn't done with some kind of underlying orderly process, then the art piece may present problems that can interfere with the outcome the child was envisioning. 

Of course, little ones are resourceful and usually figure out solutions for these problems that can arise in creative art production. However, this is where the teacher's role as a guide plays an important part in assisting the child's developing organizational skills. Once, the child has gotten the procedure organized (or re-organized) then the creative process flourishes!

Likewise, the Montessori environment offers children art experiences that are set up on trays on the Art Shelf. These activities have everything the child needs for completing the art piece, already set up on the tray. 

The child has been shown the process through a simple and precise demonstration by the adult, and then the child is invited to make his/her own project using the materials on the tray and following the steps outlined by the teacher's demonstration.

These steps involved in making art require memory, visual discrimination, and body coordination. The step by step process of making art aids the children in developing constructive thinking  and planning skills so that they can eventually fabricate their creative ideas on their own.  

Making art helps the child develop observational skills.

Even the most unconventional of Art has a basis in reality. The artist first conceived of his/her idea from something in his/her life. Many times, art is made by observing a "model." Other times, the artist may pull an image out of the memory and convey it to the paper or clay before them. Even in Abstract and Modern Art, the wild shapes and unusual color combinations still have titles like "Concentric Squares & Circles" by Kandinsky, and "Les Demoisselles D Avignon" (The Women of Avignon) by Picasso. 

As children progress in their skills with the various mediums of art, they begin to make art that is representational. The older child has observed everything in his/her environment and has also had a great many experiences over the years, even if they are only 4 or 5 years old! The avid child artist has already become an accomplished "observer" and it shows in the gradually increasing detail of his/her work. And, once again, we all want the child's observation skills to continue to develop throughout childhood and beyond! 

NOT TO MENTION...making art is: 
  • HEALING, it's a way of 
  • UPLIFTING to the creator as well as the on-looker, it's a way of 
  • EXPRESSION of the surrounding CULTURE, 
  • it's pleasing to the eye, 
  • it's disturbing to the eye, 
  • it makes you think, it makes you feel, it makes you cry, or laugh or even say: 

"Hey, I could do that!"

"The hand is an organ of expression, and in the area of artistic creation, it has practically occupied the first place. In early infancy the hand assists the intelligence to develop, and in a mature man it is the instrument which controls his destiny on earth." Maria Montessori, The Discovery of the Child. 1948 

So glad to have you visit my blog today! This article is part of the Montessori Monday Link-up at the Living Montessori Now Site. You can read more Montessori articles at the Link up from bloggers world wide. Here's the Link: Montessori Mondays!

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