Albert Einstein maintained that a creative imagination was “more important than knowledge,” and, alternatively, that “creativity is intelligence having fun.” Perhaps nowhere is a child’s imagination liberated more than with a palette of colors and a brush. It is safe to say that painting liberates children.
Picasso believed that every child is born an artist and that adults and the adult world drain all of that creativity out of them. Which is why the arts in general and painting in particular are such critical pursuits for children. Here are 5 ways painting helps kids.
While this might seem like a duh statement, children actually need tools to help them develop and express their innate creativity. Paint’s endless hues, a handful of brushes, and a blank canvas are ideal instruments for unleashing a child’s creative spirit. And because younger children in particular are not even remotely self-conscious about the end result of their efforts, painting enables them to repeatedly experiment with different creative interpretations of themselves and the world around them.
creativity is intelligence having fun
While a child’s paint splatters and swooshes are unintelligible to adults, they actually represent critical paths of learning. Color combinations, brush sizes and strokes, angles and curves, even canvas size and type, all teach children how vastly different expressions of the same internal ideas can be brought to life. “If they are exploring and thinking and experimenting and trying new ideas, then creativity has a chance to blossom,” says MaryAnn Kohl, an arts educator and author of numerous books about children’s art education.
Few childhood practices hone fine motor skills quite the way painting does. From the way a child holds a brush (or crayon, chalk, etc.) and the pressure applied, to the angles of motion and attempts to convey a particular object or scene, painting is ideal for helping kids fine tune their motor skills.
There is a growing body of research demonstrating that kids who engage in the arts perform better academically than their non-artistic counterparts, and they’re less likely to drop out of school. Research by the Americans for the Arts found that kids who engage in art study at least three hours a day for three days a week are:
- 4 times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement
- 3 times as likely to be elected to a class office
- 4 times more likely to participate in a math or science fair
- 3 times more likely to win an attendance award
- 4 times more likely to be recognized for an essay of poem
We obviously live in a world dominated by imagery, which is why it is more important than ever for children to master the kinds of visual-spatial skills that go into both the interpretation and understanding of imagery as well as its creation. “Parents need to be aware that children learn a lot more from graphic sources now than in the past,” says Dr. Kerry Freedman, director of Art and Design Education at Northern Illinois University. “Children need to know more about the world than just what they can learn through text and numbers. Art education teaches students how to interpret, criticize, and use visual information, and how to make choices based on it.”
The bottom line: kids are better off if they’re engaged in painting (or any form of art for that matter).