Why art has such a big impact on children
Art can boost your child’s confidence, increase their focus – and when they’re overwhelmed with big feelings, art can play a helpful calming role. Here’s how making art (of any kind!) positively impacts your child:
- Art is like a reset for the brain.
It’s more difficult for children to regulate their emotions than it is for adults. (Some of us adults are still working on it too). It’s not uncommon for kids to have big feelings that are, to put it simply, bigger than their brain’s ability to process at this point in their development.
There’s a reason for this. The prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for regulating emotions (among other things), is not fully developed until your early-to mid-twenties. When kids are stuck in a ‘feeling state’, making art with their hands (sorry, no screens here) can act as a sort of ‘reset’ for the brain.
- Art can help kids process big feelings.
Some kids find it easier to express their feelings through art than by trying to find the right words. One possible reason is that it allows kids to look at their emotions or anxieties as separate from themselves. By encouraging your kids to ‘draw their feelings,’ they may be able to share what they’re feeling but can’t put into words.
- Art can reduce stress, calm the body and brain and improve your child’s mood.Centering art activities (for example, coloring geometric patterns) have been used in art therapy for years. Making art has an inherently claiming effect, encouraging your body to produce serotonin, a hormone that helps to stabilize mood.
If your little one loses themselves in an art project, that’s a good thing. Encourage them to keep at it, and keep enjoying those calming benefits.
- Art can help kids focus
We all know our kids’ attention spans can be, well… limited. Research suggests making art can help children (and adults) enter a flow state – sometimes characterized
as being ‘in the zone’. According to art therapist Gioia Chilton, one of the defining characteristics of this flow state is ‘the ability to concentrate without trying.’
According to psychotherapist Michael Fogel, the repetitive nature of many art projects can help cultivate a child’s ability to focus:When you stimulate the brain and practice and use it, the brain develops more connections, and so by simply doing something in an external world and repeating and rehearsing, there's an outside/inside connection.
- Art can be a confidence booster.
Making art gives your child something to be in control of, which is especially helpful when so much of life feels out of their control. They’re empowered to make decisions and see the results of those decisions as they go. Art gives kids a way to express themselves on their own terms.
It’s good to remember that art is not a magic cure for big feelings. It won’t be the solution to every tantrum or outburst, or every time your child displays strong emotions. It’s also perfectly ok for your child to enjoy making art ‘just because.’ It doesn’t have to have some bigger meaning attached to it in order to be beneficial.