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The creative arts allow young children to explore and express their individuality, imaginations, and ideas through music, movement and dance, drama, and the visual arts. Through artistic experiences, children are motivated to engage in problem solving as they experiment with combinations of media and creative expression. Opportunities to regularly recognize and discuss beauty in their environment, their work, and in the work of others support young children as they begin to develop their appreciation of the arts.

Preschool teachers can learn as much about children by observing them in the act of creating as they can by examining the products of these acts. The topic of children’s work may reflect their individual interests, while the way they depict the topic may reflect their feelings about that topic, their fine- or gross-motor skills, and their developing perceptual abilities. Teachers can support their creative efforts by observing and talking with them about their work and providing them with strategies that will help them accomplish their artistic goals.

When first introduced to a new element of the arts (a musical instrument, an art medium, or a movement), young children are typically focused on the process of manipulating that element rather than on producing an end product. However, as they are given opportunities to become more familiar with the element, they begin to use it with increasing intent and skill.

It is important to give young children extensive opportunities and encouragement to explore new media so they can begin to use them for expression. Preschool teachers need to provide a rich variety of visual art materials, musical instruments, recordings and experiences, props and materials for dramatizing, and opportunities for movement and dance so the arts are integrated into learning experiences across the curriculum. Accepting the way each child expresses his or her creativity and encouraging experimentation, exploration, and risk-taking as he or she engages in creative work will support a child’s development in the arts.

Jenna teaches at her community church preschool program and emphasizes creativity and the arts with the children throughout the day. She loves to see how they express themselves, whether it is through music, movement and dance, visual arts, or drama. Each child is so unique and interesting! José sings as he builds with blocks, sometimes under his breath and sometimes loudly, almost in triumph, as his block creation is finished. “Ta-daa!!!” Like many of the children, he sings the favorite class songs as well as songs he hears on the Spanish radio station that his family listens to. Marianna always moves with grace and requests scarves and favorite recordings for dancing. She takes dance lessons and shows other children how to hold their arms and point their toes. Lila and Anthony are the drama queen and king. They can act out any scene, whether using puppets to act out a story the group has read or playing at being Mom and Dad in the dramatic play area. While they may argue some over their roles, they successfully negotiate and keep scripts going, sometimes into the next day or week. Jenna has written down some of their scenes and read them back to the group, much to the delight of Lila and Anthony. Painting is Teena’s specialty, both at the easel and at a table with finger paints. The messier the better for Teena. She uses many colors and comments as she mixes them. Her paintings are full of energy and motion. Jenna makes sure to communicate with all of the children’s families about the ways they express their creativity and the importance of the arts in their young lives.

Example Performance Descriptors can be found on the List of goals, standards, and benchmarks page.

Goal 25: Gain exposure to and explore the arts.

Learning Standard 25.A: Investigate, begin to appreciate, and participate in the arts.

Preschool Benchmarks

  • 25.A.ECa: Movement and Dance: Build awareness of, explore, and participate in dance and creative movement activities.
  • 25.A.ECb: Drama: Begin to appreciate and participate in dramatic activities.
  • 25.A.ECc: Music: Begin to appreciate and participate in music activities.
  • 25.A.ECd: Visual Arts: Investigate and participate in activities using visual arts materials.

Learning Standard 25.B: Display an awareness of some distinct characteristics of the arts.

Preschool Benchmarks

  • 25.B.ECa: Describe or respond to their creative work or the creative work of others.

Goal 26: Understand that the arts can be used to communicate ideas and emotions.

Learning Standard 26.A: Understand processes, traditional tools, and modern technologies used in the arts.

Learning Standard 26.B: Understand ways to express meaning through the arts.

Preschool Benchmarks

  • 26.B.ECa: Use creative arts as an avenue for self-expression.

Goal 27: Understand the role of the arts in civilizations, past and present.

Learning Standard 27.A: Analyze how the arts function in history, society, and everyday life.

Learning Standard 27.B: Understand how the arts shape and reflect history, society, and everyday life.


  • Goal 25: In the K-12 Illinois Learning Standards, Goal 25 reads, “Know the language of the arts.”
  • Standard 25.A: In the K-12 Illinois Learning Standards, Standard 25.A reads, “Understand the sensory elements, organizational principles and expressive qualities of the arts.”
  • Standard 25.B: In the K-12 Illinois Learning Standards, Standard 25.B reads, “Understand the similarities, distinctions and connections in and among the arts.”
  • Goal 26: In the K-12 Illinois Learning Standards, Goal 26 reads, “Through creating and performing, understand how works of art are produced.”
  • Standard 26.A: In the K-12 Illinois Learning Standards, Standard 26.A reads, “Understand processes, traditional tools and modern technologies used in the arts.”
  • Standard 26.B: In the K-12 Illinois Learning Standards, Standard 26.B reads, “Apply skills and knowledge necessary to create and perform in one or more of the arts.”
Reviewed: 2013