Art is so much more than paint, markers, or crayons. Creative arts are activities that actively engage children’s imagination through music, visual arts, movement and dance, and drama and storytelling. Creative arts engage children across all domains—cognitive, language, social, emotional, and physical. This tool kit will describe four different types of creative arts and will provide ideas for encouraging and supporting young children in creative arts activities at home and in the classroom. The article Creative Arts Help Children Develop Across Many Domains shows how art activities can support young children’s development.
Creative arts activities are deliberately open-ended, foster divergent thinking, and support the process without particular attention on the product. The article The importance of creative arts in early childhood classrooms provides an overview of the creative arts as well as information on the theories that help guide the early childhood field and how to apply those theories in the classroom.
The Arts domain within the 2013 Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards provides reasonable expectations for children’s development in the areas of drama, music, visual arts, and movement and dance.
Movement and Dance
There are many ways to incorporate movement and dance into the lives of young children, whether at home or in a group setting.
- When out and about with young children, there are many opportunities to engage in meaningful activities and conversations. Dancing on the sidewalk—or any flat surface—is a great way to practice coordination and experiment with space, as shown in the tip sheet, Out and About with Preschoolers: Dancing on the Sidewalk.
- It is important for young children to be active to build healthy habits early in life. When participating in fitness activities, it is important to stretch, warm up, and cool down. Catching and throwing a ball or jumping with both feet can help build confidence in large motor skills. The tip sheet Building Endurance: Let’s Get Physical! provides additional ideas.
- As families, we might spend time waiting—in line at the grocery store, in the carpool lane, in traffic, or at the clinic. The Things to Do While Your’e Waiting tip sheet series includes many ideas to help maximize that time and keep young children active and engaged in movement, language, or learning activities, including talking about math, art, music, science, and motor skills.
- In classrooms, teachers can use songs and stories during large group time to engage in active movement. The video Creative Movement: The Flower Dance demonstrates this concept using a story while the video Oats, Peas, Beans, and Barley: Learning Through an Action Song, demonstrates this concept with a song.
- Active movement can be done anywhere, even without many props or supplies. The blog posts Active Play Promotes Young Children’s Development and Pass the Ball Versus Pass the Remote: Supporting Preschoolers’ Physical Activity provide ideas on connecting language with outdoor play and embedding gross motor opportunities throughout the day.
- IELDS benchmarks can be addressed through lesson plans, adapted for children with disabilities. Here is one example: Physical Development and Health Lesson Addressing Benchmark 19.B.ECb
Drama and Storytelling
Drama helps children develop imagination, language skills, confidence, creative expression, and cooperation and other social skills. Storytelling helps preschoolers get ready to become readers and writers. IEL has produced several tip sheets that help families and providers expand upon children’s pretend play and storytelling experiences, including using boxes and blocks for play, helping children dictate stories, and encouraging free time for young children.
- IEL Tip Sheets
- Many early childhood programs and homes include puppets in their dramatic play centers and toy boxes. Puppets can provide an opportunity for a young child to make up a story or reenact experiences they have had. The two blogs, What Puppets Mean to Can Mean to Children, and What Puppets Can Mean to Children, Part 2, describe how puppets can be used in homes and early childhood settings and to address concerns about behavior or social-emotional development.
- Reading together supports the development of children’s language and comprehension skills. The blog Super Story Time describes ideas for how caregivers can build on story time.
- Providing inexpensive props for young children is a good way to support the development of pretend play. The videos Pretend Play with Big Boxes, Tea Party, Tattoos and Teakettles: “Housekeeping Conversations”, and The Right Word: Conversation and Print During Pretend Play demonstrate opportunities for young children to engage in dramatic play.
Music can help young children develop motor, language, social-emotional, and cognitive skills. As shown in the tip sheets listed below, there are many opportunities to embed music throughout the daily lives of young children. Adults and young children can sing songs, pretend to be animals, and make musical instruments together.
- IEL Tip Sheets
- Evidence shows that interaction with music positively affects the quality of children’s lives. Th resource list Music for Preschool Children offers tip sheets and additional resources to help early childhood providers maximize those musical interactions.
- Learn more about how all children can benefit from interactions with music. The blog Learning through Music and Movement describes benefits for dual language learners, while The Arts Lesson Addressing Benchmark 25.A.ECc describes benefits for children with disabilities.
- Music can also be incorporated into classrooms using the Project Approach, as demonstrated in The Music Project.
- IELDS benchmarks can be addressed through lesson plans, adapted for children with disabilities. Here is one example: The Arts Lesson Addressing Benchmark 25.A.ECc
Visual arts are a favorite activity for children and adults alike. Young children explore their world through their senses. Open-ended opportunities such as coloring, painting, and play dough or clay help children solve problems, enhance motor skills, build vocabulary, and more. Many IEL tip sheets describe how adults can support young children in visual art activities and experiences. Children can use chalk on sidewalks or crayons or pencils on paper to draw their pictures.
- IEL Tip Sheets
- STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) learning activities provide opportunities for young children to develop skills across developmental domains. The resource list Explore STEAM with Young Children provides IEL resources and additional sources of high-quality, interactive activity ideas for young children.
- When planning activities for young children, it is important to consider the process, as illustrated in the blog Make Art a Part of Every Day: Focus on the Process. The blog Scribbling as Early Steps to Reading and Writing describes how children develop skills. and how young children develop skills. Three-dimensional art can expand upon ideas and skill development by exploring design properties in new ways, as outlined in Challenge Young Artists to Create in Three Dimensions.
- Early childhood classrooms often include children with diverse abilities, experiences, and backgrounds. IEL has developed lesson plans for several IELDS benchmarks that show possible adaptations that can be made to include all children. The Arts Lesson Addressing Benchmark 25.B.ECa and The Arts Lesson Addressing Benchmark 26.B.ECa emphasize helping children describe or respond to creative work and using creative arts for self-expression.
- IEL’s benchmark videos demonstrate how various IELDS benchmarks are met. Children can draw a friend (Drawing a Friend), paint a fence (Mila Paints the Fence), draw a garden (Roland Draws a Garden), paint with straws (Straw Painting), and draw a wheel (Bethany Draws a Wheel), while gaining important skills and exploring visual arts.
- IELDS benchmarks can be addressed through lesson plans, adapted for children with disabilities. Here are two examples:
- Tip sheets:
- Building Endurance: Let’s Get Physical
- Drama and Young Children
- Make Room for Blocks
- Out and About with Preschoolers: Close Up with Visual Arts
- Out and About with Preschoolers: Dancing on the Sidewalk
- Out and About with Preschoolers: Make Some Music
- The Power of the Pen: Drawing and Scribbling
- Sing, Play and Hear: Music’s in the Air
- Things to Do While You’re Waiting series
- Time to Play, Time to Dream: Unscheduling Your Child
- Toys from Throwaways: Boxes
- Young Authors at Work: Story Dictations
- Young Children Need to Play
- Resource lists:
- Bethany Draws a Wheel
- Creative Movement: The Flower Dance
- Drawing a Friend
- Mila Paints the Fence
- Oats, Peas, Beans, and Barley: Learning Through an Action Song
- Pretend Play with Big Boxes
- The Right Word: Conversation and Print During Pretend Play
- Roland Draws a Garden
- Straw Painting
- Tattoos and Teakettles: “Housekeeping” Conversations
- Tea Party
- Active Play Promotes Young Children’s Development
- Challenge Young Artists to Create in Three Dimensions
- Learning Through Music and Movement
- Make Art a Part of Every Day: Focus on the Process
- Scribbling as Early Steps to Reading and Writing
- What Puppets Can Mean to Children
- What Puppets Can Mean to Children, Part 2
- Project Example: The Music Project
- Adapting Lesson Plans to Meet IELDS Benchmarks:
- 2013 Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards: The Arts