Art Experiences

Archive for the ‘right brain’ Category

This being our last week of school, there are lots of items being sent home. Papers, projects, anything that has been tacked up around the classroom, anything in a locker or cubby will be going into a big paper shopping bag to be sent home on that fateful last day of school.

I don’t want to add to that pile so for the last week of art class, I will be giving the children experiences. Truth be told I sprinkle these experiential classes throughout the year because I think it is important that children expand their definition of art. I had an interesting discussion with a class about this one day. I put some blocks on a table and asked one child to build something with them. He moved a few blocks around and called it done. I asked the class, “Is this a sculpture?” No, it was just some toy blocks on a table. I asked them, “Is this art?” No, art is when you paint a picture and take it home.

Then I talked for a minute about how a sculpture is anything three dimensional, anything that is not flat. We talked about “regular” sculptures – statues of horses, sculptures of heads in museums, a metal piece of art in the mall. I stretched their thoughts even further proposing that many things around us could be sculptures – trees, buildings, blocks on a table.

I don’t expect that the kids will have an “aha moment”, but if they are exposed to this creative thought process all year long, new brain connections will be made and innovative ways of thinking will emerge. It may happen tomorrow or when they are twelve. You never know. But I do know that early childhood experiences have a real impact on how children develop ideas about our world.

Anytime children play with interesting materials, pouring or stacking or squishing, they are learning how the world works, how things feel, how to make substances do what you want them to, how to balance objects. They are engaging their imaginative, intuitive, big picture, spatially oriented, anything-is-possible right brain functions to experiment and explore and create.

So, what are some of these experiences? And are they “art”? This last question has been a topic of much societal discussion for centuries and continues to this day. I feel that anytime you create from your intuition, your passion, even if you can’t take it home, it is art. Creating a great project at work, an exciting event or a wonderful dinner is art. ¬†You will know when it is art because you will be engaged and absorbed. Time will feel like it is standing still but is really flying by.

Below are a few of the experiences I provide my classes. Most of the time I give each child their own individual tray to work on. This makes the experience theirs and eliminates conflicts. Older children will benefit from group experiences such as building a sculpture together.

  • sand on trays with cups and spoons
  • dirt with a small cup of water and popsicle sticks
  • a lump of clay with large beads, shells, forks and anything that makes an impression
  • packing peanuts with a handful of toothpicks
  • tape the letters of the alphabet down to the table and give out Q-tips
  • sand, flat rocks and a stick
  • a bin with a few inches of water, a plastic cup and a funnel
  • pieces of aluminum foil
  • pieces of plastic coated wire (I like Twisteez brand)
  • a tray of recyclables, scissors and a roll of tape

Try a few of these things at home with your children or when you need some down time in your classroom. You will be amazed at how long they want to work on this. Ask them a few open ended questions about what they are making and write down the answers. You can practically see the gears spinning in their heads!

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Art is a process. It is a way of looking at things and putting them together. Both children and adults learn best by doing. Choose any subject and think about how much you learn by reading about it. How much do you remember after listening to someone talk about it? Now think about how much more you understand through the experience of doing it yourself.

1. Creating art promotes innovation and originality. In today’s constantly changing technological world, creative thinking and innovation are needed to survive. Creative people are often the most successful business people.

2. Art is a safe outlet for self expression as there is no right and wrong in the creative process.

3. Practicing art teaches you to form mental images to solve problems and improves spatial reasoning skills. Consider the skills of a surgeon, architect and scientist. The ability to conceptualize solutions is an important skill in everyday life.

4. According to The College Board, children who create art score an average of 103 points higher on standardized tests. This may seem counterintuitive, but the reason is because they are so much more proficient at problem solving, complex reasoning, analytical and spatial skills.

5. Creating promotes careful observation and reflection and an eye for detail. Observation leads to curiosity and the pull to learn. Reflecting on what you have learned is especially important in careers involving writing and science.

6. Art creates a global attitude, an appreciation and understanding of the world. Becoming aware of diverse cultures and viewpoints is especially important in today’s connected world.

7. The creative process strengthens brainstorming and critical thinking skills. There is more than one solution to almost every problem. Art promotes the essential right brain skills of synthesis, evaluation and interpretation.

8. Creating gives us pride in our work and positive self esteem. Working on longer term projects involves practicing setting goals and instills the value of delayed gratification.

9. Creating art teaches you how to focus. In our world of multitasking, learning to slow down and focus on one activity is a valuable skill. There are many times in our lives when we need a laser-sharp focus.

10. Handling many types of art materials improves manual dexterity and fine motor skills. This is especially important in young children as good hand skills are essential for learning to write. Studies with adults have shown that moving your hands in a variety of directions helps counter age related pains and improves hand strength.

Experiencing art is for everyone. The enormous benefits are indisputable. You don’t have to be “good” at art in order to reap the benefits. You just have to try it and experience it. It’s the process, the doing, that is important, not the end result. Using your creative skills will truly enhance your life.


Hi! I'm Susan Stein and of my many passions in life,
two of my biggest are art and children. In the process of teaching children art, I also teach them problem solving, brainstorming, inventive thinking, originality, working with others, hand eye coordination, and so much more. It doesn't matter if you're good at drawing or not, everyone will benefit from experiencing art.

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