Art in Early Childhood: Curriculum Connections Part 2

Art and Motor Development
While making art, young children develop control of large and small muscle groups (Koster, 1997). The large arm movements required for painting or drawing at an easel or on large paper on the floor build coordination and strength. The smaller movements of fingers, hands, and wrists required to cut with scissors, model clay, or draw or paint on smaller surfaces develop fine motor dexterity and control. With repeated opportunities for practice, young children gain confidence in their use of tools for making art and later for writing.

Making art also helps children develop eye-hand coordination (Koster, 1997). As children decide how to make parts fit together into a whole, where to place objects, and what details to include, they learn to coordinate what they see with the movements of their hands and fingers. This eye-hand coordination is essential for many activities, including forming letters and spacing words in formal writing.


Art Experiences in Classrooms for Young Children
Although art activities help children develop in many areas, teachers must recognize that art also has value in and of itself. Fostering the development of children's aesthetic sense and engaging children in creative experiences should be the objectives of an early childhood art program.

Activities that involve children in both making and enjoying art are essential if programs are to meet the needs of the whole child. The challenge for early childhood teachers is to provide these activities in an art program that is developmentally appropriate and that can be integrated throughout the curriculum. Such a program should include:

  • using reproductions to expose children to masterpiece art
  • taking field trips to local museums to provide opportunities for art appreciation
  • providing access to a classroom art center in which children choose their own topics and media
  • displaying children's artwork in a classroom gallery
  • involving families in the art program.

To integrate an art program into a developmentally appropriate curriculum, adults must recognize that children express their ideas through art, just as they do in writing. Creative teachers find ways to support children's learning across the curriculum through activities in which children make art and enjoy the art of others. The following elements form the basis of an art program to be integrated into a developmentally appropriate curriculum for young children.

Using Masterpiece Reproductions
Posters and smaller reproductions of masterpiece art can be purchased at most art museums or through teacher supply catalogs. Less expensive reproductions can be obtained from calendars, stationery, magazines, and newspapers. Teachers can use these reproductions in many ways to support children's learning throughout the classroom and curriculum.

Reproductions may be used on signs to designate learning centers or label parts of the classroom. For example, Jacob Lawrence's Builders #1might be displayed in the woodworking center, or Jean Simeon Chardin's Soap Bubbles could be hung over the water table. Reproductions could be used to indicate gender on the restroom door or where children line up to go outside. Reproductions could also be used on bulletin boards to accompany displays related to thematic units. The work of Piet Mondrian might be used to illustrate a focus on primary colors or shapes, that of Claude Monet might accompany a unit on spring, while the works of Maurice Utrillo might go with a study of communities. Masterpiece art would not, in either learning centers or group discussions, replace the use of real objects or photographs as visual aids, but would provide children with another way of seeing and thinking about the concepts they are learning. Reproductions help children to make the connection "between reality and art—someone's interpretation of reality" (Dighe, Calomiris, & Van Zutphen, 1998, p. 5).