Arts In The Education Of Young Children Education Essay

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Art is an excellent form for young children to express feelings, ideas and their understandings about themselves and the surrounding as they see it. They enjoy experiences in visual art, music, drama, movement and dance. Piaget's influence of play a vital human characteristics also categorise play as activities of arts such as playing music, making and performing plays, painting pictures and reading novels. These experiences allow them to be creative, imaginative and expressive (Swanwick, 1988). Loris Malaguzzi as cited in McArdle (2003) states that arts open a window of opportunities for children to use a hundred languages, a hundred hands, a hundred thoughts, a hundred ways of thinking, of playing and speaking. My argument on the importance of arts in young children education will be with specific examples from visual and music.

Fraser (2005) states that in many parts of the world the preschools have rich resources of art materials like clay, paints, collage materials and play dough available but seldom integrated into the program. The teachers seldom encourage the children make use of the materials other than for sensory exploration. In our preschool and many other preschools in Singapore it is just displayed as a show piece to show new walk in parents coming in for enquiries that such resources are available but they are not liberally used in the program. Duffy (1998) states that to arouse children's creative and imaginative experiences sufficient space to work and easily accessible resources must be offered to them. The prestigious Reggio Emilia early childhood program that Singaporeans believe has a culture of having educators who consider art not in isolation but integrated as one of the hundred languages children use to investigate and represent the world (Fraser, 2005). An example will be displaying clay, wood, rocks, shells and dried grass that are attractively laid on the table for children to think how birds use mud to build their nests and the teacher scaffold the children to suggest how the children can explore with the materials themselves. These art forms provide young children with opportunities for self-awareness, social interaction, exploration, manipulation that stimulate their senses and enhances their learning and creative thinking. Spencer (as cited in Swanwick, 1988) states that art should not be separable from education as leisure but occupy the leisure part of education.

Drawing is fundamental to all visual communication and yet in a recent survey by Clement in1994, 60 percent of the teachers do not know how it might best be taught and they requested further in service training if they are to teach the art curriculum (Cooke, Griffin and Cox, 1998). Cooke, et al. (1998) states that drawing arouses imagination and it helps in recording their observations in other areas of curriculum. The beauty of the children's work in Reggio's hundred languages of children, exhibit the projects that utilize children's symbolic languages, which include drawing, painting and constructing clay modelling. Cooke, et al. (1998) states that representational drawing are visual communication which is relatively easy to read and is used in different cultures at different times throughout history.

Children in Reggio Emilia use drawing as the fastest and most direct way of putting their ideas across and making them visible. This processes show the children's way of making sense of the world through representation. They spontaneously use drawing as a language to represent their ideas to express their emotions and communicate the thinking of young children. Kolbe (2001) states that visual arts is an incredible powerful tool that enables children to explain things to themselves and to others. Children understand their potentials for personal expressions by experimenting with art materials and processes. They develop good motor control, language and problem solving strategies, social skills and aesthetic awareness and appreciation. Children early exposure to visual arts in Reggio Emilia enable them to have deep understanding of creating high quality art.

They are introduced to line, colour, shapes and form, pattern and texture. Lines are everywhere and children are introduced to descriptors such as long, short, thick, fat, heavy, thin horizontal, vertical, diagonal, jagged, smooth, continuous and broken. Children are also introduced to the names of colours as primary and mixing two primary colours to make secondary colours and observe shades of colours such as warm, cool, dull, light, pale and dark. Shape and form refers to the area of an object or picture, lines or colours that create boundaries within a picture that create shapes. Children can spend hours joyfully creating 3-dimensional representations of things they see using clay, dough or blocks and introduced to vocabulary such as round, oval, triangle, broad, narrow and spacious. In pictures and 3-dimensional artworks, children can look out for represented or contrasting colours, lines, shapes or combinations of these elements. Texture refers to the tactile quality of objects, either in real life or simulated by combination of art elements in a picture. Children may look for and sort out objects of different texture to create a picture. They could also look at a picture and guess if an object is rough, smooth, furry, prickly, slippery, hard or soft. The principles of the visual arts are unity, rhythm, proportion, design, balance, harmony, contrast and repetition. Drawing painting and working with clay hence should be the core areas of visual art programs and should be offered daily, so that children come to understand and use these media for cognitive and expressive purposes.

There are cumulative stages in a child's development and as psychologist, Eleanor Maccoby (as cited in Swanwick, 1988) mentioned that development occur in a sequential order and Maccoby (as cited in Swanwick, 1988) mentioned that the series of children's progressive development is at a fairly standard timetable. Swanwick (1988) states that the influencing factors are the genetic inheritance and the environment example the home, school and society where the child is exposed. Piaget (as cited in Swanick,1988) states that feeling of power is the pleasure of a child exploring and mastering the environment and an example is the baby learning to repeat a vocal sound or shake a rattle continuously. Music is representational and Swanwick (1988) states that the child is able to imitate and the child is able to create new relationship through imagination. Swanwick (1988) also states that the vital human characteristics play is intrinsically bound with playing music. A child's spontaneous music behaviour through Piaget's theory of meaningful play triggers imagination than the structured music teaching. Winston (2010) states that playing is a verb applicable to the creative process example musicians with melodic and harmonic possibilities to the development of skills practised through playing. The right hemisphere of the brain functions and investigations have shown that the right brain has special functions of the sensuous, the spatial and the intuitive that all helps in the imagination process (Swanwick, 1988). If teachers work with a standardised model, the children's imaginative qualities are lost as they are tuned only to the creation of music of what the teacher's teach them to compose (Young and Glover, 1998).

Learning music is bound by the theoretical triangle of mastery, imitation and imagination and the cycle is continues with the child's different stages of growth and also when learning a different musical instrument. A children's first response to the music before they turn one year old is the tone by learning to repeat what they hear and master the tone. The next stage will be imitating the physical movement in relation to the rhythm of the music and it occurs between 18 months and 2 years old. Around the age of four children are able to construct imaginative songs and to scaffold their knowledge a good learning environment is essential.Their natural intrinsic musical talent the child manifest can be further developed through extrinsic classroom learning environment. Andress states that music play area should attract children to trigger curiosity so that they will be motivated to involve in making and responding to music. Opportunities should be given to children to create their own music with wide choices of musical instruments available and also to listen to others music and learn to imitate the music that they prefer. Music should be integrated as part of the program in the classroom and choice of individual and group musical activities should be provided. The activities should be combination of child-directed or adult facilitated as a group. The type of musical activities can be composing and improvising with instruments and voice, notating, listening to music, playing instruments, singing invented or canonic songs. The activities can be interconnected to complement one type of activity to make it more lively and challenging for the children. The adults role will be identifying the children's potential and assist the children in developing their musical competence and enjoyment.

The importance of arts can only be felt and appreciated if the lead comes from the Education Ministry. Singapore education system is structured with emphasis on the c onfucius philosophy on meritocracy. They give strong support in the learning of Science and Mathematics related subjects but very little support on arts. Gifted children on Science and Mathematics (Ministry of Education, 2012) are identified at an early age of nine and specially groomed to enhance their genetic capabilities. Parents generally feel that Science and Mathematics are more important than arts and many children who have natural talent and interest in arts are not given the opportunity to provide an environment. Our government also do not provide avenues for children with natural talents in arts to be identified and specially groomed. I am also one of the unlucky person whereby I loved visual arts but I was not given an opportunity because during my time engineering subjects were favoured so that we can secure successful and high salary career when we grow up.

If importance in arts is given at the primary and higher level education I believe parents perception on the importance and the need for introducing arts at an early age will change. This will encourage preschool educators to give more emphasis on integrating arts in the pre-school curriculum as daily activities.