By Kartik Bajoria
An Art Integrated Toddler Development Pedagogy isn’t only about understanding ways and means of incorporating the arts into a child’s everyday life and learning. It is much more than that. It is important to us to clarify a few facets of this entire subject for better understanding of this broad area of parent-toddler or teacher-toddler engagement.
First then, let us see how we perceive the word or concept of ‘pedagogy’, an otherwise often misconstrued word because it is primarily discerned by educators. Pedagogy, in the simplest terms, is the way we teach or impart knowledge. To my mind, it includes domain as well as experiential/skill developmental facets and calls upon both art and science in teaching practices.
The complete arts palette
Second, art itself, since we are speaking to a pervasive inclusion of the stream into a toddler’s life must be viewed as the entire gamut of the art experience. So it isn’t just drawing and painting, not only dance or a specific performing art alone – rather the entire ‘arts’ mix.
Too much of any good thing is also bad
Most experienced mental health professionals, educators, experts, as well as studies will tell us that toddlers are easily stimulated and hyper sensitive. They are very easily over-excited. In order to prevent several unsavoury fallouts of over-stimulation such as causing confusion, irritation, agitation (since they have little to no idea of how to process their feelings, emotions or stimuli); they need to be ‘eased’ into the arts. Even following this initiation, they need to be subtly exposed to art-based activities and stimuli, in short/small doses, being mindful not to over-burden their minds and bodies.
What might constitute over-burdening, a perfectly legitimate question? What a lot of parents and/or even schools, unwittingly do – paint the entire classroom with heady, multiple colours thinking it will either make toddlers very happy and/or aid in them quickly discerning various colours. Neither will happen. Rather, they will feel deeply, even if not visibly, because it is passive, disturbed, angry even. The same applies to all other kinds of art forms. So let us curb our parental enthusiasm and understand first and foremost, that an art-integrated pedagogy for toddler development, encompassing its myriad of obvious advantages such as enhancement of brain, motor skills, creativity and the like, must be a slow and steady process, not a shock and awe tactic.
Finally, moving on to suggestions of how to integrate the different arts – let us use the artistic side of ourselves and our children to help improve their movements. By indulging in a joint activity such as pottery and clay-shaping or paint-brush handling/drawing/painting, we are suggesting to the mind and body, in a fun, creative, least-stressed manner, how to use fingers, hands and develop a coordination between mind and body, cause and effect, desire and action. A wonderful pedagogical example to incorporate!
The first language teacher
Music can be a toddler’s first languages teacher, and a highly effective one at that. Listening to rhymes, songs, stories will inevitably unlock the wonders of language in a toddler and help him/her begin to understand communications. Meanings, words, tonality, rhythm, speaking-meter, varying pace/tempo/volume/pitch and what those nuances mean – one might be a statement, another a question, still another expressing amazement, wonder or astonishment!
Be it a little skit or play, a group painting activity, these present a slew of benefits that teach a child sharing, accommodation, team-work, collaboration, interpersonal skills, friendship, communications skills, aside from the more obvious takeaways such as knowledge of colours, language, etc, remember what I said in the beginning about pedagogy being both domain knowledge as well as skills development.
Playtime becomes learning time and vice versa
If, by using the arts, parents can merge play and learning, and not make them distinct, separate pursuits as has been largely the case for generations (where ‘art’ period or art-time is akin to play-time but study-time is serious and has nothing to do with play and/or art). This kind of arts-inclusive pedagogy will put an end to education and learning being a dreadful and boring chore. And two, it will get children constantly excited, and naturally learn through the arts, not just when they are toddlers but for years to come, through life!
The arts are an absolutely wonderful, creative, immersive and fun learning tool. Only because we are speaking specifically of toddlers, we need to guard against how much, because just like when we get hurt and put too much medicinal ointment in the hope that the wound may heal quicker but in actual fact it gets worse, an overdose of the arts too, can become counterproductive.
(Kartik Bajoria is a writer, educator and moderator.)
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