By Dr Amrita Vohra
In today’s academic scenario, the creative arts have all but entirely disappeared from the Indian education system. There was a time when creative classes were compulsory for students, and were given their due importance by parents, teachers and kids alike. However, the current mounting academic pressure, coupled with the insurmountable curriculum goals, has completely pushed arts and crafts to the sidelines.
The increasing importance placed on academics and the growing neglect shown towards extra-curricular activities is certainly not unheard of. However, unfortunately in most cases, the concerned parties are still unaware of the contribution of those very subjects to a child’s academic and personal growth.
Learning art and craft doesn’t solely foster the creative development of a child, but also assists in advancing and refining his or her core skills, which help further academic achievements as well. Activities at school hobby clubs, which are product and process-oriented, can engage and augment a child’s cognitive and critical thinking abilities immensely. Cognition refers to the brain’s conscious mental activities, and includes thinking, reasoning, understanding, learning and remembering. As such, the development of these functions is vital for all activities undertaken by a child.
Therefore, imbibing a healthy interest in arts and crafts, early on, in a child, can give him or her several key advantages, some of which are:
Improved bilateral coordination
Bilateral coordination is the ability to simultaneously utilise both sides of the brain, and is a good indicator of the cognitive progress. Children who struggle with coordinating both sides of their bodies face difficulty in completing daily tasks like tying their shoes, conducting motor activities like stringing beads and carrying out visual motor tasks such as writing. At the pre-primary level, one can introduce a critical skill dependent largely on bilateral coordination — Crossing the Midline — an ability to reach across the middle of the body with one’s arms and legs crossing over to the opposite side. This coordination ability is enhanced by creative activities since they simultaneously activate several different areas of the brain through absorbing tasks like using play-doh ‘tools’, and lacing yarn through holes and various other craft activities. Children enjoy splashing colours on canvas and moulding the clay with their tiny hands. We have seen and studied the advantage of these on the fine and gross motor skills of students.
All forms of art, including sketching or dancing, require and train the perseverance and focus of a child, making them absolutely essential in enhancing his or her cognitive development. When teachers encourage children to put their creativity in practice, they increase their capacity of focusing and grasping the subject matter.
Strengthening of visual learning
For young kids, painting, sculpting and sketching play important roles in helping evolve and engage their visual skills, while also improving their knowledge of spatial relations. When children draw items that are specific and correlated, like objects which are thick and thin, smooth and rough, far and near, and so on, they are able to easily understand the concepts of distance, size, comparison, and textural differences, in an elementary manner. This augments their fundamental visual analysis skills. As such, arts and crafts help educate students on interpretation and criticism, showing them how to make choices based on visual information, which is certainly beyond the scope of pure academics. Visual processing and spatial relations are crucial in performing basic skills like riding a bike or playing ball, and an underdeveloped skill capacity may greatly hinder this functioning.
Advancing problem solving skills
When we draw, we have to carefully depict several specific attributes of an object, in order to portray it with utmost accuracy. The same goes for children, when they draw a house and a tree, for instance, using their cognitive skills to determine where the door of the house should be, and what should be the relative size of the person, or what kind of emotions he or she is displaying. These entail problem solving and decision-making skills which are being constantly applied during these exercises, and hence, are assimilated, while producing artistic projects.
Pursuing arts and crafts allows a child to exercise flexible thinking and incorporate a number of extremely crucial cognitive skills. Working on an art project helps them to de-stress, while exploring his or her individual creativity, and incorporating learning through fun, the perfect indication of a healthy education system. This is why, it is extremely important for parents to encourage children to take up arts and crafts, using positive reinforcements like displaying their artwork around the house or praising them in front of guests and family members, to motivate them to practice it with increased vigour and enthusiasm. This, in turn, will help advance their academic standing and simultaneously prosper their overall welfare.
(The writer is Principal of GIIS Chinchwad.)