Can art and craft make children more confident?

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1. Are art and craft really worth the effort?

Most children love colouring, painting, sticking and making things – not only is it good fun, it’s also an opportunity to get messy, which appeals to most pre-schoolers. As a parent, doing art and craft at home can sometimes feel like a huge effort, especially if your little ones lose interest in a project halfway through and leave you holding the glitter.

But even when it doesn’t go quite according to plan, getting crafty together brings huge benefits for children and their families – from building psychological resources and physical skills to helping with brain development – as Alex Winters has been finding out in this video.

2. How does making art help children develop?

CBeebies presenter and dad, Alex Winters, met early years arts expert Ruth Churchill Dower to find out how making art helps children’s development.

In this video, Ruth Churchill Dower, who runs a national network for early years arts, explains how making art helps children in the first three or four years of life.

3. Setting them up for life

There’s evidence that encouraging children to be creative and imaginative early in life can actually help them to be more resourceful and resilient when they’re faced with barriers or obstacles in adult life.

Making things that they’ve dreamed up or painting things that go beyond their wildest imaginings helps children to conjure up possible solutions and find different ways to approach problems. Making art is a great, safe way to discover that it’s okay to make mistakes and that getting things ‘wrong’ can lead you to a whole new idea.

When they’re making a picture or a model, your child is making all their own decisions about where to put things and what to emphasise which is really empowering and will encourage their independence.

Research shows that activities like connecting shapes or creating patterns taps into the same parts of the brain that we use for more complex problem solving later on like maths.

4. Making new brain connections

Did you know that being creative and making things could affect the physical – as well as emotional and psychological – way the brain develops?

When babies are born their brains have almost the full complement of neurons already in place but only about one quarter of the connections between them (synapses) have been made. Babies and children go on to make millions more of these connections throughout their early childhood as they start to make sense of the world.

The most fruitful time for making new connections in the brain (a process known as ‘synaptogenesis’) is during the first three years of children’s lives and research has shown that being in creative environments at this age can really fire up these new synaptic connections.

Giving children the opportunity to be creative when they’re very small can therefore help them to connect all the different parts of their brains and their bodies, build a well-rounded personality and promote mental wellbeing – as well as honing physical connections such as the fine motor skills they’ll need for activities like writing later on.

5. Top tips for a creative childhood

So what can you do at home to give your child lots of opportunities to get creative and share new experiences?

In this video, early years arts expert Ruth Churchill Dower explores some practical ideas for making and experiencing art with your pre-schooler.

6. Share a creative moment with your child

Getting crafty or enjoying art and music with your child is a great opportunity to enjoy a shared experience and learn together.

Learning together helps your child to feel that you’re taking them seriously – that you ‘get’ that they’re not just messing around when they play – which in turn builds their self-esteem.

For children who perhaps can’t yet express what they’re feeling in words, being creative can provide a way for them to show you what’s really important to them right now.

Try to encourage your little one to explain their creative decisions back to you – for example, by asking them where the line in their picture is going to, or why the person they've drawn is smiling.

This technique, which is called ‘scaffolding’, helps children to feel they’re being listened to. It’ll give you a clearer idea of what your little one is really trying to express through their art, craft, music or dance efforts, and shared moments like this are a lovely way to bond with your child.

7. Build creativity into your family life

What kind of creative activity would fit in with your daily life?

Head outdoors

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Head outdoors

Give children the freedom to get messy by taking art materials outdoors. Get inspired by nature, and talk about what you can see, hear or smell.

Cheap creations

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Cheap creations

Provide a (cheap) blank canvas by giving your child an empty box to decorate. They’ll be empowered by making their own choices about what to do with it!

Virtual artwork

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Virtual artwork

For creative fun on-the-go, try the mess-free Make-a-Picture games on the CBeebies website or our Playtime app.

Explore an exhibition

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Explore an exhibition

Galleries or museums can be a great option for a family-friendly day out. See a little bit of art, run around, and take part in free family activities.