Meet the Masters
The Masters, all those famous artists whose works deck the walls of prestigious museums, and the composers whose music graces the air in theatres around the globe, have much to share with youngsters. If we limit children to modern art depicted in cartoons and picture books, or expose them only to early childhood music with easily memorized lyrics, we withhold the greatest works (and at a crucial time, when our children's brains are most active). The art of Monet, Van Gogh, da Vinci, and the music of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Mozart are not too complex for youngsters.
"[Toddlers] are new to the planet," says Bette Setter, founder of the mobile art education program Young Rembrandts. "They have a big responsibility in decoding everything. Art and art images help children develop in their natural quest for knowledge."
With her students as well as with her own children, Setter notices that exposure to the arts at a young age makes children more aware of details. "They become whole thinkers," she explains. "And they keep the art images for life."
Sarah Herbert, early childhood teacher at The Center of Creative Arts in Missouri, explains that teaching children art and music through the works of the Masters encourages development of many skills. "When they are painting, they're becoming more autonomous." Herbert recognizes fine motor skill development from working with paints and other media. The scribble of a two-year-old is actually pre-reading and writing development because of the symbolism created.
Herbert suggests questioning what your child wants to say with his creation instead of asking what the creation is. By asking your child what he wants to tell you about his artwork, you present the concept that what he created stands for an idea.
Children who are encouraged to play percussion instruments begin to understand rhythm, which is a precursor to language development. Free movement to music encourages individuality and self-confidence. "You don't ever have to teach a child to dance," says Herbert. "They have a need to wiggle their bodies." The syntax of music also promotes logical thinking, which helps with math and reading. "People with a proclivity for math are often drawn to music."