Art is Fundamental…

Not Just Optimal

Dr. Nermeen Dashoush, PhD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education
and Chief Curriculum Officer for MarcoPolo World School

We can all visualize that iconic potato-like person with stick legs and arms sticking out of a circular body that young children draw. Their prolific drawings are among the first glimpses that we get into children’s imaginations and how they are processing the world around them. Art is a part of who they are, how they think, how they learn and how they communicate.

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Yet when we think about what young children should be learning in school, art is not the first thing that comes to mind. In fact, art is often viewed simply as a fun extra activity. However, countless studies show the connections between quality art education and the healthy cognitive development of children. This research tells us that art is not just optimal, it is fundamental!

While art develops unique qualities and skills, isolating it as a separate part of a child’s education is to overlook its other benefits. The integration of art with other disciplines and the creation of thematic units provide ‘vehicles for cognitive development that [promote] vocabulary development, reasoning, comparing/contrasting, abstraction, integration of concepts, and conceptual development’. Art is not merely an activity; it is a learning style and a valuable pedagogical tool.

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As children engage in art, they are developing fine motor skills. A child trying out different materials and adjusting their layout is practicing problem-solving skills and even participating in the engineering design process. Moreover, there are topics that children are fascinated by, such as black holes and poisonous snakes, that they don’t have hands-on ways of manipulating. Through art, they can create, manipulate and turn their mental ideas, events and concepts into physical products.

The sensory opportunities provided by art are also not to be missed. In a world of, ‘Do not touch that!’ art is an opportunity for children to explore with different materials that provide a broad sensory experience, rich with textures and colors.

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In MarcoPolo World School, the new Art Room provides children with valuable opportunities to touch, sculpt, bend and build the ideas they are discovering in other subjects such as literacy, math and science.

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1. Baker D. Art Integration and Cognitive Development. Journal for Learning through the Arts. [Internet] 2013 [cited 23 May 2018]; 9(1). Available from: