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What are the benefits of painting for children?

Updated July 20, 2017

Long before children become adept at verbal communication, they fine tune body language, are capable of expressing and receiving ideas through sign language, and use coos, squawks and screams to make their needs and wishes known. Because art is a language all its own and even the tiniest babies respond to contrasts in light and colour, painting benefits children emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physiologically.

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Painting Is Pleasant

Ask anyone who has ever painted simply for the sake of painting; there is a soothing quality to drawing a brush across a piece of paper or canvas. There is magic to the colours the young artist chooses. The creative process allows feelings--both good and bad--to become tangible things by giving them colour and form, light and shade. Even in unfamiliar hands, a paintbrush soon becomes an instrument of inner peace as it gives the painter a path from his heart to his brush to his canvas.. He relaxes. His face even softens as he works.

Painting Conveys Unspoken Emotion

Painting soothes the troubled spirit and provides an easy avenue for the release of sadness, rejection, pain, anger and fear. These feelings often go unnoticed by parents and teachers, or are categorised as behaviour disorders because children and teens tend to mask vulnerability with anger. By painting, negative emotions are given flight and colour that convey their urgency and intensity. They no longer threaten to explode into harsh words and violence, into cursing and desperate attempts to relieve emotional pain. Instead, they burst into art.

Painting Encourages Dialogue

Small children are not able to apply words to complex negative feelings, yet they are often able to paint them. By asking a sad or humiliated child about his painting, the focus shifts from himself and his inability or unwillingness to share, to his work of art. The sharing becomes both easier and safer. This is especially true of abused children. A wise adult helps the child unpack the negatives through encouraging words and effective questioning about the painting.

Painting Affects Critical Thinking

As a child paints, he thinks. Art is not all about emotion; it is also about thinking. As a child paints, he processes his work, evaluates it, analyses it. By doing so, he is able to discern its merits and shortcomings. Because canvas is forgiving, he is able to paint over or redesign that part of the piece which is not pleasing to him. The child sees his work with a critical eye, and one that is able to consider multiple points of view. This higher order thinking will serve him both in school and at play.

Painting and Physiology

The left side of the brain operates mainly in the tangible and rational. The left side is the centre for logic. In school, that translates into math, Science and the mechanics of reading. We use the right side of our brains in situations involving intuition, emotion and creativity. As a child paints, both sides of his brain are engaged, strengthening the connections between the two hemispheres.

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About the Author

Writer and storyteller Paige Tighe has been published since age nine. After earning a Bachelor of Arts in English from Towson University in 1986, Tighe freelanced in southern New Jersey, and had her articles and poetry appear nationwide in "Writing Teacher Magazine," "The Storytelling Classroom" and others. She is also a certified special education teacher.

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