Advocating for Arts in Early Childhood Essay Example

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Advocating for Arts in Early Childhood


The teaching paradigms for children below the age of five are distinctly different from children who are older, as the latter have already acquired significant cognitive, emotional, and social development. In planning the learning activities of children aged five and below, musical play, drama and visual arts are vital (Craft, 2009; Suther 2004; Andres, 1998, Ewing (2010). As argued in this essay, participation in music, visual arts, and drama, leads to greater social, cognitive, and emotional development of young children. This paper, therefore, critically examines how arts support children’s learning. Focus is on children below the age of five. The key areas of learning and development explored include emotional, cognitive, and social development, as well as their links to Victorian Early Years learning, and Development Framework (VEYLDF) outcomes.

Children’s learning is embedded in their music experiences. As Suther (2004) observed in a past study, music enables children to discover sounds, explored different means to making sounds, as well as mix sound and make sound patterns. Singing also enables emotion development of children. According to Suther (2004), when toddlers are made to sing, the repetition of songs enabled them to feel secure to sing, as a result, enabling them to develop their confidence and language.

Music also facilitates social development of children. Andres (1998) and Suther (2004) observe that since music experience facilitates their confidence and language skills, the children develop the confidence to talk, respond to others, and interact socially with others. Additionally, the different music activities present pleasurable interactions for toddlers and young children, as well as the adults to interact.

For instance, in a Kodaly training that uses folk songs and stresses the need to use rhythmic and melodic elements, toddlers of the same IQ and socioeconomic status were given music instruction 5 days a week, 40 minutes a day, for 7 months. After seven months, they demonstrated higher reading scores compared to other students who were not given music instruction, scoring 88% and72% respectively. Another extra year of Kodaly training proved that the experimental group had better reading abilities than the control group (Weinberger, 1994).

Therefore, music experience is linked to all the VEYLDF outcomes: greater sense of identity, connectedness with and contribution to their world, sense of wellbeing, confidence and involved learning, and lastly communication (Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, 2011).

Visual arts

Visual arts also encourage social, emotional, and cognitive development of children, leading to faster learning. As Ewing (2010) observed, young childrenwhose learning is embedded in visual arts are likely to attain better grades and test scores. They hardly ever report boredom and demonstrate positive self-concept compared to children who are starved of arts experiences.

Ewing (2010) further observed that when children below the age of five are exposed to visual arts, they tend to show better test scores, basic skills in mathematics and reading, as well as greater capacity to creatively think. Sharp (2013) also argues that young children who have greater exposure to visual arts tend to be more creative.

Visual arts also provide a means for engaging young children who tend to be difficult to engage, as it connects them to themselves and to others, in addition to the world. As Ewing (2010) observed, engaging children in community art activities enabled children to develop a sense of community identity, as well as to develop organisational and social capital capacity. Certain intrinsic benefits are also mentioned by Sharp (2004), including emotional stimulation of the children, stimulation of imaginative experience, and making sense of the environment. Trevarthen (2013) also noted expanded capacity for children to work in teams and develop greater ability to socialise with others.

In a preschool setting in Dublin, an observation of children’s cognitive and social development was made in two classes of 4-5 year olds in the pre-school class. The first class had 12 children, while the second had 10. It was noted that children who were engaged in drawing had superior cognitive abilities, including ability to name facial features like mouth, nose, ears, and eyes. Drawing was also found to influence their vocabulary acquisition, hence assisting their language development and ultimately ability to interact with others (Anim, 2012).

Therefore, visual arts experience is linked to all the VEYLDF outcomes.

Drama also encourages social, emotional, and cognitive development of children, leading to faster learning. Dramatic methods tend to stimulate young children’s curiosity, excitement, and interests. They also encourage cognitive development, as they capture their imaginations and attention (Lillard et al. 2013; Ozbek (2014).

It also provides them with an opportunity to participate in their learning. Indeed, within the context of children’s learning, Ozbek (2014) describes drama as an adaptive and a coordinated means through which the young children learn to make sense of the social and physical environment. A similar review by Deans et al (2007) also shows that drama helps children to acquire feelings of control over their intricate life issues, and to solve problems. Indeed, the concept of dramatic experience is anchored in the “learning by doing” theory proposed by Vygotsky (1978), when he suggested that learning stimulates a range of internal developmental processes that operate in situations where children interact with individuals in their environment, as well as cooperate with their peers.

According to Weisberg et al (2013), drama encourages positive outcomes in the academic skills of young children, as well as
positive outcomes in their socio-emotional development. In turn, this leads to enhanced
emotion regulation and minimised stress levels. In a related study, Ogan & Berk (2009) found similar results when playful pedagogy is used instead of direct instruction.

For instance, two groups of 4 to 6-year-old children were examined for creativity and cognitive abilities. The first group was allowed to play with pipe cleaners and aluminium foils. The second group was guided to play in a drama that depicted a forest and river. The two groups of children were then asked creative questions on how they could use different objects to solve certain problems. The second group gave more creative responses and confidently interacted with others (Weisberg et al, 2013).

Therefore, dramatic experience is linked to all the VEYLDF outcomes.


Participation in music, visual arts, and drama, leads to greater social, cognitive, and emotional development of young children. As observed, there is a remarkable consensus as to the evidence of a strong positive relationship between young children’s participation in the arts, music, and drama, and the advantages they derive as regards social, cognitive, and emotional development. Use of music, visual arts, and drama are linked to all the VEYLDF outcomes.


Andres, B. (1998). Early childhood: Where’s the music in «The Hundred Languages of Children?». General Music Today, 11(3), 14-17.

Anim, J. (2012). The role of drawing in promoting the children’s communication in Early Childhood Education. Thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Erasmus Mundus

joint degree “Master in Early Childhood Education and Care”.

Craft, A. (2009). «Creativity and possibility in the early years.» University of Exeter, September 16 (2008): 2009.

Deans J., Brown, R. & Young, S. (2007). The possum story: Reflections of an early childhood drama teacher. Australian Journal of Early Childhood. 32(4), 1-11.

Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. (2011). Victorian early years learning and development framework for al children from birth to eight years. Retrieved: <>

Ewing, R. (2010). The arts and Australian education : realising potential. Camberwell, Victoria: ACER Press, 2010.

Lillard, A., Lerner, M., Hopkins, E., Dore, R., Smith, E. & Palmquist, C. (2013). The impact of pretend play on children’s development: A review of the evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 139(1), 1–34

Sharp, C. (2004). Developing young children’s creativity through arts: What does research have to offer?. NFER, 2001.

Sharp, C. (2013). Developing Young Children’s Creativity Through Arts: What Does Research Have to Offer?. NFER, 2004, 32, 5-12

Suthers, L. (2004). Music experiences for toddlers in day care centres. Australian Journal of Music Education, 29(4), 45-49.

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Weinberger, N. (1994). Music and Cognitive Achievement in Children. Musica, 1(2),

Weisberg, D. S., Hirsh-Pasek, K., & Golinkoff, R. M. (2013). Guided play: Where curricular goals meet a playful pedagogy. Mind, Brain & Education, 7(2), 104-112. doi:10.1111/mbe.12015