July 10, 2009

Physical Benefits of Arts and Crafts

Kids love art because it gives them opportunities for self-expression and a sense of accomplishment. Parents love it when their kids create art because it keeps them quietly and productively occupied. Little thought is usually given to the physical benefits of art, but they are significant.

It’s easy to see how art promotes hand-eye coordination. The simple act of putting crayon or pencil to paper and scribbling requires the hands and eyes to work together. Once that’s mastered, the child can take it a step further to begin to form lines and shapes.

Another important benefit of art involves the development of muscles in the hands and fingers. If you think about it, this makes as much sense as the relationship between art and hand-eye coordination. Going back to the drawing example, a child must learn to properly hold a crayon in order to successfully use it. Doing so requires him to use specific muscles in the hand that may have previously been rarely utilized. These are the same muscles that he will use later in life to perform everyday tasks such as writing.

Drawing isn’t the only type of art that develops muscles in the hands and fingers. Virtually every type of visual art offers such benefits in one way or another. Finger painting, for instance, requires controlled movement of the fingers. Painting with a paintbrush requires kids to grip in a different manner than that used when drawing or writing. And modeling clay or play dough involves squeezing, mashing and rolling.

Using scissors is another activity that is great for building muscles in the hands. The motions required to open and close the scissors work the hand in ways that few other activities do. Children can also build important muscles by beading. Using chenille stems and large beads makes it easy enough for small hands without compromising the benefits of the activity.

Even music can help develop hand and finger muscles. The most obvious example is playing the piano. The motions used to strike the keys directly correlate with those used in typing, which is an important skill later in life. Wind instruments also require certain hand motions. Even gripping drumsticks offers unique benefits.

Art in any form provides more benefits for young children than most of us realize. It’s good in a number of ways for cognitive and emotional development. And those simple tasks that we take for granted can help children build a good foundation for skills that they will use in coming years. From a simple pen and paper drawing to an intricate clay figurine, any art project can provide opportunities for kids to use hand and finger muscles in ways that they may not have used them before.

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