When you consider art for kids, wording can be confusing.
Check out many community education catalogs and enrichment camps descriptions, and you’ll often see “arts & crafts” listed as an option for children.
What distinguishes instruction in art vs. crafts?
Process and outcomes tend to separate a visual arts experience from making crafts. While a craft workshop entails following directions to produce a specific product, a visual arts class provides instruction and encourages an exploration of materials and ideas that do not necessarily lead to a particular outcome. Creativity in craft-making tends to be limited to individual choices in terms of using color and embellishments. Creativity in the visual arts is expansive, because children generate ideas and develop them, drawing from their experiences, knowledge and imagination.
What are the benefits of each activity?
In a craft class, children follow directions, which is a valuable skill. They may also become more adept at using tools, such as scissors. Fine motor skills can be enhanced with such activities as beading a necklace. In terms of outcome, most completed projects are similar because they result from following direction and basing their work on a sample or model. Children derive satisfaction from completing a project.
In a visual arts class, children learn about art forms, techniques and styles. A lesson may focus on painting methods in a “Naïve” style using basic shapes and bright colors inspired by an artist, such as Sophie Harding. Students develop their technique, learn an arts vocabulary and benefit from using their imaginations to create original works that reflect the discovery process. The discovery process helps children to understand cause and effect: what happens when I mix orange and green? Working with independent ideas facilitates the development of problem-solving skills. Art students explore abundant creative materials and experiment with color, line and form. Art education nurtures many transferable skills, including creativity, innovation, teamwork, lateral thinking, intuitive reasoning and thinking outside the box. Fine motor skills are enhanced, as well. Children tend to take great pride in creations that reflect their vision, emotions and sense of style.
Dave Coates is an art educator and lives in Frisco, TX. Dave owns two Abrakadoodle Franchises, both based in the North Dallas Suburbs. Abrakadoodle is a national franchise that offers developmentally appropriate art education classes and camps for children 20 months to 14 years old. Dave is married with two young children.