Learning doesn’t come in one set format. As Friendship Circle points out, “some children learn most effectively through the arts.” The arts make academic subjects more accessible to children with learning disabilities, promote the development of social skills and self-esteem, and reduce stress and anxiety so children with special needs are able to focus. The result is a higher academic achievement and stronger social skills for differently-abled kids.
Arts education needn’t be limited to childhood tinkering. A childhood foundation in the arts can lead to a fulfilling career in adulthood. Just look at the many successful artists, musicians, and actors with learning disabilities — Daniel Radcliffe, Chuck Close, Woody Harrelson, and Justin Timberlake are among the famous names who struggled with learning disabilities in school.
Unfortunately, as schools increasingly focus on academic instruction, kids have fewer and fewer opportunities to engage in the arts at school. As a result, it’s up to parents to provide their children with ample access to arts education.
Ideas for Arts Education at Home
Preschool and Elementary School
Arts and crafts are an excellent way for parents to introduce children to the arts at home. From an early age, kids can take simple materials and transform them into imaginative creations. Arts and crafts stimulate a child’s creativity and problem-solving skills, and they’re a fun way for families to spend quality time together. Angie’s List suggests a bunch of crafts that are perfect for kids ranging from toddlers to middle schoolers. These are some of the standouts:
- Make paper bag puppets: Animal puppets made out of paper bags are simple, but they delight preschoolers who not only get to design the puppets but also invent stories to share with their attentive audience — whether that’s you or a gallery of stuffed animals!
- Create clay-dough animals: Clay dough is ridiculously easy to make at home and provides endless entertainment. Instruct kids to mold animals to hone their fine motor skills or ask them to use their imagination to invent a new kind of creature!
- Design DIY bedroom decorations: Crafts with a purpose appeal to kids in the later elementary school years. Arm your child with supplies to make their own bedroom decorations, like blinged-out picture frames, faux flowers, beaded curtains, and more.
Middle and High School
As tots mature into adolescents and teens, they’re ready for higher-level arts instruction. The following ideas are perfect for older students:
- Recreate famous paintings: Challenge your teen to recreate famous pieces of art like Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” Magritte’s “The Son of Man,” or Picasso’s “Three Musicians.” Instead of using paint, have kids recreate the works with a different medium entirely. Your kids will get an art history lesson and an exercise in creative problem-solving!
- Write a screenplay: Tweens and teens might not be impressed by puppet shows, but they still love a good story. Gather a group of kids to write a screenplay and put on a performance for a live audience. From writing the script to building the set, this activity is full of interesting creative and educational challenges.
- Build DIY musical instruments: From homemade banjos to xylophones made of driftwood, the sky’s the limit when it comes to DIY musical instruments. A2Z Homeschool has links and resources to get kids started on their musical journey.
Also, don’t limit yourself to activities at home! Community theaters, arts-based summer camps, and arts and crafts lessons at the public library are all wonderful ways for differently-abled children to get involved in the arts.
No matter their ability, engagement in the arts is incredibly rewarding for children. However, for kids with learning disabilities who struggle in traditional academia — both in performance and confidence — the arts are an invaluable resource. When kids have a place they can learn, do, and grow without limitations, both ability and confidence soar.
Contact Joyce Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org, Teacherspark.org.