Teaching the arts to a three-year-old is much different than a six or a 16-year-old. Here are some resources to help parents and educators alike understand some child development milestones so that they are creating appropriate experiences for early childhood arts experiences…
First, some basics of child development:
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) leads the way toward excellence in high-quality early care and education. NAEYC provides a list of empirically based principles of child development during birth through age eight. Below is a gross abbreviation, please visit their website.
1. Domains of children’s development—physical, social, emotional, and cognitive—are closely related. Development in one domain influences and is influenced by development in other domains.
2. Development occurs in a relatively orderly sequence, with later abilities, skills, and knowledge building on those already acquired.
3. Development proceeds at varying rates from child to child as well as unevenly within different areas of each child’s functioning.
4. Early experiences have both cumulative and delayed effects on individual children’s development; optimal periods exist for certain types of development and learning.
5. Development proceeds in predictable directions toward greater complexity, organization, and internalization.
6. Development and learning occur in and are influenced by multiple social and cultural contexts.
7. Children are active learners, drawing on direct physical and social experience as well as culturally transmitted knowledge to construct their own understandings of the world around them.
8. Development and learning result from interaction of biological maturation and the environment, which includes both the physical and social worlds that children live in.
9. Play is an important vehicle for children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development, as well as a reflection of their development.
10. Development advances when children have opportunities to practice newly acquired skills as well as when they experience a challenge just beyond the level of their present mastery.
11. Children demonstrate different modes of knowing and learning and different ways of representing what they know.
12. Children develop and learn best in the context of a community where they are safe and valued, their physical needs are met, and they feel psychologically secure.
“The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.” – Khalil Gibran, the Prophet
WARNING, in the next section, what you are about to read should scare you! If your child does not exhibit these behaviors by these benchmarks, get thy child to a doctor and educator immediately!
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the milestones for early childhood development are benchmarked at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months, 1 year, 18 months, 2 years, 3 years, 4 years, and 5 years.
Cognitively speaking (learning, thinking, and problem solving), here are some benchmarks at each of these ages:
Two-month-olds can pay attention, begin to follow things with eyes and recognize people at a distance, and begin to act bored if activity doesn’t change.
Four-months-olds can let you know their mood, respond to affection, reach for a thing using hands and eyes together, and their recognition expands.
Nine-month-olds watch the trajectory of objects; notice things are missing, and begin to pick up things with their thumb and index finger.
One-year-olds explore their environment, can identify missing objects and have word recognition attached to objects, their brain tells their fine motor skills what to do and they respond.
Eighteen-month-olds know what every day objects are used for, can direct someone’s attention to what they want, begin to pretend play with objects, are beginning to scribble, and understand simple commands.
Two-year-olds begin to solve layered problems, can sort shapes and colors, complete sentences an rhymes in familiar books, play simple make-believe games, build towers up to 4 blocks, begin to prefer their right or left hand as dominant, follow simple instructions, and can name items in their immediate surrounding.
Three-year-olds can play with simple machines and make-believe with toys; complete simple puzzles; understand numeric value of 1, 2, 3; can copy a shape with a writing utensil; and build towers higher than six blocks.
Four-year-olds can name greater amounts of colors and numbers, understand concept of counting, beginning to understand time, recall parts of a story, are beginning to compare and contrast, draw a person with 2–4 recognizable body parts, use scissors, copy capital letters, play simple board and card games, and can make predictions about what could happen next.
Five-year-olds can count up to 10, draw a person with at least six recognizable body parts, can print more letters and numbers, can copy a triangle and other geometric shapes, and knows about things used every day like money and food preparation.
Do you need proof the arts have a positive correlation with the development of a child?
Arts Education Partnership has a dynamic website, ArtsEdSearch, which is an online clearinghouse that collects and summarizes high quality arts education research studies and analyzes their implications for educational policy and practice. By filtering to ‘what we know about early childhood, engaged successful students, and arts education’, there is a summary of the collective studies’ academic, cognitive, personal, social, and civic outcomes.
Should you want to create a new filter or drill down into the individual studies, navigating the ArtsEdSearch website is easier than tying your shoe, well easier for anyone over the age of seven, according to these developmental benchmarks!
I hope my gross truncation of this critical information will help parents, artists, and anyone that might not have had access to this information before.