The Benefits of the Visual Arts

I enjoy looking at art and learning about various artist and art periods. It is an interest I like to share with my kids. I take the kids to art museums during vacations and when there is a new exhibit in town. I also invite and encourage them to learn about art and to make art at home. My momma heart hopes they develop an appreciation of art and at least have fond memories of our art field trips and momma led art classes.

My daughter looking at Piet Mondrian’s work at the Centre Pompidou.

Since I enjoy art myself, I have developed an interest in art education and in learning what the visual arts teaches children. Over the last few years, I have been compiling a collection of kids’ art books and art education books that range from an introduction to nature sketching and watercoloring, to process art for young children and Studio Thinking, which highlights the benefits of a visual arts education. I have learned there is much more to the visual arts than learning techniques and how to use artist tools.

Art Education and Art Books for Children

What can children learn from the study of art besides artistic craft?

In art class, students learn about the art world but they also develop ways of thinking when they engage in a thoughtfully prepared art lesson. When children are asked to look at artwork they develop observation skills. When artwork is discussed they learn to express their ideas and develop ways of reflecting on their own and other’s work. Observation and reflection play a key role in the sciences and other content areas. These two habits of mind may not necessarily transfer to content areas without instruction, but it is important to recognize that the visual arts helps children develop habits of mind and skills that are valuable.

Admiring Monet’s Nymphéas at Musee de l’Oranderie.

When children have the opportunity to create their own work, they have to envision or imagine a picture to create. As they prepare and work on a piece they often experiment and explore with the materials at-hand, which involves risk-taking. As children explore materials they must problem-solving as they work to express their idea. Children can get very frustrated with how their work is developing when it doesn’t look like what they envision. By working through these frustrations, children practice focus and persistence.

An invitation to watercolor entails: envisioning, expression, and exploration.

Eight Studio Habits of Mind

In Studio Thinking 2: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education, the authors list eight studio habits of mind that students develop in art class. These are listed below in no particular order. The habits of mind do not represent a hierarchy of thinking nor are they learned or taught as a sequence but rather are ways of thinking that unfold naturally in the art studio.

  • Develop Craft
  • Understand Art Worlds
  • Observe
  • Envision
  • Stretch and Explore
  • Engage and Persist
  • Reflect
  • Express

In addition to developing valuable habits and ways of thinking, art classes provide children with the opportunity to engage their visual-spatial abilities. Children can develop their non-verbal thinking through the process of creating an art piece and develop their verbal thinking through discussions with the teacher and their peers. The visual arts provides a way for children to develop powerful and valuable ways of seeing, thinking and imagining.

This 8-year-old put a lot of thought into creating a picture of the red fox in his habitat. Many decisions were made about placement, size, color and the elements to include in the picture.
The final product was proudly taken home.

Published by

Maria Arana

Hi, I am Maria, a mom to three wonderful kiddos. My family and I live in Phoenix, Arizona. We love the beauty of the desert southwest. I am a former primary teacher and elementary math coach. I love to encourage my children to follow their interests and passions. At Guided Learning Studio, I offer private personalized lessons and enrichment classes. Tutoring services are best for families seeking long-term educational support over a semester or school-year.

2 thoughts on “The Benefits of the Visual Arts

  1. Excellent compilation of art ed books and a great post on the benefits of art-centered learning! It’s so great that your enjoying viewing, discussing, and creating art with your kids! My earliest memories are going to museums with my mother and grandmother.


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