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An Overview of Art and Child Development

Understanding Art

There are four main reasons for helping children achieve an understanding of art, craft and design:

  • To give an insight into the richness and diversity of the visual arts, today and in the past and to give an introduction to the work of artists, craftspeople and designers
  • To provide a source of enjoyment that can become a life-long interest
  • To provide a source of ideas, approaches and techniques that can help them with their own work
  • To become familiar with ‘graphicacy’ which is essential in the modern world. It is the ability to use and understand visual communications

Understanding Art goes hand in hand with Making Art. It helps children develop their own skills with more experience and confidence. It provides the essential basis for the development of the skills of observation and critical thinking. This is the beginning of being able to make qualitative judgements about their own work and the work of others.

Drawing showing a man, woman and baby.
Madonna del Silenzio by Michelangelo

Art and the making of well-crafted objects are as old as human society. People have used art for an extraordinary variety of reasons, ranging from personal statements to the expression of strongly held social or religious beliefs. They have made useful things which have aesthetic qualities and symbolic meanings as well as practical value. Humans have remarkable vision and the combination of eye- hand - brain have enabled them to explore the visual world and its unique qualities of line, shape, form, structure, colour, pattern, texture, proportion, scale and space.

Download the chapter resource (see Resources) to explore how children understand art across different age ranges.