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Art to Heart

Arts for Everyone

The preschool at Gateway Child Development Center in Anderson, Indiana includes children with a wide range of abilities. Children with typical development and those with disabilities and developmental delays all learn together.

Art activities are an important part of the day, for several reasons. One is the strong connection between arts and literacy, says Jean Wright, CEO of the center. “When children create art, they develop spatial awareness, and they develop language cognition skills. They learn to talk and engage in what they are doing.”

Rooms are organized around centers where children have a choice of activities, including art and dramatic play. Story time and group art projects also encourage creativity and participation. “Our arts-based curriculum allows all our children to feel successful,” says preschool teacher Shannon Belt. “Art is very open-ended in our classroom.”

Therapists at the center also use art in many of their programs. “There are many reasons—the tactile input, for example, in finger-painting,” says physical therapist Betty Bush. I find that children who are physically handicapped move much better with music. A child who is in a wheelchair has many outlets when they are aware of art.”

Another important benefit of art activities, Bush says, is how the children react to it. “They are full of joy when they do it, and that is what early childhood education should be about.”

Find Out More

  • Teachers and parents can use a variety of adaptations to ensure that children of all abilities can participate in art activities—from tools and supplies especially created for special needs to simply allowing more time for activities. VSA arts, a national nonprofit organization, has a program called Start with the Arts aimed at younger children. The web site also offers ideas and sample activities as well as a list of state and international affiliate programs, including VSA arts of Kentucky.

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