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Here at ToucanLearn we offer a lot of art and craft based activities, besides keeping children occupied, there are very practical reasons why art and craft is important to learning children.
Before they can talk, art offers young children a way to express themselves and communicate ideas. Just as their sounds may not make much sense, so their splodges and scribbles may not mean an awful lot to you, but they are communicating ideas and this gives children a sense of freedom that develops further with language. They are also using their imagination and expressing what they see and experience in an abstract form.
Craft offers a way to explore the physical world. Art is tactile, you are experiencing different materials and textures, and interacting with objects to understand how they 'work'. There are malleable materials such as plasticine, sticky tack and dough; there are items that bend into shape and stay that way such as pipe cleaners, wire, even paper when folded and tucked into shapes. There are runny substances like paints and glue, they can be poured and spread. The variety of craft materials that a toddler experiences helps them explore the physical world and teaches the how different materials act.
Craft is about making decisions, not important ones, but decisions all the same. The thought processes that go on whilst your little ones are being creative inform their approach to problem solving. What are the options to make a googly eye stick to a piece of paper? Which one is best in this situation? How do I apply glue to the back of a small googly eye? As adults these 'problems' are second nature, but to a young child, these have to be learned and the lessons learned at this stage of their lives will inform all sorts of practical needs throughout the rest of their lives.
Of course, craft is also about developing fine motor skills, the ability to colour in within the lines; to stick glitter to parts of the page; to roll a piece of card into a tube and stick it into place. All of these and so much more rely on the ability to control hands and fingers in ways that are easy for adults but for children form an important part of learning. How can they learn to write when they get to school if they still haven't mastered fine control of their hands?
In addition to being graded according to the Early Years Foundation Stage areas of learning and development, all the activities we offer at ToucanLearn are classified by one of four overriding key development areas: making, moving, learning and speaking (relating to communication more generally). Most craft activities are classified as 'Making' activities with the focus on development of fine motor skills, but as you can see, art and craft activities help to promote development in all four of these key development areas!