Tying together our interest in toys, early play and art we were thinking this month about art and
education. This is a mammoth topic and is well covered by Early Childhood News in their article "Art Influences Learning". Integrating art with topics we learn allows a level of understanding and embodiment of new knowledge that goes deeper than just learning the topic itself. Asking a child to draw a picture of a story they just read, for example, encourages immediate application of the knowledge. Freedom to express their own creativity and ideas also helps to build confidence and self esteem in other areas.
Though we might like to view ourselves as different from children, we're not! Not when it comes to the cognitive benefits of art and creativity anyway.... Creative pursuits have been proven to assist with positive, healthy aging (Cohen, 2006). Learning new skills in the later developmental stages of life creates new neural pathways and encourages brain plasticity. The mastery of these skills leads to empowerment and a sense-of-control which provides the confidence to continue with something you thought you should give up, or to return to something you long ago had thought you were 'too old' for.
A lot of us reading this may be in between the two age groups we've mentioned, but don't switch off! It's still relevant! Our education system currently values testing over experiential learning - although we are beginning to see a shift in that. Maths, English and Science are valued over all others, with Visual Art, Music, Drama and Dance falling to the bottom of the priority list (mostly in that order). Because of this we gradually 'Educate ourselves out of creativity' (see Ken Robinson's amazing TED Talk here on this topic if you haven't already!). So, the middle part of our lives is when we need to consciously re-engage with our inherent creativity, to enjoy the now, connect with our inner child, and prepare ourselves for a healthier, happier later life.