For children to learn through art and play is known to have tremendous benefits on their development. In a pandemic, as they experience change and uncertainty, engaging with art and play becomes even more vital.
What Happens When Students Learn Through Art And Play?
In our GoStudent expert talks, we speak to experts in the field of education! Find out more on real-life insights from leaders in the ed-industry. 🚀
🔥 Expert Tip: “The harsh reality of the pandemic, requires children to retreat into something that they know, understand and can control,” says Naomi Murray; co-founder of Cheltenham-based Every Cloud Therapy, which offers play and creative arts therapy to children and young people. “Play allows children to press pause on day-to-day pressures and just immerse themselves at that moment.” 🤽♀️
Murray also feels that during the first and second lockdown in the UK, parents did push to get creative with students. But during the third lockdown, there was a sort of burnout for parents too. Now as schools reopen and outdoor spaces become more accessible, there is a renewed opportunity for art and play to make a comeback in children’s lives. ✊
London-based Saskia Joss; a private integrative arts therapist and mother herself feels that parents needn’t be too hard on themselves, regarding what they could or couldn’t do for their kids during the lockdown. No one had a ‘parenting in a pandemic blueprint’ guide! Instead, she encourages parents to ask themselves that now as things are a bit better, how can they help their kids engage in the things they’ve missed out on?
🔥 Expert Tip: “I would say access to play and art is a really good start,” says Joss who also runs a platform for parenting support called Helping Families. “It is the way to stop the lethargy and boredom kids have had by sitting still for almost a year. It is the way to make their brains feel positive and productive again.”
So what skills do you learn from art and play? 🤔
👉 Solve Problems
🔥 Expert Tip: “Children use play to communicate the way they understand the world and to process their feelings about it,” says Kay Tibbles; co-founder at Every Cloud Therapy. “They also express how they wish the world could be through play.”
Play then becomes students’ natural language. During play students unconsciously will work through their problems and anxieties. They do this by playing out these difficult scenarios through creative tools like toys and games. Once they’ve solved problems in play they feel better equipped to tackle it in real life! 💪
Whereas art helps students resolve their ‘feeling of being stuck’ or when they are extremely angry or sad. One of the surprising ways it helps this is by letting students create a mess!
🔥 Expert Tip: “Making a mess makes kids feel very powerful. As they’ve been given the freedom and creativity to make a mess,” says Joss. “Making a mess also gives children a lovely sensory boost. Which helps them resolve difficult feelings by restarting their body.”
Now we know, that cleaning up after kids have made a mess is not exactly fun for parents. So Joss has a great suggestion – let children paint on the inside of the glass or wall in the shower. So you can easily wash it off after they are done!
👉 Foster Connections
The social interactions that children were having with each other have been dramatically reduced in the pandemic. So there has been a loss in many connections for students, as they go back to school after over a year of remote learning.
🔥 Expert Tip: As human beings, we are social creatures and need interaction with others,” says Tibbles. “For kids, play is the vehicle for social interactions. It helps foster connections, which is integral to emotional well-being.”
According to Murray, a shared activity like play instantly gives students that connectedness. It makes them feel safe and gives them a sense of belonging, within that shared purpose of playing with others. Like in the play of hide and seek when children are “found” they feel happy that they were important enough “to be found”. 🙂
👉 Allow Communication
Joss feels that by engaging with children in art, parents can find out exactly what their children are feeling. Especially in a pandemic when most families are looking for signs that tell if students’ mental health has been affected.
🔥 Expert Tip: “ ‘Are you okay?’, it’s very hard to get an answer to that question from a child,” says Joss. “Art gives parents a chance to talk to their children without making them feel put on the spot.”
How? Make a drawing or paint a picture with students. 🎨
While they're busy with the artwork, that's the time to ask them questions about their wellbeing.
- What’s it like to go back to school?
- What’s it like not to see grandma and grandpa too often?
- What is the best thing you enjoyed last year?
- What do you hope to do this year?
According to Joss, when students’ hands are busy they have more access to their prefrontal cortex or the thinking section of their brain. So they're more likely to give you a detailed account of what they actually want to say.
Though make sure you are or at least look like you are busy with the art activity too if you want this to work! 😆
Art and play help students build confidence.
🔥 Expert Tip: “Children form their secondary attachments like their peer group through play,” says Naomi. “How they view themselves in relation to other people then comes from these interactions. So positive play becomes an important form of developing their self-confidence.”
Whether it’s colouring a picture or making paper mache puppies, art for students is about creating something of their own.
Joss says that this process releases dopamine – the reward chemical in the brain. Which makes students feel good about themselves, that they are capable and strong and clever.
Another way that art and play support self-esteem is when parents make students feel that they are capable of these activities. ✊
Like when parents put their children’s artwork on the fridge or the walls of the house. Or when parents play ‘pretend games with their kids and believe that they can do amazing things like – being superheroes on a quest or a pirate in search of treasure!
🔥 Expert Tip: “In art and play, there’s that belief that your parents think you're capable enough to create something beautiful or be whoever you want.” says Joss. “Then art and games become empowering for children.”
👉 Help In Classroom Learning
Many parents are probably wondering why the arts are important in education? Or how can arts help students learn?
Tibbles and Murray believe that art and play can be the “best teacher in the world to impart knowledge.”
A simple explanation in brain science tells us how! 🧠
If students are feeling emotionally unregulated or unconnected to those that they’re around, it’s not conducive to a learning environment. This is because then students remain in the emotional or survival part of the brain. They are unable to access the neocortex – the part of the brain where logical and rational thinking goes on.
🔥 Expert Tip: “In order to access this learning part of the brain students first need to feel safe,” says Naomi. “They need to feel like they are part of a community before they can learn anything new.”
It is play and art that helps enable this security state in students. By solving problems, fostering connections and allowing communication.
So if parents want students to improve their focus in class, they must make sure that kids have plenty of time for play and art. That is for its own sake, without any learning or academic agendas!
There are plenty of activities that parents can do so students learn through art and play. Though for our experts it isn’t about the range of craft supplies you have or the access to a park in a pandemic that matters.
There are three simple attitudes that parents can have to effectively engage students in art and play is :
👉 Give Time
🔥 Expert Tip: “It’s a popular saying for children, that love for them is spelt as T-I-M-E,” says Murray.
Sharing an anecdote Murray and Tibbles told GoStudent, that during one of their play sessions with parents and their children, a little boy told them - “I love covid because it brought special playtime with Mummy and Daddy.” That’s because for him covid wasn’t a scary virus, but a window of time that brought closeness with his parents, that he otherwise did not have. ⏰
All kids need is to feel connected to their parents in a playful way. Even if it’s simple – like playing with pots and pans, making crafts out of a toilet roll or making bubbles during dishwashing!
Joss feels that children should be ‘swimming in a river of love.’ ❤️
They shouldn't know exactly where the love comes from, or that there are only “love moments” in life. The pandemic has somehow reduced this flow of love to them. As kids are meeting less loved ones- from their grandparents to the friendly neighbourhood grocer. So that “tap” of love that now only flows through their parents is visible to children.
🔥 Expert Tip: “One of the ways kids can again feel that increase in love is when parents play with them,” says Joss. “When parents are willing to put all their adult responsibilities aside and give children at least that twenty minutes of playtime, it sends a clear message out – that in those twenty minutes their child is the most important person in the world.”
👉 Allow Choice
Let students have the choice to pick the art or play activity that they want to do. Even when they aren’t sure, let them lead through trial and error.
🔥 Expert Tip: “Giving children choice really shows them that their parents see them, hear them and understand them, says Murray. “That's immensely powerful for the parent-child relationship.”
👉 Accept Leadership
Parents shouldn’t worry about rules, wins, losses or the end result of play and art with their children. They just need to enjoy the process of the shared activity together with students.
🔥 Expert Tip: “I think when we become grown up sometimes we forget how to play. We need to take our lead from children,” says Murray. “Let the child be the expert when it comes to play, because they really are.” ✊
Our Advice: Learning through art and play positively impacts student development in a number of ways :
✅ Through play children solve problems in a way that they can tackle it better in real life.
✅ It fosters connections which regulate their emotional wellbeing.
✅ It allows them to express their struggles and anxieties more articulately to parents.
✅ It forms attachments with their peer groups that contribute to the building of student self-esteem.
✅ It allows students to access the thinking part of their brain for learning in the classroom.
At GoStudent, our tutors make sure students have the best academic support. So parents have time to engage in creative activities with their children. You can book a trial lesson with one of our tutors here!