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Learning Through Play – Art and Music


When children interact with art materials such as paper, glue, markers, paint, etc., they create something that is unique and belongs to them.

Toddlers can see cause and effect by pulling a crayon across a piece of paper, watching as it leaves a mark behind. These marks begin as accidental but become intentional with more experience.

Toddlers use fingerpaint to squish around their fingers and watch what happens when the color smears across the paper. Again, toddler's early experiences with these art materials often begin as accidental or as a pleasant surprise, but later become more intentional and representational.

Preschoolers may use paint as a sensory experience rather than an artistic experience, but this lends itself to the child learning what the medium can do, thus leading to a greater understanding of how to use paint. Some children use lots and lots of paint and others use barely any. Any and all paintings are celebrated because they are the child's creation.

Preschoolers can begin to draw images that they see. At first they may draw a stick figure with just head, body, arms, and legs. Soon you will notice eyes, mouth, and fingers. Some children will draw eyelashes and hair.

As with anything in early childhood it is important for the child to explore and create what is important and meaningful for them. While teachers might suggest drawing or painting certain things, if a child prefers to choose his or her own topic we encourage and support them. It is the process that is important, rather than the product. That is why we never use "coloring sheets" but allow each child to create his/her own masterpiece.

Often you will hear teachers ask children to tell them about what they are making or drawing. They will usually ask how it makes the child feel. Early childhood educators understand that children's emotions are embedded in their creations and that children's self esteem stems from their ability to be proud of what they have made.


In a quality early childhood program music activities simultaneously promote development in multiple domains. Music is used to introduce daily routines such as a clean up song or a lunch time song. Music is shared with others in singing, dancing, and playing instruments together and is by its very nature a social experience. So, music helps build social and emotional skills. It also helps in self-regulation. We sing soothing songs to very young children.

Singing about feelings helps children learn the words to describe their emotional experiences ("If you're happy and you know it..."). Early childhood educators know the backgrounds of their children and therefore can create songs using musical styles from the children's home cultures to create continuity between home and school.

Music offers itself to cooperation and building relationships. Marching in a parade around the classroom or playground helps children use their own voices. The pitch, timbre, and cadence do not necessarily matter. Again in music we are looking for the children's creation, their own voice, their own process, rather than sounding a certain way.

Music plays a powerful role in the lives of young children. Most important, sharing music experiences with the people they love makes very young children feel cherished and important.