Why is Art Important in Early Childhood Education?

It’s a given that art is important for all children, starting at the earliest age.  Early on, it’s about the tactile feeling of creating art – the fingers in the paint (an inevitably in the hair and on the face,) the hands on the paper.  Soon, it becomes about a means of expression, how children can get their feelings and their ideas out in a visual sense.  It becomes about communication, a means for adults to talk about more complex subjects in a non-confrontational way.  It’s about self-esteem, as children create works they are proud of and can share with others.  All of these are such important gifts that art bestows upon our children, but they are not the entirety of what art gives to preschoolers.  Art can make substantial impact on learning outcomes.

From a learning perspective, art influences cognition and creative thinking.  At a preschool age, art can have a direct influence on literacy, math and science. Keep reading to learn more about the role of art in early childhood education, why it is important, and how it can be integrated to keep learning fun.

Art & Literacy

We’ve already talked about the impact art has on communication.  An extension of this is the benefits of literacy.  Research has shown that having a child create pictures of stories they have read improves their comprehension and leaves them more motivated to read new material.  By using art as an early form of communication, children are developing skills that will enhance writing expression and reflection.  It also expands their visual and verbal creativity.

Art & Math

Art, especially at the earliest ages, provides a wonderful introduction to basic math concepts.  Children can learn about and utilize different sizes and shapes.  They can work on counting objects within their art.  The inclusion or recognition of patterns and symmetry in art introduces some mathematical fundamentals as well.

Art & Science

The impact of art on science may be the most fun part.  We’ve discussed how tactile art is for the young child, but that tactile experience is the beginning of science.  Observations of how textures change, how colors change when mixed.  What happens to powdered paint or chalk as they dissolve in water.  What reactions do two items have when combined.

The Role of Art in Early Childhood Education

The introduction and inclusion of art in the early-education classroom is crucial, but can also be done at home.  To help get you started, here are three projects that families can undertake to utilize art to expand preschooler learning:

Math – Number Collages

  • Set out a number of small art materials, such as: beans, cotton balls, small fake flowers, poms, etc.
  • Give your child a large piece of paper and some glue.
  • Have the child glue objects on the paper in sets of two or three.

Science – Milk Painting


  • Milk
  • Dishoap
  • Q-tips or toothpicks
  • Food coloring
  • Shallow plate or wide bowls


  • Fill a plate or bowl with milk.
  • Drop in at least 2 drops of each of four colors of food coloring. The more variety of colors the cooler the painting.
  • Generously dip the end of a q-tip/toothpick in dish soap.
  • Now dip the q-tip/toothpick into the milk next to a drop of color.
  • The first thing that will happen is the color will burst as soon as the dish soap hits it. It’s a great effect but very short lived. Once there is a little dishsoap in the milk it no longer “bursts”.
  • Gently swirl the q-tip/toothpick through the different colors and you’ll see little rivers of color start to form.
  • Continue until the colors begin to mix and become brown. Empty your plate/bowl and repeat.

Literacy – Cloud Painting

Inspired by Eric Carle’s book Little Cloud

Supplies Needed

  • Construction paper (shades of blue and white preferred)
  • Tempera Paint (or other washable paint) in shades of blue and white
  • Cotton balls

What To Do

  • Read Little Cloud together for inspiration
  • Pour paint into individual small containers.
  • Dip cotton balls into paint and dab onto paper.(Any color combination and shape is fine.  After all, clouds come in all shapes and sizes!)