Happy Friday, everybody! Today we’re going on a bit of a field trip. It’s a little far, so make sure to pack your bags and your passport. We’ve got a long flight ahead of us. Today we’re going to go to New Zealand, where a form of art-based education is sweeping the nation. It’s called Te Whāriki, and it’s pretty darn cool.
Here’s the lowdown: since the dawn of time, art has been used as a way to communicate with one another. Think back to those cave paintings that the first humans painted, or to Egyptian hieroglyphics. In the Middle Ages, most people still couldn’t read, so stories of great accomplishments were told through long tapestries. These are all examples of art telling stories.
Art is a great way to communicate with people when one or both parties can’t read or write. Does this remind you of someone? Or, rather, quite a lot of very young someones?
In New Zealand, Te Whāriki is the inclusion of art in the Early Childhood Education classroom. It’s the encouragement of making art in order to help infants, toddlers, and preschoolers interact with their world. We’ve covered a ton of these benefits before, like how our teachers can start discussions with our children based on what they’re painting, how children can use art to express how they’re feeling, and how art makes it easy for children to work together and learn valuable teamwork skills.
More specifically, Te Whāriki uses a lot of finger painting. Finger painting is great for a number of reasons: it’s tactile, fingers are easier to control than a paintbrush, and it’s a more active, physical form of art. But even more than that: a 2015 study has shown that finger painting actually helps to get children ready for learning how to write. According to the study, finger painting (more than other kinds of art) helps to link the idea of pictures meaning words in the brains of young children.
Te Whāriki means to use art to build communities. Classrooms in New Zealand often bring in professional artists and their works and have their children interact with and talk about their art. It turns out that you don’t need to go to an art gallery and drink fancy wine and eat fancy cheeses to appreciate art!
And this is something that we’ve been doing at Today’s Family: our Summer Camp program is partnered with Culture for Kids in the Arts, a Hamilton-based non-profit group that links our children with professional artists. It’s important to us that children get this opportunity to not only make art, but to learn about how it shapes our world and communities. Because while art lets our children tell their own stories, it also helps them understand the stories of others.
That’s it for this week! If you want to learn more about Te Whāriki, you can read this fantastic article, and if you have any stories about how you use art with your children, let us know! As always, you can get in touch with us on Facebook, or our Twitter (@TodaysFamilyOnt). We’d love to hear from you!
Until next time!
– Today’s Family