State of the Art
The Arts in Early Childhood: Social and Emotional Benefits of Arts Participation: A Literature Review and Gap-Analysis (2000 - 2015) by Melissa Menzer
National Endowment for the Arts, December 2015
As the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) turns 50, it has published its recent review of research on the impact of arts participation in early childhood. This report will carry weight with schools, teachers, policy-makers and donors. The arts have a positive impact - that's no surprise. But here is an analysis that specifically ties music, drama, visual art, and craft to social and emotional outcomes not only for our youngest students, but also for older students who have had the enrichment of meaningful arts access. The evidence is in: participation in the arts augmented social skills development such as children's capacity for caring, empathy, sharing, creativity, independence, and relationship building. Also important for all children - including, significantly, for those on the autism spectrum - was the role of the arts in children's ability for regulation of emotion, with positive changes noted in affect, expression, and mood control. In the world of early childhood curriculum, there is often pressure to move toward the academic at the expense of the arts. This report brings rigor and clarity to the argument that skills and motivation can be instilled in young children through the arts, and that this early foundation holds fast the love of learning through the years.