Young children learn from every stimulus around them, but respond best to interactive activities like music and art.
According to Mary Beth Hilborn, early childhood director at Hawken School in Lyndhurst, and Julie Moss, assistant director of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple’s Early Childhood Center in Beachwood, incorporating music and art into lessons is important.
“Young children learn in a variety of ways,” Moss said. “Besides expanding their cognitive abilities, children also need to be able to move, imagine and create. Through music and the arts, children have opportunities to stretch their imaginations and creativity.”
Hilborn explained Hawken School is a Reggio Emilia-style school, meaning preschool and primary education classes are student-centered and include experiential learning. At its core, the approach indicates children have a hundred expressive languages.
“Music and art are languages to facilitate that,” she explained. “The most important piece of it, for us, is the ability to express oneself.”
Moss noted children can enjoy many facets of art and music, including dramatic play, music or dance, or visual arts like painting drawing or sculpting.
“Young children absorb knowledge through their hands-on interactions within their environments and with each other,” she said. “Our center integrates music and the arts into our daily curriculum. Children are encouraged to use their creativity when visiting art areas in each classroom.”
Both professionals said music and arts opportunities can supplement academic learning.
“The use of (art) materials allow children to dig deeper and think harder about things,” Hilborn said. “It also helps with language development because (children) could tell you a story through their art. When they derive that, they develop their language and vocabulary.”
Moss added, “The creative arts provide an outlet for young children to explore and gain control over their emotions. A knowledgeable teacher can intertwine music and the arts to promote development across all domains of learning.”
Other opportunities are motor skill development, visual and auditory learning and culture that develop a child, Hilborn added.
“Art is also a unifier of cultures coming together,” she said. “We live in a diverse society, so art is a unique opportunity to introduce that through music and the arts. You can link art and music into any academic area.”
Each school incorporates arts into the classroom in different ways.
“Music is a fundamental part of our early childhood center,” Moss explained. “Besides grade-level music classes twice a month, teachers plan music and movement activities throughout each week. Our center joins together every Friday morning to share in an all-school ‘Shabbat Sing,’ which is full of dance, energy, clergy and fun.”
Hilborn added, “(At Hawken), we do a lot of provocation setups. These are setups with areas of lots of art materials. We then have children tell stories using these materials. Also, we offer an atelier that children visit on a regular basis for exploration. There is always a teacher there to guide a child’s interests.”