“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” — Pablo Picasso 

We are all artists from our earliest days, from the first finger paintings we create and the first few lullabies we learn how to sing. Art exists all around us: on the roads where we march together to the clothing we wear. That is why it is crucial that we explore and encourage art from early childhood, as it fosters creativity, self-esteem, and the self-expression skills we need to thrive and face more complex problems in other disciplines.

When a child sketches for art class, sings for a choir or writes free sonnets for English language arts, they are tapping into a limitless bank of their own possibilities. They are in control of their own world and can express themselves and feel accomplishment as they see their own ideas come to fruition.

 The arts have also been consistently used to further political and social opinions in peaceful and beautiful ways. In our changing and challenging times, this could not be more necessary, as we can use the arts to raise our voices about issues and injustices that surround us.

Most importantly, childhood is the ideal time to learn empathy, and how to understand one another in light of our differences. Art allows the translation of complex feelings and problems into concrete creations that can evoke similar feelings in others, allowing us to relate on personal levels and harness a more inclusive and understanding community. 

I was not personally given a lot of opportunities to practice art in school, especially in my younger years. I often found that my interests were undervalued. It was only when I joined clubs and extension programs that I began understanding how to express myself, and my confidence grew exponentially when I was given more chances to perform on stage or write poems and stories with people that shared my passion. When I joined Explorations my first year as a counsellor, I was astounded by the amount of arts opportunities offered to so many ages- musical theatre, visual arts and crafts, and even writing activities! I wished I had been given more of those classes in school. Nevertheless, I felt that I was making a difference with others by being a part of Explorations and encouraging the pursuit of their creative ideas and endeavours. Last year, I even got to help with the camp’s Panorama program for the arts, which opened my eyes along with the campers’ to how many arts-related careers and paths there are in the world.

Though some may view art as a less practical domain, the mental and social benefits coming from using one’s creativity to express their own truth is essential to our world. Art sparks joy in its conception, creation, and consumption, and we should encourage and implement it in education at all levels.

Here are several resources where you can learn about the benefits of incorporating the arts into schools: 

Ayla Shanks is a science student at Dawson College and has worked at Explorations for four years. She appreciates history, literature, and going on outdoor adventures with friends. Ayla is a Canada Summer Jobs employee and works at Explorations as a Counsellor.