Evgenia Theodotou

The Arts: An Interesting Approach in the Early Years Settings

Evgenia Theodotou University of East London Friday 23 October 2015

The early years settings have a very strong influence on children’s future cognitive and social performance. The interactions and the activities in this area hold an important role in children’s development, as they can influence their approach to learning. Art activities offer opportunities for children’s involvement, as well as free and structured play and improvement in social and cognitive skills. They are the basic form of children’s free play and at the same time teachers can intervene indirectly to advance them in more challenging activities with educational outcomes without over-structuring children and damaging their enjoyment.

Young children engage naturally and spend major time in art activities, like drama and drawing, during their free play. Drama play is among the most favourite activities of young children in a free-time period (Hanley et al, 2009) and it is an activity with more emphasis on personal amusement rather than on structure (Fleming, 2008).

It has to be acknowledged that the arts are not the only way that early years professionals can use in teaching and learning procedure. This can be done simply by using any other teaching method or technique. However, research shows that the arts have major and significant advantages over other teaching methods and techniques as they are a major form of children’s free play activities (Theodotou, 2015; Gerry et al, 2012; Bolduc, 2009). Thus, they represent motivating and interesting activities for young children and contribute to deep learning experiences. This is also based on the argument that amusement constitutes a serious factor in the learning procedure and offers valuable assets in education.

there is a need for young children to have the opportunity to express themselves without being afraid of making mistakes or feel that they will be judged

Proceeding with this argument, art activities are also a medium where young students practice their communication skills as they can interact creatively with their peers. According to Dewey (1934:254) “art breaks through barriers that divide human beings, which are impermeable in ordinary association”. In other words, the arts liberate students from the social constraints and enable them to communicate freely in ways that are beyond their everyday practice. Children through art activities are able to justify their ideas and express the situations they have experienced clearly. Especially through drawing, they can exchange ideas and discuss their arts outcome. This stimulates them to talk, articulate their thoughts and practice their communication skills. These arguments have a significant meaning in the early years context, where there is a need for young children to have the opportunity to express themselves without being afraid of making mistakes or feel that they will be judged.

It has to be acknowledged that the arts are not always a simple and straightforward activity. Being a major form of free play, children may engage in art activities without concentrating on their educational goals, especially in the early years context, where play holds a vital role in their lives. It is true that the arts do not have a clear pedagogical focus like the traditional methods of teaching. However, this drawback can be easily avoided with the appropriate indirect adult guidance. Early childhood teachers can prevent this, by concentrating on the educational objectives of art activities and attempting to combine their learning outcomes with children’s play.


Bolduc, J. (2009) Effects of a Music Programme on Kindergarteners’ Phonological Awareness Skills. International Journal of Music Education, 27 (1), pp. 37-47

Dewey, J. (1934) Art as Experience. New York: Penguin Group

Fleming, M. (2008) Teaching Drama: Lessons from its Recent Development in the UK. Education and Theatre, 9, pp. 53-58

Gerry, D., Unrau, A., Trainor, L.J. (2012). Active music classes in infancy enhance musical, communicative and social development. Developmental Science, 15 (3): 398-407.

Hanley, G., P., Tiger, J., H., Ingvarsson, E., T. and Cammilleri, A., P. (2009) Influencing Preschoolers’ Free-Play Activity Preferences: An Evaluation of Satiation and Embedded Reinforcement. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 42 (1), pp. 33-41

Theodotou, E. (2015). Can we play again with Picasso Miss? The effects of the arts in children’s involvement during literacy activities in the Early Years Settings: A case study in the Greek context. International Academic Conference on Social Sciences. Elite World Hotel Istanbul 25-26 July. Istanbul: EBSCO

Evgenia Theodotou is a Senior Lecturer at Early Childhood Studies and the programme leader for BA (Hons) Early Childhood with Psychology at University of East London. She holds a 1st class Diploma in Infant and Child Care Assistant, a 1st class BA in Early Childhood Education and Care, a MA in Education and a MSc in e-learning with Distinction. She is a PhD candidate in the research area of “Literacy skills in the early years settings”. She has more than 10 years of professional experience in the Early Years Settings and more than 5 years in Higher Education in Early Childhood Studies. Her research activity is focused on creativity, arts and literacy. She has participated in several research projects and published her research in International Conferences, Journals, edited books and monographs. She has been a member in several Scientific Review Committees and organises several special sessions in International Conferences.