Over-Structured Kids Need Art Now More Than Ever: A Psychological Exploration

Updated: Jul 16, 2019

More and more, the lives of our children are filled with structure. While the origins of cookie cutter common core efforts and the like programs are honorable, perhaps something is missing, like being able to think outside the box. Why do our children flock to structured activities like tv, video games, or play encompassing guidelines rather than imaginative play? What happens when standardized tests ask them trick questions requiring innovative thinking?

Research shows art-based activities can bridge this gap so our children have the ability to think outside the box more often, helping them in all of their academic and social interactions, allowing them to become well balanced adults.

Children with strong creative roots exhibit openness to novel experiences and a more integrated self-concept or identity. This is an important part of a child's developmental process, and creates a foundation for navigating adult challenges successfully.

Without a strong sense of identity adults may (a) waver in their belief systems, (b) lack clear values, (c) struggle with close relationships, and (d) be generally inconsistent in their pursuits. Applications of art-based activities promote a deeper understanding of ourselves and help us evolve.


Arts are effective in child development because they (a) are fun, (b) are non-threatening, and (c) embrace a large variety of personalities. Expressive art fosters being uninhibited, and this child-like freedom of expression is a natural phenomenon.

Divergent Thinking: Art-making allows children to play with ideas and cultivate their divergent thinking by exploring concepts they know, then using their imagination to redefine and develop that mental data into something more. Children who can strengthen divergent thinking skills (a) are better at handling adversity, (b) have success in self-regulation when challenged, and (c) enjoy life as creative problem solvers.

Identity Formation: Researchers believe that the best chance for success in adult life lies in proper identity development as children, and that using art as a therapeutic modality to this end may derive a positive outcome in forming a stronger sense of self. They note that when generating artistically, an individual is able to experience a state of flow—an immersive mental state wherein a person experiences ease and enjoyment in a task—and be highly focused, since creativity requires one’s (a) attention, (b) imagination, and (c) engagement.

Self-Esteem: Artistic activities fostering self-esteem can positively influence child (a) social interactions, (b) conflict resolution, (c) anger management, and (d) coping skills. Artists are the masters of what they create, and this idea empowers the positive interactive experience.

In School: Supporting creativity with expressive arts in the home can also strengthen children at school in myriad ways. Some academic advantages for children who create art include (a) facilitating limitless thinking, (b) helping to manage focus, (c) considering the process and not just the result, and (d) helping to stay grounded.

The transformative power of creative expression—the experience of authentic awareness via artistic practice—can meaningfully impact individual and collective growth. While the motivation to express oneself artistically may appear stronger in certain “creative” individuals, but that must not take away from the importance of expressive arts for all humans; artistic skill is varied and ability is subjective. We must not solely put the value of an activity on the quality of the product; rather, the significance is in the experience itself. We can use creative art-based activities cultivate desirable transpersonal qualities, such as keen awareness and inner integration of self with lasting positive change.



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