12 Ways Drawing Grows the Brain and Helps Students Academically
As homeschooling parents, we might not give much thought to the study of art, the benefits of drawing, and teaching our children to draw when we are first researching our homeschool methods and which curriculum to use. “Reading, writing and ‘rithmetic – that’s the foundation,” we think.
It is true that reading, writing and ‘rithmetic are an extremely important basis of learning, but the arts are also essential parts of education and of being human.
In fact, there are many benefits of learning to draw (as well as of studying music appreciation and art appreciation and of learning to play an instrument.)
Drawing develops the brain in a number of ways and thus helps students academically.
12 Benefits of Drawing
1. Drawing develops fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination.
From the moment a toddler picks up a crayon, he or she is developing fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination through drawing. This early experience with cause and effect of producing images on a paper (or wall – ha ha) is a pre-writing skill. Tracing, coloring, and drawing develop the muscles of the hands and fingers as well as the eyes and hand to work together to prepare for the detailed tasks of writing.
Fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination are necessary in all other areas of life – eating, getting dressed, cutting with scissors, chopping up vegetables, cooking, cleaning, putting things in order, tidying up, playing an instrument, playing sports, etc.
Drawing enhances the development of fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination to be able to participate in other areas of life.
2. Drawing is active learning.
In our highly technological world, children tend to be passive – watching videos and playing video games, for example. But drawing is active; drawing actively engages the brain as the eyes and hands physically work together and the neural pathways develop.
Also, drawing helps children actively learn about and engage with the world around them. When they are given the opportunity to draw what they see, they are able to process and understand information in a way that is unique to them. This is why Charlotte Mason, the teacher who advocated for children to be involved in immersive learning and observation of the world around, made nature journaling – taking nature walks and drawing the flora and fauna one see – a core part of her curriculum.
3. Drawing strengthens both sides of the brain.
When children are encouraged to draw, they’re actually strengthening connections between the right and left hemispheres of their brains. This not only helps with problem solving and creativity, but can also lead to improved academic performance. In fact, studies have shown that students who engage in drawing and other forms of visual arts perform better in subjects like math and science.
This isn’t surprising when you consider that the right side of the brain is responsible for creative thinking, while the left side is more analytical. When both sides are working together, children are able to come up with more innovative solutions to problems and see things from a variety of perspectives.
This is why STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) has now become STEAM – the A is for arts – because without the arts, the critical processes of creativity and innovation are missing.
Drawing also helps develop your visual cortex, the area of the brain which is responsible for processing visual information. When you draw, you are training this part of your brain to become better at processing visual information. This can help improve your vision overall.
4. Drawing improves attention span, focus and concentration.
When it comes to keeping kids focused and attentive, nothing beats good old-fashioned drawing. According to a study published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics Creativity and the Arts, children who draw regularly have better focus, attention span, and concentration skills than those who don’t.
The study’s authors asked two groups of children – one group that regularly drew and one that didn’t – to complete a series of tests designed to measure their focus, attention span, and concentration skills. The results showed that the children who drew regularly outperformed their peers on all three measures.
Also, when involved in drawing, children have to sit still and focus on the project. They may be following instructions to create a drawing – whether using a drawing tutorial from a book or video – so they have to concentrate on the steps and on imitating the lines, curves and shapes they are supposed to draw.
When they’re focused on creating a picture, they’re not thinking about anything else. This can help them when they need to focus on a task in school or at work.
As they get better at drawing, they will be willing to work on drawing projects for longer times and so increase their attention span as well.
One of the reasons drawing helps improve focus and concentration may have something to do with the fact that drawing requires full engagement of the brain. When children are engaged in an activity that requires their full attention, they’re less likely to be distracted by other things.
5. Drawing enhances communication skills.
When children are encouraged to draw, they are developing their communication skills. By creating pictures, they are making connections between images and words. This helps them to better understand both what they see and what they hear. In turn, this improves their ability to communicate with others.
Drawing can also help children learn to express themselves. It can be a way for them to communicate feelings that might be difficult to put into words. This can be especially helpful for children who are shy or have difficulty speaking up.
Drawing is a fun way for children to explore the world around them. It allows them to share their thoughts and ideas in a creative way.
6. Drawing teaches creative problem solving.
One of the benefits of drawing is that it teaches children how to creatively problem solve. They learn how to think outside the box and come up with new ideas. For example, if something they drew doesn’t look the way they want and they have to redesign it, they can apply this in real life: if something doesn’t go the way they planned it, they have to come up with a new plan.
A study by the University of Waterloo found that children who drew pictures were more able to come up with creative solutions to problems than those who didn’t draw. The researchers believe that this is because drawing helps children develop a better understanding of how the world works. They are able to see how different elements, like shapes and colors, can be put together to create something new. This can then help them come up with creative solutions to problems they face in their everyday lives.
7. Drawing helps with strategic thinking and planning skills.
Another benefit of drawing for children is that it teaches them how to think strategically. When they’re drawing, they have to think about what they want to create and how they’re going to do it. This requires them to come up with a plan, make decisions, and then carry it out. This will carry over to other areas of their lives, such as school and work.
8. Drawing improves memory.
A University of Waterloo shows that drawing is a highly effective way to boost memory and increases recall by nearly double. It is superior to only reading or writing because it causes one to process information in multiple ways: visually, kinesthetically, and semantically.
Through drawing, information is encoded in the memory through connections to other memories, with layers of the visual memory of the image, the kinesthetic memory of our hand drawing the image, and the semantic memory of remembering the meaning of the image. All of these connections and layers increase the probability that the concept being drawn will later be recalled.
Drawing also improves memory because it is active. If students draw pictures of the things they are learning or take pictorial notes, they must wrestle with what they’re learning and recreate it in a way that makes sense to them.
9. Drawing enhances the study of science and invention.
Many famous inventors and scientists were artists first – think of Leonardo da Vinci, who is known for his paintings Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, but also for his studies of anatomy and inventions of the parachute and helicopter (though they were not actually made in his time.) Robert Fulton, the inventor of the steam engine, was first a trained painter as was Samuel Morse, who invented the telegraph and Morse code. Carl Linnaeus, the creator of the classification of living things, also made detailed drawings of plants and animals, as did John James Audobon of birds.
10. Drawing is a skill that is useful for many jobs.
Drawing is not just a skill for artists, art teachers and illustrators, but there are a number of other professions that use drawing skills these days: architect, fashion designer, animator, graphic designer, textile designer, technical illustrator, interior designer, industrial designer, advertising designer, cake decorator, and set designer.
11. Drawing builds confidence.
When children are given the opportunity to express themselves through drawing, they often feel a sense of confidence and happiness. This is because art is a form of self-expression that allows children to communicate their thoughts and feelings without using words.
Research shows that children who engage in drawing activities are more likely to feel good about themselves and have a greater sense of self-confidence.
Also, as children get better at drawing and develop their artistic skills, they will feel more confident.
12. Drawing provides a healthy emotional relief.
Drawing is a means of expression of emotions but also helps provide relief from stress.
For young children, drawing is a way to communicate what they’re feeling, for they may not be able to put their feelings into words, but they can express themselves through drawings.
Drawing can also help relieve stress. When students are stressed out, they may not know how to deal with their emotions. Drawing can help them work through their feelings, relax and calm down, and relieve some of the stress.
Research shows that drawing can be a valuable tool for helping children to cope with emotional distress. It may also be helpful for parents and caregivers who want to provide support for their children during times of stress. This is why there is a field called art therapy.
How to Add Drawing to Your Homeschool
As you can see, there are so many benefits of drawing that we really should consider it as an essential part of our children’s education, as important as reading, writing and ‘rithmetic.
Do you want to add drawing to your homeschool? Even if you can only draw stick figures, there are many great drawing classes and books which can help you lead your child in learning to draw.
If you want some help, check out my course Drawing with Rembrandt, a beginning drawing course for elementary students. I dress up as Rembrandt and lead your child in learning to draw using the Elements of Shape while breaking things down into steps.
Give your child all the benefits of drawing with the beginning drawing course, Drawing with Rembrandt!