The Arts in Early Childhood: Social and Emotional Benefits of Arts Participation


Research Abstract
The Arts in Early Childhood: Social and Emotional Benefits of Arts Participation

In this literature review and gap analysis by the National Endowment for the Arts, researchers look at how performing and visual arts affect our social and emotional health in early childhood. The NEA suggests that active engagement in the arts yields positive results in how we internalize and externalize emotions. Researchers tell us that not only do children who participate in arts programming over an extended period of time show more sophisticated social skills such as sharing and cooperation, but also show reduced shyness and anxiety (internalized display of emotions) and reduced aggressive behavior (externalized display of emotions). Children who do arts regularly are better able to control their emotions and express them in productive ways.

In their The Arts in Early Childhood literature review, the NEA explores the relationship between arts participation and positive social and emotional development in early childhood. We learn that children whose parents sing to them on a consistent basis reportedly have more sophisticated social-emotional skills than children whose parents do not and that toddlers who participate in long-term integrated music programs tend to be more cooperative and independent.

This review makes the distinction between the arts and play, telling us that compared to play-time, participating in the arts yields stronger and more positive outcomes. Additionally, the NEA tells us that these benefits can be found in young children across socio-economic lines, as well as both for children with and without Autism Spectrum Disorder who take part in the arts.


December 2015

National Endowment for the Arts
1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
DC, 20506