Aesthetic Development in Early Childhood

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  • 0:04 Aesthetics
  • 0:49 A Look at the Theorists
  • 3:42 What's in Common?
  • 4:07 Helping Aesthetic Development
  • 6:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Tawnya Eash

Tawnya has a master's degree in early childhood education and teaches all subjects at an elementary school.

Are you looking for proof that aesthetic development is a crucial part of early childhood education? This lesson provides a clear, detailed overview of various theories behind teaching aesthetics.


Helping children understand the world around them plays a key role in early childhood development. Children not only need to be taught the core subjects, but they need to learn an appreciation for the arts.

Aesthetics, or a set of values relating to nature and the appreciation of beauty, should be incorporated into early childhood development. In doing this, young children will see the connection and importance of music, visual arts, and pretend play in their education. It will help increase motivation and develop appropriate interpersonal skills. Through carefully planned activities, exploration, and use of manipulatives, you will foster aesthetic development in your students.

There are various theories out there that support aesthetic development in early childhood education. Let's check out some perspectives!

A Look at the Theorists

John Dewey believed that children learn best by forming their own views and can enhance their education through their own experiences and interactions. Positive experiences will lead to a positive view of their surroundings. As students gain new experiences, relate information to previous knowledge, and form their own thoughts on beauty, they will continue to develop. Dewey also believed that early childhood educators need to provide students with opportunities to experience aesthetics for cognitive, social, cultural, and psychological development.

Rudolf Steiner's anthroposophy movement on aesthetic development states that children need intellectual, creative, moral, and spiritual development. This perspective focuses on the fact that children ages 0 — 7 learn about their environment through their senses. Incorporating music, art, and pretend play fosters students' abilities to retain information through imitation or impressions. By including aesthetic development, educators provide approaches that set students up for a successful future and encourage imagination.

Lev Vygotsky is most known for the idea zone of proximal development (ZPD), which is the distance between the level a child can perform independently versus their potential level with guidance. This is key to a child's development because learning takes place just above their independent level.

There's great emphasis on learning through play with Vygotsky's theory. As with the other views, it's believed that children learn from their experiences. Role play, imagination, and imitating others foster a child's growth and development. By reenacting what students see in real life, they begin to master various concepts.

Through her own research and studies, Abigail Housen believed that people grow aesthetically through distinct stages. These five stages of aesthetic development include:

  1. Accountive - senses and experiences help people make observations of art and figure it out
  2. Constructive - how people perceive things affects their view in how they look at art
  3. Classifying - by understanding art's history and categorizing it, people gain a deeper understanding
  4. Interpretive - people look for the underlying meaning in art
  5. Re-Creative - long history of viewing and reflecting art

Jean Piaget's main focus was on children's cognitive development, where he emphasized that development is a process acquired through maturation and environmental experiences. Piaget strongly believed that children use schemas, or their own experiences, to build upon when learning something new. Children make adaptations as they learn in order to make new experiences fit in with their prior knowledge. The main stages of development include sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational. Within each stage, a child's brain continues to become more advanced and sophisticated.

What's in Common?

It seems that all theorists agree that a child develops aesthetically over time and with experiences. The environment, and how a student interacts with it, plays a major role in appreciating the arts. Children learn and grow in a series of stages as they acquire new knowledge and are capable of understanding concepts at a deeper level.

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