Experts say arts and craft activities are central to child development, but why? What skills are children actively improving and building on? What are the benefits of family learning? And how can parents make the most of it?

At The Lightbox we believe that family-friendly activities and workshops encourage children and young people to build self-esteem and communication skills, while introducing new areas of interest for the whole family. We run regular workshops tailored for specific age groups which can offer opportunities for sensory fun, exploration, discovery and creative experimentation. However, in these strange times we currently find ourselves, we are looking into digital ways to learn and share.

That’s why we’ve put together five top tips for parents and guardians that expand on some of the important areas of a child’s development that can be positively influenced by arts and craft activities at home.

1. Literacy – is the basis of a child's ability to communicate, socialise and later, read and write. It involves learning about sounds, words and language and can be developed during early childhood by speaking and listening, reading and rhyming. Encouraging children to develop their literacy skills should be done by taking part in engaging activities, both enjoyable and playful, where children are actively involved.

Our recommendation: We usually run Storytelling for Under 5s every two weeks which includes songs, rhymes and stories along with a craft activity. As we are currently closed to the public, we thought this would be a great opportunity for us to share some alternative options so that you can hold your own Storytelling sessions at home. The Scottish Book Trust has a whole site dedicated to people telling stories, that offers parents the option of searching content tailored to the child’s age or even finding something for adults to enjoy themselves. Also, Music Tots – Whitby has live streamed some sing-a-long fun that you can give a watch.

Painting for Under 5s session © The Lightbox

2. Motor skills – Fine motor skills are necessary to engage in smaller, more precise movements, normally using the hands and fingers. They differ from gross motor skills because they require more precision to perform. This is a skill that children will continue to improve in their formative years and arts and craft activities can help them develop their bilateral co-ordination skills as they learn to use both hands at the same time.

Our recommendation: Different types of painting can help strengthen children’s hand-to-eye co-ordination and manual dexterity. Finger painting gives kids an opportunity to use their hands—and to get messy, while using brushes helps them learn how to hold the tool and gain greater control over their movement. We will be sending out ideas for painting and sensory fun via our twice-monthly newsletters for children and families, but as an extra treat you can check out the Artful Parent website.

3. Quality Time Family learning enables adults and children to learn together and involves explicit learning outcomes for both. 'It develops self-efficacy, inspires children and their parents to aim higher, and gives them the resources they need to change their lives for the better.' Adults are central in helping children find out how to explore their creativity through the arts. By sharing their work with an adult, they can celebrate a child’s achievement together, making them feel valued and recognised. This, in turn, builds on self-esteem in children in the years to come.

Our recommendation: Our brand new Studio Sundays are designed with the whole family in mind and we currently we are sharing plenty of similar activities on our blog, so make sure to check regularly for updates. While you're on it, make sure to get yourself a Pinterest account to keep in the loop with the newest arts and crafts trends!

Tie-dyeing workshop for 5-8 year olds © The Lightbox

4. Creativity – it is important to remember that creativity is a characteristic that can define anyone, not just the "talented", and that it is equally something that can be taught and encouraged, especially when done from an early age. Creativity makes space for self-expression and lets children articulate their own thoughts and feelings, while also boosting their problem-solving skills.

Our recommendation:Our free drop-in sessions are developed so that you and your little ones can spend time crafting some amazing creations by exploring different materials and techniques. Why not take a look at Red Ted Art’s extensive list of creative, fun activities to keep you going?

Wiggly Caterpillars free drop-in session © The Lightbox

5. Self-esteem – a recent study from University College London around children's engagement in the arts has found that taking part in creative sessions can boost a young person's self-esteem, regardless of their ability or inclination for artistic expression. The research also found that 'the arts have been shown to support a sense of social identity' and can 'encourage goal-directed behaviour, and enhance social resilience'.

Our recommendation: Art can certainly help young people navigate those murky teenage waters a bit more easily, especially now that they're having a tough time with not being able to sit exams and see their friends. Again, Pinterest is your here and if your young one is over 13 they can have their own account. We will also be sending out twice-monthly newsletter for adults and young people, full of insightful articles on art and artworks and plenty of 'how to' and DIY blog posts, so make sure you sign up to receive it.

We can't wait to welcome you back once we reopen but, until then, we would love to see your creations so make sure to share them with us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.