When you think of art in the early learning years, most likely finger paintings and hand prints come to mind; however, there is so much more to it than that. Learning is influenced by art. When an idea is reinforced by action, we tend to remember it better, and children are the same way.
Art tools, such as coloring pencils and paint brushes, help young children learn how to grasp, just as they would a writing utensil. This is an important pre-writing step that cannot be missed. When using shapes to create a dinosaur or discovering the use of different shapes in daily activities lays a foundation for math topics that will come later in their education. Children love art because they can get messy and let their creative juices flow. The teachers prepare a variety of art activities each day that correlate with daily lessons, bible stories, and special events happening in each child's day. In addition, our Kindergarteners attend art class twice a week. The art class works on building understanding of art concepts and appreciation of the subject.
This article has a lot of great information on the importance of art education. It goes over the socio-emotional impact, the effects art has on cognitive and motor development, as well as the art experience for a preschooler.
This article really breaks down how an art activity and process can enhance the learning process by reinforcing learning concepts.
This site has TONS of art project ideas from crafts, to clay, and anything inbetween. If you are feeling artsy and looking for a fun project to do with the kids, this is a great resource.