What Does an Early Childhood Arts Educator Do?

Creative arts-based play is widely understood to be an important part of childhood growth and development. Early childhood arts educators play a crucial role in introducing young children to the joys of music, dance, and theater, as well as the many positive emotional, intellectual, and social benefits that accompany an arts education. Early childhood educators might specialize in a single art form or expose children to aspects of many different ones.

Working with children requires patience, enthusiasm, warmth, excellent listening skills, respect for diversity, and a deep love of young people.

In order to bring young children into the world of dance, early childhood educators use time-honored activities such as improvising movement; investigating shapes and space; responding to rhythms; moving with props; and exploring concepts such as partnering, mirroring, and follow-the-leader. When it comes to theater exploration, educators might lead children in pantomiming daily activities, acting out stories, using puppets and masks to create characters, or giving classroom objects imaginary qualities. There are countless ways teachers can bring music into the classroom: singing loudly and softly, high and low, and fast and slow to explore dynamics; clapping in different rhythmic patterns; using found objects to create sounds; and listening to a variety of music.

Some educators are trained to offer a more formal music education to young children based on established approaches such as Suzuki Early Childhood Education. Depending on the setting and the teacher's responsibilities (i.e., whether they are an arts specialist or a general teacher), they may engage in a variety of activities with children and supervise them during meal time, nap time, and personal hygiene activities. 

Early Childhood Arts Educator at a Glance

Career Path

Thanks to continued research into the importance and many benefits of arts education for children, early childhood arts education is a fast-growing field. Early childhood arts educators must fulfill the relevant education, training, and certification requirements of their state or country in order to work. Early childhood educators with a passion for working with differently abled children might become adaptive arts teachers. Others might transition into teaching higher grades, become a private instructor, or advance to be the program director of their department or educational institution.

Finding Work

Early childhood educators work for preschools, public schools, private schools, Head Start programs, and day-care centers, as well as religious organizations like churches, synagogues, YMCAs, and Jewish community centers. Aspiring arts educators can get experience working as a volunteer, intern, teacher's aide, or substitute teacher—all of which help build résumés. Job openings are posted on websites and in print and online publications targeted at the education field.

Professional Skills
  • Teaching
  • Experience with young children
  • Broad (or focused) understanding of music, dance, and/or theater
  • Verbal communication
  • Empathy
Interpersonal Skills

Working with children requires patience, enthusiasm, warmth, excellent listening and communication skills, respect for diversity, and a deep love of watching and helping young people learn about the world.

Work Life

Most early childhood educators work a traditional 10-month school year, but teachers employed by preschools and pre-K institutions are increasingly likely to work year-round. Work hours are variable: arts specialists might work part-time, leading two-hour sessions at several different community programs and schools each day, or work full-time, teaching eight-hour days at a day-care center or school. Public pre-K programs offer part-time and full-time positions, usually split into separate morning and afternoon shifts.