Before children learn to speak, they respond intuitively to dance, music, and color. The magic of finding a new way of communicating, a new way of envisioning the world, is one of the most exciting discoveries that children make. Children need encouragement and guidance in making these discoveries.
The arts are much more than just enjoyable activities for kids. Participation in the arts opens up children’s worlds and minds and offers them the skills they need for a bright future. Yet chances are your kids are not getting enough art, in or out of school.
If you ask almost any parent, they’ll say that arts education is very important to their child’s well being. That’s why it’s so surprising that the arts have been allowed to virtually disappear from our children’s learning experiences.
The arts teach kids to be more tolerant and open and allow kids to express themselves creatively. The arts promote individuality, bolster self-confidence, and improve overall academic performance. The arts can also help troubled youth, providing an alternative to delinquent behavior and truancy while encouraging an improved attitude towards school.
In Your Community
Last month we shared articles about having fun with the arts at home. Here’s how you can enjoy arts experiences in your community:
- Visit local arts festivals or craft fairs—even seasonal celebrations that feature music and dancing. The more opportunities children have to see the arts in action, the more ideas they will get about how they can participate and contribute.
- Attend arts events at your local schools, colleges, and universities. Colleges and universities often produce calendars of activities that you can call and request or look for online. Costs are free or lower than most professional venues.
- Take your children to professional venues: children’s theater for younger children and adult dramas, comedies, and musicals for older children, symphonies, jazz ensembles, dance companies featuring ballet, ethnic (Irish step dancing, Spanish flamenco, American square dancing), or modern forms including jazz and tap. Museums sometimes offer musical and dramatic programming as well as their regular exhibits.
- Consider enrolling your child in singing lessons or encouraging him or her to participate in a choir at your local churches and houses of worship.
- Take arts classes, such as drawing, dance, musical instruments, singing, or theater skills. Some classes are specifically for parents and children to take together. Contact your local arts agency to ask for leads to community and cultural organizations that offer lessons/classes.
- Many communities have museums where you and your child can look at art of different kinds. You can also browse through an art store or gallery just so your child can enjoy seeing a variety of different artistic expression. Feel free to ask museum or store personnel to tell you about the particular works of art you are seeing. Museums often offer special events and classes at free or reduced rates.
- Check out a book from the library introducing your child to the visual arts: painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, and more. Knowing what others have done can inform and inspire your child as she participates in the same activity.
- Check out books from the library that tell stories about visual artists, dancers, actors, and musicians. This will introduce your child to the arts and help her relate to various artists.
- Encourage your child to read both classic and modern books. Compare the styles: how are they similar and how are they different in terms of subject matter and style of writing?
- Help your child understand art forms that were developed by people of your own racial or ethic heritage. Or talk about family members that had a particular talent or interest in an art form: maybe Grandpa loved to sing or Uncle Jack was a good storyteller. Ask your child what art form she enjoys the most and encourage her to do it.
More Ideas for Encouraging Art
You can find many resources on the Internet. Most museums have interactive information online, and much of it is geared toward children. If you don’t have a computer at home, local libraries offer free access to the Internet. For example, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Institution offer online exhibits.
Don’t forget to offer your talents. If you have artistic training, volunteer to teach lessons at a community organization so that children who may not be getting any training in music, theater, dance, or the visual arts can benefit from your knowledge and skill.
Source: Americans for the Arts