The arts are more than just enjoyable activities for kids. Participation in the arts opens up children’s worlds 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.
INTRODUCING THE ARTS
You can help your child enjoy the arts with the following at-home activities:
• Play different kinds of music from the radio or your own collection and encourage your child to sing and dance to the music.
• A simple paper and pencil or crayon offers children the chance to express themselves—even a scribble is a good beginning. The important point is to encourage your child to develop the habit of writing and drawing. When you color and write with your kids, it helps them see that you value those activities as well.
• Seek out high-quality children’s programming on TV. Good television can stimulate your child’s imagination and expand her understanding of the many different art forms that exist. If your child sees you valuing the arts, she will, too.
• Practice photography. Buy an inexpensive camera and let your child take photos. Talk to her about composing a photograph—what is included and what is cut out through the choice of the photographer? What makes a balanced photo? Work together on creating family photo albums or other thematic collections.
• Read and write poems. Help your child feel the rhythm in poems by clapping hands to the beat. If it is difficult to create your own rhythm, practice by borrowing the verse and rhythm structure of a poem you like and make up new words to fit the poem’s structure.
IN YOUR COMMUNITY
Here are a few arts experiences that await you in your community:
• Visit local arts festivals or craft fairs that feature music and dancing. The more opportunities children have to see the arts in action, the better.
• 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, or modern forms including jazz and tap. Museums often 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.
• Visit area art museums. You can also browse through an art store or gallery. Feel free to ask museum or gallery owners to tell you about the works of art you are seeing. Museums often offer special events and classes at free or reduced rates.
• 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 ethnic heritage. Talk about family members that had a particular talent or interest in an art form. Maybe Grandpa loved to sing or Uncle John was a good storyteller. Ask your child what art form she enjoys the most and encourage her to pursue it.
• 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.