Extracurricular Extras: What Kids Learn From the Arts
It's rehearsal time at the local children's theater. There are no desks, no teachers lecturing in front of chalkboards. Instead, kids mill around, painting scenery, practicing their lines, working with a choreographer to get their dance steps in sync. This is not schoolwork — and for some kids, that's the magic of it: a way to express themselves in a non-academic way. On stage, backstage, or simply in the audience, commitment, concentration, and focus are required, but these skills are used differently than they are in school. The arts give kids a way to participate and interact with others, away from solitary pursuits like computer games and watching TV.
To maximizing learning for your young artist, encourage her to:
- Sing out loud: Take a voice lesson just to see what it's like.
- Dance to the beat: Work out with a dance video that revs up both performance and pizzazz!
- Try opera: They have subtitles now, so the story that's being told is easier to understand.
- Go behind the music: Deepen your understanding of a play, song, or story by reading some background information about the composer or writer and his inspiration.
- Move beyond movies: If you see a movie and enjoy the music, buy the soundtrack or borrow it from the library. Then look for other work by the same composers.
When Your Child Isn't Interested
The arts are as essential to humans as breathing, but you can't force your child to be a ballerina or a singer if she doesn't have a passion for it. To encourage a child who's "bored" by the arts, try the following ideas:
- Treasure-hunt through a museum: Use the map many museums provide especially for kids, or head for a certain famous picture or a special artist that's on exhibit.
- Capture art wherever you find it: Use a camera phone or a disposable camera. Take pictures of interesting buildings, sculptures in public gardens or cemeteries, and roadside billboards.
- Take them along: "Mom and I are going to this play. We think you might enjoy it too. Oh, you didn't? You pick next time."
- Be a biographer: Research your favorite living artist or local performer to see where he went to school and where he exhibits or performs.
- Check the calendar: Help your child look at the schedules of local playhouses, museums, and other performance spaces and choose exhibits or shows she'd like to see.