All kids are special, whether they have specific “special needs” or otherwise. And all kids go through times when they lack confidence, are anxious, shy, bottled up, or overflowing with emotions without an outlet for them. It goes with the territory of being relatively new in the world and not sure how to negotiate it.
Sometimes we’re so preoccupied with how our children’s behavioral or developmental issues affect their academic performance that we neglect the softer side of their educations. School budget cuts in many places have led to a lack of classes in art, music, drama, and dance, but that’s no reason to deprive your child of all the benefits those studies have to offer. Whether enrolling him or her in weekly classes or even in schools that have special curricula in the performing arts, like the Diamond Ranch Academy Theater program, you’ll be giving your child an appreciation of the things that make life rich as well as helping him or her develop into a full, well-rounded person.
You may not have thought of them before, but here are some of the benefits of participation in the performing arts:
1. Outlet for Self-Expression
A lot of kids have trouble expressing themselves in their own words. Performing in plays, music, or song gives them new ways to expand what it means to communicate, and a fresh way to express themselves. The freeness and movement of dance is another way some kids find to let go of emotions that are difficult to display in other ways. Even shy kids are able to come into their own when they’re expressing their feelings in ways that don’t make them feel exposed.
2. Gaining Empathy and Compassion
Performing means getting outside of themselves for the moment and seeing things through a character’s eyes. “It’s a very safe way for kids to try out certain feelings — take ownership of them — while playing the role of someone else,” says Brian Olkowski, director of a California grade school’s drama club. The creativity that comes out in performance carries over to opening a child’s personal cache of emotions and gives him or her a view of the world that includes empathy and compassion for other people.
3. Learning How to Collaborate
Planning a production, rehearsing, and performing with other kids teaches teamwork in a non-competitive setting. Knowing how to work toward a shared goal is important in navigating through a career and successful future life, and kids who practice those skills early are just that more ready to tackle what lies ahead. Another happy outcome is that the sense of community that artistic collaboration provides is often the grounding for lasting friendships.
4. Flexing Creative Muscles
Participating in the arts encourages creativity and resourcefulness. It calls for thinking in new ways and improvising solutions on the spot. And it expands a child’s imagination in every way.
5. Building Self-Esteem
Performing gives kids a chance to shine. Being a star isn’t the point. Participating in a successful performance in any way is enough to bring self-satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. Whether a child participates in theater, choir, dance, or instrumental performance, it’s the doing that counts. The confidence a child finds can work like magic and it can carry over for a lifetime.
6. Positive Overflow Into Academics
Studies by the Arts Education Partnership, a collaboration between the National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Department of Education, suggest that children exposed to drama, music, and dance are more proficient in reading, writing, and math. Among students who have high involvement in the arts, it has found consistently better grades, less likelihood of dropping out, and more positive attitudes about school.
According to the American Alliance for Theater and Education, participation in drama classes boosts SAT scores in both the verbal and math components. In addition, Johns Hopkins University School of education has reported that “children showed more motivation, paid closer attention, and remembered what they learned more easily when the arts were integrated into the curriculum.”
Beyond all of these benefits, the performing arts give kids an outlet for their energy, focus their minds, and are just plain fun! For more information, particularly on how the arts affect school performance, read this report from the National Assembly of States Arts Agencies.