The arts improve children's social skills, education, and creativity. Growing up, dance was always part of my life. From ages 3 to 19, I was dancing. Dance gave me an outlet for my energy and emotions. It also taught me discipline, patience, and more things about myself than I could ever list. It led me to study dance in college and to pursue a professional career. All forms of art influence children and help shape them as they grow.
Published: December 31, 2017
By: Alexandra Ditoro
Growing up, dance was always part of my life. From ages 3 to 19, I was dancing. Dance gave me an outlet for my energy and emotions. It also taught me discipline, patience, and more things about myself than I could ever list. It led me to study dance in college and to pursue a professional career. All forms of art influence children and help shape them as they grow.
As a dancer, journalist, and researcher, I recently reached out to professionals in education to gain more insight into how this artistic journey affects children as they develop.
One of the many benefits of being involved in the arts is improved social interactions.
According to Francie Gardner, theatre teacher at Chelsea High School, students involving themselves in something like theatre provides a stronger sense of self.
“Students…want to be themselves and discover who they are, but they don’t want to alienate themselves from their peer group,” she says. “Finding a niche where they can safely express themselves is so important.”
Participating in the arts allows children to develop a stronger sense of self and understanding of what they are capable of. “Students who participate in dance develop skills in multiple areas beyond physical domains,” says Amy Wilkinson, senior lecturer of dance at Loyola University Chicago. “Students develop self-knowledge, resilience, an incredible work ethic, a sense of community, and empathy among many other things. These attributes can be applied powerfully in all kinds of life situations outside the studio/stage.”
Other important skills that can be developed by participation in the arts are public speaking and adjusting to being in front of an audience. During dance or musical performances, children often lose the fear of being in front of a group of people at an early age, which can make presenting to a conference room full of coworkers easier when they are adults. In theatre, strong public speaking skills are gained.
“Public speaking and personal communication skills are critical to the success of any individual in the workforce and arguably in life,” Gardner says. “Developing con dence in performance, clarity in speech, and improvisation skills are practical and can be fun. It helps them feel comfortable around others, and a lot of times with art, you have to work with other people.”
Tami Moran, special education program specialist for Shelby County Schools, nds that art can also be used to teach. “Students use art to build fine motor skills, from starting with larger objects such as play dough and things they can manipulate and doing a lot of hand over hand activities to help guide and show them how to build and use those fine motor skills, up to physical therapy and adaptive PE,” she explains. “You can use art to teach and also to maintain a certain sensory because then you start thinking, ‘OK is my classroom too noisy, is it too loud, is it too busy on the walls?’ We build in brain breaks, where it might be that you spin and do a dance on a brain break or that you listen to music or you sing a song.”
The arts can carry students outside the studio or band room, and translate to the classroom. For example, Jon Bubbett, band director at Thompson High School, and 2015 Bandmaster of the Year from the Rho chapter of the Phi Beta Mu international bandmasters fraternity, finds that engaging in music can contribute to students’ success in the classroom. Music and other art programs can help improve learning skills and grades.
“I like to tell parents who are concerned about their children’s grades that they need to get their kids in band to improve their grades,” Bubbett says. “Music programs have the highest number of students with the highest GPAs in the school. Who do you want your children to be around? I would want my child around others who have the highest GPAs and can still be involved in activities that are going to shape and mold their lives for years to come.”
Bubbett sees music eventually leading students to and helping them succeed in a university setting. “It defines you. It has given many, many students the opportunity to go to college on scholarship or on partial scholarships. By the time students get to be seniors, they are pretty much set in terms of their high school career and ready to move on to college!”
Students can receive scholarships because of their involvement in the arts but can also pursue a career in the art that they are interested in. Wilkinson describes college as a transition time, where students “really begin to hone their aesthetic as much as technique, and if they aren’t getting nourished by what they’ve been fed in the past, they have the freedom to make new choices.”
CREATIVITY & EXPRESSION
The arts also serve as an outlet for self-expression. Bubbett recognizes this in his students. “It has opened their eyes to new ways of creativity and expression to themselves and to others,” he says. “It gives them a chance to be a part of something that is bigger than they are as individuals.” For example, in Bubbett’s classroom, songs may be assigned, but students can also choose and play music that speaks to them and reflects their feelings and emotions.
Art is also, for the most part, a uniquely human trait. As Bubbett explains, “Art creates! Art gives us a way to express how we feel and to touch others in ways that can’t happen otherwise. It gives us a way of expressing our sense of being and our place in the world. Art needs no justification more than we exist….and so does art. It is who we are.”
HOW TO INSPIRE YOUR CHILD
Encouraging and inspiring children to experiment in the arts can begin as early as birth, even though they may not remember those first experiences. Making footprint pictures, listening to music, and watching dance or theatrical performances are all ways that infants and young children can participate in the arts. As they get older, they may gravitate toward one art type or another. Parents’ continued encouragement can help them adopt a lifelong ability or hobby and develop social skills, further their education and stimulate creativity.