by Debra Caffrey
The arts can promote crucial skills important to a child’s academic, social and life success. In fact, the benefits of studying the arts may prove more important than first believed. As James Roberson, owner of Roberson’s Music, points out, “Art education is key to the success of the next generation.” But given the increasing push for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in the curriculum, art education can often get left by the wayside, which is why it’s imperative that the arts remain an integral component to a child’s development.
The Arts & Success
Art education has been linked with higher overall academic success. Lisa Avery, director of Avery Ballet, states, “The arts nurture self-esteem and the discipline required reinforces good manners, etiquette and important personal ethics.” Qualities that extend into scholastic habits and work ethic.
Art education has also been shown to hone language development. Whether by learning about shapes, colors and patterns as a young toddler, or discovering new ways of self-expression as a school-aged child, artistic expression paves the way for enhanced communication and public speaking skills.
“The music and math connection is well established. Visual art helps with motor skills and visual processing,” explains Taryn Lane, youth chair of Stage Door Productions.
Similarly, studying the arts is a great means of developing social aptitudes, which is why so much of the arts is collaborative in nature.
“Kids who work together in theater groups develop a very strong sense of community and support,” says Lane. “Being part of a team is comforting, but it is also a responsibility that helps students learn that others are counting on them.”
This sense of accountability can be vital to a child’s ability to learn from failure and develop determination.
“Dance and its related arts require hard work to achieve progress and success,” Avery says. “I believe the perseverance and patience that is needed to attain a goal is something that has been lost within this age of instant gratification.”
The arts also instill confidence and self-esteem.
“Art enables children to express their feelings and emotions in a safe way,” says Michelle Crow-Dolby, Education and Communications Manager at Gari Melchers Home & Studio. “Instilling the belief in each child that their art explorations are valid and important helps build personal confidence.”
Learning from mistakes and problem-solving in order to convey one’s artistic expression appropriately deepens a child’s ability to reason and overcome challenges, making them better prepared not only academically but for any future career path. As Roberson adds, the arts “encourage children through successes and hard work. They can truly have a feeling of accomplishment.”
Though strides have been made to bring art education back to the forefront in schools, it’s still important that parents do what they can to encourage artistic expression in all children, particularly those who express an interest in the arts. Children can now experiment in various spring break and summer camps, and many dance and music studios offer trial classes for those who are curious. The benefits that art education can have on a child are worth the investment.
As Avery points out, any exposure to the arts is beneficial.
“Watching dance, listening to classical music and looking at pictures will give them an appreciation for the performing arts,” she says. “The skills acquired while studying the arts are not just for the stage; they are for life.”
Curious when children should start lessons in the arts? Here are some guidelines:
Formal lessons being around age 7. “Piano, violin, guitar and ukulele are great starting instruments for the younger beginner,” says Roberson. For larger brass or woodwind instruments, lessons begin in fifth or sixth grade. As for voice lessons, there is no correct age to start lessons, but look for instructors who are mindful of implementing age-appropriate techniques for younger children who still have developing vocal cords.
“Lessons that involve improvisation, short scenes and creative play are a good option for younger kids age 4-7,” says Lane. “If you think your child would be interested, spring break or summer creative arts camps are a good way to try this out,” she adds. For more formal acting in the form of plays involving line memorization and structured performances, most children would be ready for this by second or third grade.
Rudimentary movement-based classes for toddlers are great for introducing the music/movement connection. Creative moment classes begin at ages 2-3. Beginning at age 4, children may take pre-ballet and other styles of dance that have more structure and focus.
Toddlers should be encouraged to express themselves through art from the very start! As Crow-Dolby points out, parents can promote a tot’s interest in art with “finger painting, dot markers, large crayons, and setting up art stations at home.” Preschool art classes are appropriate for ages 2-5. After that, school-aged children can experiment with other artistic mediums in art classes such as watercolor, sketching and sculpture.