When it comes to life skills and academics, fostering an interest in the arts could be the key to piloting your child toward excellence. That’s because children and teens given the opportunity to express themselves through performing – such as dance, drama or playing a musical instrument – or by pursuing an interest in various artistic media, such as drawing or painting, simply do better at school and at life.
Study after study has shown that children who explore and participate in creative and artistic outlets perform better at reading, writing and math; develop self-confidence and self-esteem; boost self-reliance; and increase empathy and compassion.
“Students who are involved in the arts score higher on standardized tests and are more likely to stay in school and graduate than those who aren’t,” confirms Michael Spring, director of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs. “The arts make people better by cultivating an appreciation of our diﬀerences and developing creative approaches to problem-solving. These are sensibilities and skills that serve all people in all facets of their lives.”
The following tips can help put your children on the path to greatness by expressing themselves through the arts.
1. Create an at-home art studio. Keep crayons, markers and colored pencils; finger paints and watercolor kits; construction paper and age-appropriate scissors and glues; buttons and fabric scraps; objects found in nature, such as leaves, shells and small stones; and empty shoe boxes on hand so kids can take action whenever the urge to create strikes. Your local dollar store can keep you stocked up on the cheap.
2. Turn up the drama during storytime. Instead of just curling up with your kids when you read them a book, stand up and act out what’s on the page with diﬀerent voices, props and “costumes” culled from your closets. You can also create a storybook box of props with items found at garage sales or thrift shops. Be sure to encourage children to take on their own roles in your impromptu play.
3. Introduce them to new voices at home or in the car by switching over to a diﬀerent radio station or popping in a CD from an artist or group you wouldn’t normally listen to (visit your local library for a ton of options you can borrow for free).
4. “Attend” a performance at home by popping in a DVD of a ballet, opera, musical or stage play borrowed from the library, watching a video on YouTube or streaming a performing arts program on an available device.
5. Dance and sing with your kids at home. Mimic the moves and words of videos found online, or turn up your favorite tunes on the radio and have at it. You’ll have a blast and get some exercise while doing it!
6. Look for arts programs after school and over the summer, such as those funded by The Children’s Trust. Other resources for low- and no-cost arts programs for children and youth include the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Aﬀairs, the Miami-Dade Public Library and the Miami-Dade County Department of Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces .