Look back at preschools and elementary schools. You will have a hard time finding establishments that do not spend at least some time teaching children to color, cut with scissors, or create seasonal art projects to take home. You may have even attended a concert or two that showcased some singing and simple choreography. Learning how to count or read may fall by the wayside, but ask any child and these moments of creative expression are the memories they will look back on for years to come. These are the memories that line your refrigerator and fill your media cabinet.
The arts in education movement is becoming more and more widespread and introducing children to all aspects of the arts at a young age is incredibly important. Let’s take a look at just a handful of the facts:
1) The arts have been proven to IMPROVE COMMUNICATION SKILLS. Especially for the younger generation, communication is still developing. Many children, including those who are potentially on the spectrum of different-abilities, are constantly searching for a means of expression. Activities like drawing, painting, and dancing offer unique outlets for communication – a type of expressive therapy. What some may not be able to verbalize or write, can be expressed in these creative ways that bring a sense of understanding, not only to the child, but for their families.
2) Every type of art BUILDS CONFIDENCE. Looking broadly at the arts, there is no such thing as “wrong.” While there is a right and a wrong way to solve 2+2, art is made for creative minds and will always expand to welcome new ideas. For a child, seeing that there are hundreds of ways to draw a cat, or dance to a song, or play a drum, leads them to crave more creativity without the worry of being judged or measured against a preset outcome. This type of confidence is carried with them for the rest of their lives as they present new ideas to friends, families, or coworkers. With the arts, ideas are endless.
3) One of the best aspects of arts education has to be the INCLUSION OF CULTURE. In many parts of the country, children are very isolated from cultures different than their own. This is often at no fault of theirs; it is just a factor of their specific environment. The arts are “universal languages” and have defined cultures throughout history. No matter the culture, children are able to find unspoken connections to carry with them forever. This early integration leads to acceptance of new people, ideas, and cultures they will encounter throughout their lives, creating a well-rounded, thoughtful individual.
4) It may not seem as straightforward to some, but arts such as music and dance actually IMPROVE AND BUILD UPON ACADEMIC SKILL. For example, through studies, it has been shown that students who are involved in a music-based art excel at math. Introducing a child to rhythm at an early age creates a subconscious connection to counting and engages the part of the brain responsible for solving complex equations. This does extend further than mathematics, causing children to think “outside of the box” to solve problems. They are able to see and approach challenges in new ways.
5) In today’s world where so many children are being diagnosed with attention disorders, the world of the arts offers a much needed sense of PERSEVERANCE AND FOCUS. A simple example of this would be learning to color inside the lines. A more abstract example goes back to the idea of children being able to approach challenges in different ways. If a student is presented with a challenging task such as building a bridge out of blocks that can hold a pile of books, they are unknowingly forced into a fun series of trial and error to find the method that will work. They have to use their creativity and focus to find the solution.
6) One of the most important benefits of arts education is TEAMWORK. Especially at a young age, children need to learn how to work within a group to achieve a common goal. They might need to learn a group dance, sing a song, or play instruments in unison. This experience brings them together, realizing that multiple creative voices can come together and make something even better than individual achievement. Of course, this translates directly into a child’s future, not only as they progress through grade school, but through college and into the workforce.
All of these are benefits of an education in the arts, and there are plenty more that extend beyond this list. While various art forms can absolutely be introduced at any point in life, introducing children to these creative opportunities as soon as possible reaps immeasurable success. It is imperative that parents fight for arts education for their children and continue to allow them to discover their gifts through these outlets. Reading and writing are important, but if children were not exposed to the arts, as they grow, they will not have anything to read or write about. A successful future begins NOW!
Written by: Alyson Monaco
Alyson Monaco is a professional dancer by trade, performing, teaching, and choreographing out of her home base of New Jersey. A former dance major at the Boston Conservatory, her love of how the body moves lead her to become a Certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor through AFAA. She is currently pursuing her teaching certification in dance. Alyson loves working one on one with people of all ages and ability, and truly enjoys helping people find a better quality of life.