Arts Smarts


In a highly competitive world that places a huge premium on concrete, easily-measured achievement, creative arts are sometimes considered an “extra” for which there is no time or money. Experts say that this thinking is dated in light of recent research that indicates that the arts are every bit as essential to learning and brain development as traditional teachings and can also provide emotional release and important social benefits.

Enhanced Development, Academic Performance and Self-Confidence
Teachers have always intuitively known that the arts greatly increase academic performance, behavior and attendance. Recent brain research confirms this, indicating that the arts play a large role in enhancing how children learn traditional academics, develop curiosity, creativity, fine-motor skills and self-confidence.

In its published study “Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning,” the Arts Education Partnership states: “When well taught, the arts provide young people with authentic learning experiences that engage their minds, hearts, and bodies … [and] nurtures the development of cognitive, social and personal competencies.”

Innovative Skills, Diverse Perspectives and a Strong Sense of Self
The skills enhanced by the arts will likely be highly valued in the future. The evolving workplace has increased the demand for creative thinkers who can generate innovative and original ideas in a variety of media.

Former U.S. Department of Education Secretary Richard Riley said “If young Americans are to succeed they will need an education that develops imaginative and tough minded thinking. The arts powerfully nurture [this ability] over other areas of learning.”

Better still, exposure to the arts helps children appreciate other cultures and viewpoints. Famed Broadway composer Stephan Swartz explains “The arts are about increasing sympathy, increasing in people the ability to see things from other people's point of view, and understand the world is not just from your own narrow perspectives but from the perspective of people from other cultures.”

Yet, the arts often give children a greater sense of themselves. While enjoying artistic experiences, children are stripped of pretenses and self-consciousness, developing an understanding of and appreciation for their unique individuality.

Easily Incorporated Into Everyday
Exposing a child to the arts doesn’t have to be overly time-consuming, difficult or expensive. With little effort, the arts can be folded into everyday life and most communities offer a variety of options as well. Check out local recreation centers, library programs, museums or performing art centers for children’s programs that are often free or low cost. Formal instructional classes are also readily available are very popular. Here are different types of creative arts that children enjoy:

Listening to, singing and playing music has an undeniable effect on reasoning, language, math, social behavior, and can actually form new and permanent connections in a child’s brain. Aimee Carter, owner of Delightful Sounds and a Kindermusik teacher, is also a Florida certified early interventionist who often works with young children experiencing developmental delays. She says the substantial developmental, social and emotional gains experienced by all of her students are amazing and undeniable.

Tampa Baptist Academy’s music director Tom Tietjen teaches music classes to small children and also leads school-aged students in choir. Tietjen says his students enjoy greater self-awareness, sense of timing, cooperation skills, and an appreciation of different sounds, cultures and compositions. His choir is currently reading and singing music in German, Latin and Hebrew. He says that the benefits from music education last a life time.

Creative Drama
Creative drama can include dramatic role play, story enactment or viewing live theater. Children exposed to drama develop their imaginations, self-confidence, memory and reading skills and learn to effectively express their emotions and comfortably work in group settings.

The Visual Arts
Exposure to painting, drawing, sculpture, photography and architecture helps children learn to make choices, use memory and express feelings. Tampa artist and teacher Virginia Larrea-LaTourrette has observed immense, beneficial changes in her students including improved self-discipline, organization skills and increased self-esteem. She says art concepts can be used for almost all subjects.

For example, a child who learns to draw a triangle for a flower can easily be introduced to corresponding math and science concepts: “Children learn that art is connected with all learning so boring subjects can be fun.”

Literary Arts
Exposure to or creating written works, poetry and narratives encourages self-exploration, self-expression and intellectual curiosity. Despite geographic or socioeconomic barriers, the literary arts teach kids to appreciate the opinions and differences of others while recognizing and honoring their own abilities and viewpoints.

With all of the offerings and choices available, consider incorporating the arts in your daily routine and visiting libraries, museums, concerts and Web sites focused on the creative arts. Even if your child does not become the next Shakespeare or Picasso, these small and easy efforts will likely pay huge benefits.

Here are a few books, CDs and Web sites that can help introduce or enhance your child’s exposure to the creative arts:

“A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children” by Caroline Kennedy and Jon J. Muth

“Art for the Very Young: Ages 3-6” by Elizabeth Kelly and Joanne Mcconville

“Babar’s Museum of Art” by Laurent De Brunhoff

“Kids Take the Stage: Helping Young People Discover the Creative Outlet of Theater”
by Lenka Peterson and Dan O’Connor

“Pass the Poetry, Please!” by Lee Bennett Hopkins

“Show Time: Music, Dance, and Drama Activities for Kids” by Lisa Bany-Winters.

“Teaching Art With Books Kids Love: Teaching Art Appreciation, Elements of Art, and Principles of Design With Award-Winning Children’s Books” by Darcie Clark Frohardt

Classics for Kids (Box Set)

Music for the Mozart Effect, Volume 3, Unlock the Creative Spirit

On the Web
Uses fun games and activities to expose children to the visual arts, music, literature and dance.
Numerous links to art-related Web sites. Also allows you to specify your child’s interests to narrow down the offerings.
KinderArt features many art activities and lesson plans which have proven successful for children with disabilities.

Paducah Public Schools
Paducah Public Schools Language Arts: A huge offering of children’s literature from Dr. Seuss to Shakespeare and poetry/narrative writing tips for kids of all ages.
Teaches children about different types of instruments and allows them to play and write their own music.
This very extensive Web site offers interactive activities and readings in poetry, fiction and drama. It has very useful tips and even lesson plans on how to teach these concepts while having fun with your children.
Teaches children to play popular kids’ songs using the computer keyboard as a piano. Offers many opportunities to learn about the symphony and different types of music and instruments.

Shannon Dean is a freelance writer and mother of two.

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