Tuesday the 23rd of April saw the nation’s population pass the 23 million mark. While the face of the average Australian is changing, so too are our perceptions of the Arts.
Aided by televised series such Young Talent Time, Glee, The Voice, X-Factor, Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance, becoming involved in the Arts is now readily acceptable and easily accessible.
While Australian children are losing interest in traditional Aussie sports such as cricket and tennis, research is showing that involvement with creative pursuits like dance and music is starting to thrive. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, dance was the most popular sports for girls and the 2nd most popular sport for ‘girls and boys’ in 2012, while there were 50,700 boys participating, up from 22,200 in 2003.
I have been actively involved in the Arts since I was four. What started as a passion soon developed into a dance career spanning 15 years and four continents. I can confidently say that dance and music have opened many doors and changed my life.
Children are naturally imaginative and creative creatures. Art performance classes and workshops that include dance, music and drama go beyond the physical. They not only build children’s co-ordination and strength but also are brilliant vehicles that encourage children to freely express themselves, and ultimately grow in confidence.
There is nothing better than seeing a child who is hesitant at the beginning of the year, soon start to freely express him or herself. In the LivelyGrooves program I created, this transformation can be seen on a weekly basis. Some of our students do not speak a word of English but when they dance their actions express more than words. The joy that they experience is infectious!
Here are some reasons to engage children in the Arts!
1.The Arts help develop the ‘whole’ child: Beyond the physical benefits gained through artistic movement and creative play, children learn important real-world skills including critical and creative thinking, hand-eye coordination, social skills, focus, dedication and self-discipline. They also develop valuable social skills by working in a group, sharing, taking turns and being mindful of their own bodies and those of the children around them. Studies also show that participation in the Arts leads to higher test scores in the classroom.
2. The Arts help us stay active: Art forms such as dance are a form of physical movement that works every part of the body. Additional outcomes include increased physical strength, improved gross motor and bilateral integration sequencing skills, better balance and postural control, deeper breathing, increased flexibility and coordination, and sharper focus and retention. When children dance they have so much fun, they don’t realise that they are exercising.
3. The Arts help us stay healthy: We have talked a lot about the importance of getting our children active, and building emotional strength is just as important! Regular activity during early childhood years helps build the confidence they’ll need to grow into positive, proactive adults. A rooted foundation of confidence and self-expression provides the tools for children to face life’s challenges and to thrive.
4. The Arts makes us happy: Children are innate artists and storytellers, and it is our joyful responsibility as teachers, parents and role models to nurture this creative expression.
Performing art classes appeal to a child’s innate need to explore life, and when done in a fun, engaging and nurturing environment, will boost self-esteem and help to create happy childhood memories.
5. The Arts increase a sense of belonging, being and becoming: The beautiful thing about the Arts is that it is a universal language. It brings communities and cultures together, and is a powerful tool in creating cultural understanding and appreciation.
Introducing children to new people and shared experiences through the arts empowers them to find their voice. Through this they develop an understanding of diversity and a sense of belonging, build respect for themselves and others, learn about trust, develop friendships, and encourage a positive sense of worth about themselves and the community they are a part of.
Now we all know there are many amazing programs out there, but many come with a catch – they can be expensive! But don’t panic, there are a number of cost-effective community programs and classes run by small, specialises business such as Livelyhood. All it takes is a little research.
Check out these KISS tips for parents, to help children appreciate the arts, grow in confidence, and incorporate the arts into their lives.
- Turn the TV off and turn the music up
- Paint a family portrait
- Let’s dance! If you are Sydney, check out ‘Soul of Sydney’. Family friendly block parties for lovers or soul, funk and of course dancing! http://www.residentadvisor.net/promoter.aspx?id=25228
- Try a few classes until to you find the right fit for your child. Sometimes a child’s shyness is not the reason that they refuse to partake, it may simply be that the program, teacher, class or environment may not bring out the best in them
- Check your local council, community arts centres or PCYC for cost-effective and free arts programs
- Most schools and pre-schools offer extra curricular activities during school hours or after school for your convenience. Not only are they affordable but also the children will be learning to express themselves in an environment were they feel safe and nurtured. Time to self-promote, but check out Livelyhood’s multi-cultural dance program LivelyGrooves offered to pre-schools, long day cares and private crèches around Sydney