I watched my daughter more than the display. We were there to look at the art installation, to see the famous paintings of van Gogh come to life in new ways. But I was captivated by her. She looked at the colors, the shapes, the images, pointing out details I hadn’t seen before. She was connecting with art painted more than 100 years ago.

In our busy world with increasing academic and athletic standards for our children, the arts tend to get pushed aside. But research shows that the arts help kids with everything from reasoning and development to self-expression and confidence. This includes more than just visual arts. Exposure to music and the performing arts like dance and drama produces the same benefits and provides opportunities for your child to grow and learn.

Knowing the benefits and understanding how to incorporate the arts into our already busy lives are two different things. Here are easy ways you can make art part of your child’s experience.

Let Them See

Perhaps the most obvious way to encounter art is by seeing it. This can look like going to a museum or performance, but it’s also about being observant of the world around you and interacting with it.

  • Visit museums: Even at young ages, children can learn to appreciate art in a museum. Try keeping visits shorter for little ones. You can even keep them in a stroller in many museums. This allows you to expose them to art as well as teach them how to behave in a museum. For older kids, try to find museums that spark their interest. Maybe modern art or a photography exhibit provides more connection. We are lucky to have the High Museum of Art in Midtown that features a family-friendly learning gallery, free access to the museum the second Sunday of each month, and special programming for toddlers on Thursdays.
  • See performances: Go to live concerts and shows. Casual outdoor venues are great with little kids, so they have space to move around and even dance if appropriate. For inexpensive options, try local high school theater productions and library events. If you want to splurge, don’t forget about the Broadway Series at the Fox Theatre, the Alliance Theatre productions or shows at Cobb Energy Center.
  • Listen to music: Music provides entertainment, learning and connection for kids as young as babies. Exposing them to different types of music helps them with language skills, provides comfort, gives a physical outlet and more. From lullabies to rock music, and classical to pop hits, listening to different types of music is a great way to teach kids to appreciate the arts.

Let Them Experience

Sometimes there are opportunities for art to be more interactive. This is great for children as they are given the freedom to explore art in new ways. Having the chance to touch a sculpture, taste a beautiful cupcake, or sing along to a song invites your child to become part of the art, looking at it from a different perspective.

  • Visit an interactive exhibit: Atlanta provides opportunities to interact with art in ways we never have before. For example, Claude Monet: The Immersive Experience is now open. Classical art comes to life, putting your child in the middle of the art as they see it projected all around them. This encourages people to explore a type of art they may not have explored before.
  • Go outside: Look for outdoor art exhibits that allow you to see the art and even touch it in many cases. Taking a tour of famous murals painted outside or tiny decorated doors invite a less  restrictive experience for kids. Throughout the year, Atlanta Botanical Garden offers various art installations which invite you to walk around and under largescale sculptures, often made of plants  and flowers. Experiences like this inspire kids and foster creativity.

Let Them Create

Creating art comes in so many forms, but often we limit our ideas to things like painting and playing music. Give your child the chance to explore creating all types of art. Drawing, Play-Doh, nail art, puppet shows, fashion, singing, knitting, dancing, acting, sidewalk chalk and color mixing. All of these are ways to create art. And the possibilities are endless.

  • Make supplies available: Have a variety of art supplies available for your children to explore. As they do, give them times that are purposeful and structured to make something specific as well as other times that give them the freedom to imagine and create.
  • Sign up for lessons: Whether it’s a painting class, music lessons, cooking class, dance class or a local play, there are a variety of options for kids to try. Giving them a chance to explore and try new things allows them to learn what they enjoy.
  • Encourage creative expression: Perhaps the most important part is your encouragement. When you talk about the arts as well as encourage your child’s creative endeavors, you show them that art is an important part of life and who they are.

Lessons – More Than Just for Fun

Did you know that arts learning increases creativity and open-mindedness? In fact, exposing your child to the arts has many lifelong benefits you may not know about. So, when your child asks to take ballet, audition for a play or learn the guitar, sign them up!

  • Strong Relationships. Being in the band, part of a dance team or a member of the cast in a play bonds people through a shared passion and experience. In today’s world when making real connections with people can be a challenge, creating a community for your child through arts lessons can be priceless.
  • Self-Confidence. Performing in front of others and being able to express yourself gives children a strong sense of who they are. When you encourage this from a young age, your child will be more confident and proud.
  • Life Skills. According to a report by The Kennedy Center, creativity is cited by business leaders as the top leadership competency for the future. Arts lessons are sure to enhance a child’s natural creativity. Exposure to the arts also boosts other skills, such as problem solving, lateral thinking, complex analysis and critical thinking, which are important no matter your age.
  • Academic Development. Visual arts boost fine motor skills, while performing arts help with gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Children who learn an instrument often have an easier time learning math, as the skills are complementary. Drama supports literacy since children have to learn lines, as well as understand the plot of a play.

Find more art-filled activities here.

-Rebecca Hastings

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