Children who are exposed to the arts – dance, music, theater and visual art – are confident and expressive. They develop problem-solving skills, discipline and collaboration. They learn self-expression, risk-taking and the ability to observe and interpret the world. Participation in the arts is just as important to raising well-rounded children as participation in academics and athletics.

In Atlanta, we’re fortunate to have so many ways kids can experience and participate in the arts, whether it’s performing in a children’s theater production, visiting a world-class art museum, or taking classes at a professional dance studio. With these opportunities, parents can support a young person’s aspirations and find ways to encourage their participation and appreciation of visual and performing arts. Check out our lists of art, dance, music and theatre classes around Atlanta.

Here are 10 tips that will help instill a love of the arts in your kids:

Expose your family to the arts. Art appreciation can be a family affair. It’s never too early to encourage the next generation of art patrons. Visit museums, local theaters, exhibits and musical productions. Attend concerts and explore art in your community. Demonstrating your own enthusiasm for the arts will help kids understand that they’re important to you, and foster their own interest. The more variety you offer kids, the easier it will be for them to discover their own passion.

Explore the arts. If last year’s interest was singing and this year’s is painting, that’s fine. Never force your kids to continue activities that no longer interest them. As long as the experience is enriching, variety is good. You never know when a passion for a particular activity will last. Creativity should be about the joy of doing – not perfection or competition.

Try a range of forms. Art has many types, including dancing, singing, fine art (painting, sculpture, architecture, music and poetry), theater arts, photography,  collage, film, printmaking, mosaics, crafts and calligraphy. Within those areas, kids have lots of choices. Maybe your child doesn’t want to be on stage, but loves being involved in behind-the-scenes activities. If your musical child doesn’t enjoy playing an instrument, she may find that she loves to sing.

Make room for imagination. The magic of creativity often happens in private spaces. How often do you scatter to your own corners of the house to read, create or simply have some space for imagination? Heights of beauty and transformation in art are often achieved through the imaginative process.

Test-drive a variety of techniques. With so many approaches to one art form, you will face lots of choices. For example, your local dance studio probably offers ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical and hip-hop. Within theater you’ll find plays, musicals, ballet and opera. Painting choices include oil, pastel, acrylic, watercolor and  more. In music, you’ll find countless instrument choices as well as singing and even composing. Technique classes for kids can provide a solid foundation for more in-depth study later in life.

Reap the academic benefits. Encouraging your child to participate in the arts can have a direct influence on academic performance. Research shows a link between arts education and improved literacy, math and communication skills, and higher GPAs. Learning music, for example, leads to improved verbal memory, language pronunciation and executive functioning, according to a study by “Frontiers in Neuroscience.”

Relax about messes. Your perfectionism may cost your kids in creative growth. Artists often have to try something dozens of times before they get the hang of even a simple brush stroke. Adopt a practice-makes-proud attitude. If you notice your child craving space to spread out and practice work, make room for projects to be spread out for several days or however long they take. Find areas in your home that can support ongoing creative messes.

Invest in dreams gradually. Don’t spend a lot of cash up front or you may inadvertently set the stage for, “You’ll like it because I paid for it,” which is always a lot of pressure. Go for low-commitment opportunities initially, then streamline along lines of interest as kids mature. For a dancer, you could start with tap dancing then add a new style each year according to her time and talents. As your child’s abilities grow, she’ll be ready for a more intensive level of participation, often around middle school.

Banish pressure. Creativity and pressure are like oil and water. They don’t mix well in young children, who are more likely to benefit from variety and flexibility in self-expression. As a parent, strive to be that supportive, guiding presence without excessive pressure, so you can help your children make choices that are expressive and sensible.

Be cost-effective. There’s no need to spend a fortune to expose your family to culture. Team up with families in your neighborhood to attend shows and events at group discount rates. Check local museums for free days and local theaters for meet-the-actors shows. You can also find cultural opportunities through the public library, in local theaters, at the local community center, via local schools and colleges and by taking advantage of special broadcasts at your local movie theater.

– Christina Katz

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