If drawing, painting, playing an instrument, dancing, singing or being on stage is the way your child likes to spend time, this article is for you! Integrating their art into your home and life will not only help your child excel in their art, it can also help them regulate and express emotions more easily and feel more confident about who they are.

The arts – dance, music, theater and visual art – also help develop problem-solving skills, discipline and collaboration. Children with exposure to these creative outlets learn self-expression, risk-taking and the ability to observe and interpret the world. Arts education and experiences are just as important to raising well-rounded children as participation in academics and athletics.

No matter which part of the metro area you call home, arts opportunities abound! From large cultural institutions to the neighborhood dance studio and youth theater companies to outdoor painting classes, Atlanta’s art community has something for everyone who is interested.

Don’t mind the mess.

“The arts are all about exploration, which can be messy,” says Robert Hindsman, Class and Camp Administrative Manager at the Alliance Theatre. “Try to just go with it and allow some grace and failure.” He recommends finding a space in your home, even if it’s small, to dedicate to creative time, so that the mess can be tucked away as needed. Be sure to stock the space with plenty of supplies for creating whatever your child’s imagination can cook up. Hindsman also notes that some of the mess is noise – playing musical instruments, music for dancing or singing – and to embrace those messes as well.

Find lessons that fit.

In order to help your child hone his or her craft, lessons may be needed. Be sure you think about the geography and timing of those lessons and how they will impact the family schedule. It’s also important to be sure the lessons are something your budding artist actually wants to do. “One-day workshops are a great way to get a taste of various art forms,” says Hindsman. “Then let your child choose. It will give them ownership and excitement over their craft and have a better chance of being something that sticks.” For musical instrument lessons, consider renting at first to lessen the financial strain while supporting your budding musician. Dance lessons, which teach discipline and the art of movement, are available in so many genres – ballet, jazz, tap, African, hip hop and more – you can choose what best fits your child’s personality.

Ask questions.

When you look at your child’s picture, ask about what you’re looking at – Why did they draw that? Why those colors? What are they expressing? Similarly, if your child is into performing arts, find out which genres they like most and why. Is there a certain character he or she identifies with more than others? These questions can not only help you support your child’s creativity, but they can also help you get to know your little person more completely.

Make time to explore.

Atlantans are lucky to have so many arts institutions in our backyard. “Take advantage of it!” says Hindsman. “Go see a show, go to a museum, go to a performance, find cheap tickets – they are out there.” Many of these organizations also have programs that are specifically for children.

According to The Georgia Council for the Arts, these are all great kid-friendly options to explore: Center for Puppetry Arts, Atlanta Music Project, Atlanta Shakespeare Company, Atlanta Young  Singers of Callanwolde, Moving in the Spirit, Alliance Theatre, High Museum of Art, Synchronicity Theatre, Seven Stages, Urban Youth Harp Ensemble, and Youth Ensemble of Atlanta. You can also participate in virtual experiences; there are many virtual tours of art museums or stream a Broadway play.

Create an artful home.

While there are plenty of ways to do this, Hindsman notes that starting at an early age and giving kids the space to explore and establish their own boundaries is integral to supporting creativity. “Don’t ‘sshhh’ and say ‘no’ during artful times,” he says. “That inhibits the creativity.” You should also display your child’s creations, watch their home grown plays, and get in on the action if you can. Before you go to a show, talk about being respectful in an audience and why. You can also use nature as a way to be artful; seeing beauty in the world and things around you supports creativity and gives space for meaningful conversations.

Understand the value.

“Seventy-two percent of business leaders want to hire employees who are creative. Participating in the arts not only teaches children to be creative, it allows them to develop social skills including self-confidence, conflict resolution, collaboration, and empathy. All of these are imperative for students in any job field as well for a full and healthy life,” says Georgia Council for the Arts Executive Director Tina Lilly. Empathy is another building block supported by the arts. “Theater builds empathetic people – when you pretend to be someone else by playing a character – you are putting yourself into someone else’s shoes and that can be hard for kids,” says Hindsman. “This gives a direct line to help kids understand someone different from themselves.”

Show your appreciation.

It can be a challenge for parents who never participated in arts themselves to understand the processes of a creative kid. The most important thing? “Show up and be ready to be their biggest fan,” says Hindsman. You should also try to find resources at home to help, such as providing a practice space (if available) and quiet time. And, get in on the action; try to learn your child’s dance routine and practice with them, or create your own puppets and accompanying show. “You can help with rehearsal, provide feedback,” Hindsman says. “Even if you don’t have the expertise, your  opinion matters, and you will learn along the journey as well.”

-Tali Benjamin

Recent Posts