Performing Arts, Education, and Young Children
We can all remember a time when we used to pretend. Whether it was imagining ourselves as different people, traveling to distant lands, or making our toys come to life, we all had experiences like this as children.
We all know kids love to play, but did you know that play is also the pathway that young children use to learn?
In an Americans for the Arts study, Young Children and the Arts: Making Creative Connections, child development specialists have found “play is the business of young children”. In other words, when children play, they aren’t just having fun but actively engaging and learning about the world around them.
Furthermore it’s noted in the study that:
… “art”, understood as spontaneous creative play, is what young children naturally do –singing, dancing,
drawing, and role playing. (http://www.americansforthearts.org)
Since play is the natural way that children engage their curiosity, the arts are perfect educational pathways for children to learn. A successful arts program not only engages children’s innate abilities to explore, but enhances their imagination, critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, and many other developmental skills.
I see this at work with young children I teach at Gary Spatz’s The Playground. In one class, I’ve noticed that the students’ favorite exercise is “Transporter.” In “Transporter,” the children are magically transported to different environments (the jungle, the moon, Antarctica, etc.) and they have to pretend that they’re walking and sensing all of the things in that specific place.
These young students love (and often beg me!) to play “Transporter” because, to them, it’s so close to the creative play that they naturally do on their own for fun. “Transporter” is a fun game but it’s also an important exercise for the children to expand their imaginations, effectively communicate, build sensory awareness, and express themselves with creativity and confidence.
I usually let my young students at The Playground play “Transporter” as a reward for paying attention in class, listening and adapting to my notes to their dramatic scene
work, etc. However, I realize that often the games they play in class are often the most important and effective ways for them to learn and develop as young people. This is an example of how the arts can naturally fulfill a child’s sense of play while also teaching them valuable skills and laying the foundation for a successful education.