Does your child love to perform or does he/she shy away from the spotlight? I have one child that loves to compete in dance competitions in front of a huge audience, but she still gets super nervous and shy if she is called on spontaneously to participate on a stage. Then, I have another who severely dislikes being the star of any show or the receiver of any accolades, but who is a very willing participant in spontaneous invitations to get on a stage. Confusing, huh? Yep. Just like ALL. OF. PARENTING.
Regardless of where your child falls on the performance and on-stage enjoyment spectrum, the fact is that engaging in these activities is a real way for your child to get familiar with, and prepare them for, the real world.
We have all heard the phrase, “the world is your stage”. Sean O’Casey, an Irish playwright, took this phrase one step further, adding that “most of us are desperately unrehearsed”. But, what will rehearsal now, in their childhood, do for our children in their adulthood? It will prepare them and it will help them to succeed in many facets.
According to Hannah Mills, in her featured article for ChildCare Quarterly titled “The Importance of Creative Arts in Early Childhood Classrooms,” “creative arts are activities that actively engage children’s imagination through art, dance, dramatic play or theater, puppetry, and music”. She further states that “creative arts engage children across all domains—cognitive, language, social, emotional, and physical” and that, typically, “activities are deliberately open-ended (not prescriptive), foster divergent thinking, and support the process without particular attention on the product.”
So, in what specific ways do the creative arts prepare our young children for the world of adulthood and professional responsibility? I will share…
- Stage performances reinforce the importance of preparation. To have a good performance, you must have practiced your skill thoroughly. Additionally, you have to be punctual to your practices to get the most out of them and reliable in your standard of the performance delivery. Preparation, practice, punctuality and the ability to meet certain expectations is all required of you upon entering adulthood, as well as the professional work world.
- Stage performances reinforce the importance of being able to improv. You never know what is going to happen when you are on stage. Maybe the piano was not tuned properly. Maybe your mic does not work. Maybe your song skips. Stage performances require your children to plan for the unknown, but also to react to a spontaneous blunder without faltering or becoming flustered. We all know that in the real world s*!t goes wrong all of the time, and as adults we need to be able to “roll with the punches” without losing our marbles.
- Stage performances require you to use your voice, movements and/or talents to convey a message or a feeling. Not stifling our children’s voices is something some parents, like myself, struggle with. You can read about the challenging time I have dealing with my children’s strong will in When Every One Has An Opinion. But, it is so very important for our children to believe in the power of their voice and actions and for us to encourage their use of them. Once they are adults, if our children are not willing to speak up or act in accordance with their wants, needs, desires, and beliefs then they will struggle to make their dreams a reality.
- Stage performances require you to find a way to relate to your audience. It is so important, especially as an adult, to be able to relate to your co-workers, friends, and others around you. Learning ways to do this during childhood will ensure that you have the necessary skills to affect, influence, and create bonds with other people when appropriate and/or necessary.
- Stage performance prep requires endurance and persistence. Just like the mastering of any skill, in childhood or adulthood, stage performances take preparation and preparation takes energy. More than just energy, you are also required to be consistent and persistent in your relentless motivation to do and present to the best of your ability. Happiness and success in the “real world” requires the same.
- Stage performance stimulates your brain. According to The School Superintendent’s Association, “neuroscience research is revealing the impressive impact of arts instruction on students’ cognitive, social, and emotional development”. One of its articles, titled, “How the Arts Develop the Young Brain,” states that certain brain areas respond only to music while others are devoted to initiating and coordinating movement from intense running to the delicate sway of the arms”. Additionally, “drama provokes specialized networks that focus on spoken language and stimulate emotions” and the “visual arts excite the internal visual processing system to recall reality or create fantasy with the same ease”. The article concludes by contending that “the arts play an important role in human development, enhancing the growth of cognitive, emotional, and psychomotor pathways and “that learning the arts provides a higher quality of human experience throughout a person’s lifetime”.
I have only listed some of the ways in which stage performing aids your child’s development, as the actual list of all the benefits is pretty lengthy. Although you should let your child develop their own interests organically and not force something upon them that they are uncomfortable with, I do believe that it is important to minimally provide them with numerous opportunities to perform, at any age.
The “stage” can simply be your living room and the “audience”, well that can be you, your spouse and the family dog. The fact is that any type of stage performance participated in by them will ultimately raise their confidence, likely bring them some joy and prepare them for adulthood.
“The performing arts can add value and confidence to any young person’s life, helping them become a more productive, creative and well-rounded adult, no matter what career path they choose.” – Jonathon McFadden
Life is a stage, let’s encourage some rehearsal.