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Introducing Your Child to the Arts

Most schools do a good job of teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic. But much research has determined that enriching your child's education by introducing him to the arts can be hugely beneficial. By opening your child up to the inspiring worlds of music, visual art, and theater, you can boost his imagination and critical thinking skills. Here's where to begin:

Don't limit your child to "kiddie music." Instead, expose her to a large variety of music including classical, country, rock and roll, gospel, bluegrass, and folk music.

Get moving. Encourage your child to move to the rhythm (don't worry if his rhythm is "off") and have fun with it. Join in and show your child how much you enjoy music by dancing or singing along.

Let children make their own music. Toddlers and preschoolers love to explore the sounds that ordinary household items make. Let your child try out sound-producing items like pots and spoons. As kids get older, they'll enjoy blowing whistles and ringing bells.

Take in a concert. Hearing live music is one of life's great pleasures. Check your local newspaper for news of concerts at nearby theaters and auditoriums. Many communities also offer free outdoor family concerts during the summer months. During the school year, a high school concert can be a good choice.

Give them hands-on experience. Hearing the beat of drums on a CD is one thing. Actually taking a turn playing the drums is another. Look for opportunities for young children to see and feel musical instruments.

Sign up for lessons. Consider finding your school-age child an instructor to teach him to play an instrument he is interested in.

Join the chorus. Most schools offer kids the chance to sing in a choir or chorus by around fourth grade. If your child is interested, encourage her to join.

While most children won't grow up to be the next Picasso, all can benefit from expressing themselves through drawing, painting, or other forms of visual art. Encourage your child to explore her artistic side with these tips:

Provide plenty of materials. Keep your child supplied with two- and three-dimensional materials such as paper for folding, cutting, and pasting, and blocks for building. Other good choices: plenty of crayons, clay, and paint.

Display favorite works of art. Designate an "art wall" in your home where you and your child can select favorite museum prints or selections of your child's original artwork to be displayed.

Visit art museums. A trip to an art museum can be a great adventure and wonderful learning experience for a child. Keep these before, during, and after tips in mind to help your child get the most from your visit.

  • Before your visit: Research local children's museums and find out which exhibits are currently being offered. Explain to your child what to expect in the museum, and make sure he's fed and rested when you arrive.
  • During your visit: Don't expect to take in the entire museum in one visit. The younger your child, the shorter his attention span. Select just a few pieces of art for very young children to view and limit yourself to a few different exhibits for school-age kids. Some of the most kid-friendly: mummies, dinosaurs, and space displays. Encourage your child to find recognizable objects in the painting he views by asking questions like, "How many people do you see?" "What do you think they are doing?" and so on.
  • After your visit: You can swing by the museum gift shop to purchase children's art books or postcards of your child's favorite works. After you leave the museum, prompt your child to talk about the experience by asking what she liked the most and what she liked the least.

Check out special kids' museums. Unlike adult museums where you can look but not touch, many children's museums encourage hands-on participation. Many also offer special events and tours for little ones.

Children love to pretend and engage their vast imaginations. For that reason, theater is a natural fit for youngsters. By going to the theater -- whether it's a community or school production or a Broadway show -- children are transported to another time and place. Additionally, they learn to appreciate the talents of the performers and may even be inspired to take part in a play or show themselves. Want to encourage your child's flair for the dramatic? Keep these suggestions in mind:

Play along. Indulge your child when she asks you to be a customer coming into her play store or a patient visiting her imaginary doctor's office.

Provide props. A stash of costumes (they can be your old clothes) and household items can inspire creative play. For example, an old telephone and computer or typewriter can be the perfect "office" setup, while plastic plates and dishes can be used in a pretend restaurant. You'll be amazed at all the uses your child will come up with for the simplest assortment of items.

Sign your child up for a class. Many communities offer theater workshops or creative movement classes that children enjoy.

Go to a play. Take your child to a local play or even a professional production. He'll no doubt love the story, characters, costumes, and music. Discuss the play to find out what he liked and didn't like.

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.