9 Benefits of Introducing Your Child to Theater

It's not just entertainment. Theater is key to more creative, more communicative, healthier kids.

Growing up as a theater kid, I remember how imaginative, collaborative, and self-assured my theater peers were. They were the best listeners, fantastic teammates, smart problem-solvers, and so in tune with their emotions.

It turns out that it's not a coincidence that my theater cohorts displayed these qualities. Kids who participate in theatre programs learn valuable skills that can be applied to any life situation or professional field, making theater a marvelous experience for kids of all ages to participate in.

Here are nine benefits of introducing your child to theater plus four theater activities you can try at home.

young girl in white dress imagines dancing as a ballerina on a chalkboard stage
Illustration by Francesca Spatola; Getty (1)

Increases Creativity

Theater stretches the skills of imagination. Unlike the realism of television or movies, theater requires a different kind of resourcefulness and flexibility. For example, in Disney's Frozen, when Princess Anna freezes, the animation turns her to ice, literally. In the Broadway musical version, when Princess Anna freezes, an ensemble of actors dressed in white and silver create an undulating human bridge that latches on to Anna and "freezes" her in place. No surprise, studies show that engagement with drama leads to more creative thinking and originality.

What's more, research also shows that drama processes encourage what's known as divergent thinking or thinking in multiple directions. Making theater is often a process of discovering and figuring out where the story goes (in improv) or how the story is told and what it means (scripted). The open-ended and uncertain nature increases kids' tolerance of ambiguity and sparks curiosity. Theater also provides a safe environment to experiment and take risks.

Boosts SAT Scores

You may be surprised to learn that kids who participate in theater classes show it in their grades. According to the American Alliance of Theater & Education (AATE), theater students typically scored 65 points higher on their SATs and 34 points higher on the SAT math component than their non-theater peers. Additionally, other research has shown that theater kids also demonstrated improved reading comprehension, including reading strategy and attitude toward reading.

According to the International Literacy Association, students who experience theater education at any age show better attendance, greater concentration, and increased motivation to learn.

But since not all kids can participate in theater programs, that doesn't mean the learning benefits aren't still available. Kids who watch theater productions are exposed to a wide variety of spoken and lyrical language, which can help your child pick up skills that help with mastery of language and expanded vocabulary.

Builds Self-Esteem

Theater can build a child's confidence, leading to self-discovery. At the National Theatre (NT) in London, the education department worked with children ages 7 to 10 from eight schools for three years. The students studied Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe and performed in a storytelling program, Word Alive. Compared to their peers who did not engage with the NT, these children showed increased self-esteem and a greater aptitude for speaking and listening.

Enhances Collaborative Skills

The theater is an inherently collaborative art form. It takes a team of writers, a company of actors, and the ingenuity of designers and a crew to tell a story on stage. Data from the AATE shows that kids involved in theater are better communicators, which leads to stronger teamwork. And kids involved in drama are more collaborative than their peers who were not exposed to it.

Improves Time Management Skills

Children in theater learn to budget time toward a long-term goal. Everyone works toward an opening night-and, so much has to get done before that. Each rehearsal is cumulative. First, you learn lines and songs. Then you memorize them. Then you learn blocking (movement in scenes) and choreography (movement and dance in song). Then you add the orchestra. Then you add costumes and sets and lights and microphones. These tasks must be managed and built upon gradually to meet one final deadline.

Teaches Patience

Kids who attend live theater learn patience and concentration. Contrary to television, which changes images every three to four seconds, theater requires concentration for a sustained period. Because theater is communal, children of all ages will also learn to sit quietly and respect others for longer periods.

Improves Mental Health

Research has found people who engage with theater (participating or viewing) for two or more hours per week show significantly better mental health. Attending live theater is a communal exercise. For example, did you know that when people sit together in a theater, their hearts beat together in unison?

Scientists conducted an experiment that showed how audience members' hearts began to beat together in unison while watching a play. Interestingly, researchers believe that the effect of that communal heartbeat may help those in the audience overcome group differences and experience something pleasurable together.

Promotes Empathy

Empathy is one of our most valuable human qualities and one of the hardest to teach. The theater is instrumental in raising empathetic kids with emotional resilience and can regulate emotions.

Kids exposed to the theater can better identify with multiple perspectives, thanks to how actors take on roles and a director explains a character's perspective, intention, and goal. Even witnessing actors onstage do this in a shared space builds this skill. When a play or musical explores a difficult topic like bullying or family struggles, watching this allows kids to discover emotions they may not have experienced in their own lives, which develops empathy. Therefore, theater kids may also manage their emotions better and communicate how they're feeling, leading to better dialogue with their peers and healthier classroom environments.

More Career Options

The creative arts contribute $760 billion annually to the U.S. economy. Contrary to the stereotype of the struggling artist, the arts can be a rewarding and financially gainful field. There are hundreds of thousands of jobs, including but not exclusive to acting. The theater will expose your little one to opportunities in crafts like costume design (for those who love fashion and illustration), scenic design (for those who love architecture and drawing), hairstyling and makeup, directing, playwriting, and stage management.

Or, as they graduate to teen and college programs, they may develop an affinity for the business of theater like general management (accounting, scheduling, and more for a production-which might start as selling tickets or raising money for the school production) or publicity (acting as the spokesperson for a person or show-which may begin with TikTok videos or poster design to promote the show).

4 Theater Games to Play at Home with Your Child

It's easy and fun for families to reap the benefits of theater right at home. Here are a few ideas.

One-word story

Tell a story with your child(ren) one word at a time. When it's your turn, you can only say one word to tell a full story together, bit by bit. This will help you and your kids use your improv and imagination skills, encourage divergent thinking, foster teamwork, and teach your child that uncertainty can be exciting and fun!


Stand across from your child (or have them stand facing their sibling). One person is the mirror and the other is the "player." The mirror has to mimic what the player is doing as accurately as possible. This teaches body awareness and control and fosters connection.

On the spot

Encourage your child's creativity with this interpretive game. One person is the "caller" and chooses a theme or topic. The other players must perform something that fits that word. It can be a sound, a pose, a motion, or anything that links to the caller's idea.

Captain's Coming

A remix on Simon Says, this group game requires all of your commands be tied to this seafaring theme. Come up with three to eight cues and their corresponding movements to get kids jumping, crawling, and moving in different ways-like swabbing the deck, walking the plank, steering the ship, etc. But when the Captain says "Captain's Coming," everyone must salute and cannot do the next command until the Captain says, "At Ease." If you do, you're out!

Ruthie Fierberg is the creator and host of the free podcast Why We Theater, fusing theater and social change. She is the former executive dditor of Playbill covering Broadway and performing arts internationally. She created and hosted Playbill's Live From the Red Carpet Specials. Find more ruthiefierberg.com.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles