Whether it’s performed on a stage, painted on a canvas, or listened to through a pair of Beats, art is an integral part of cultures around the world, an international language that speaks to everyone who encounters it. However, while New York museums, Paris fashion shows, and London concerts we attend may have an indelible effect on us as adults, art is an even more powerful medium for children. While arts funding in schools is being cut left and right, engaging children in artistic activities can yield huge results in the long run. Research suggests that kids educated in and exposed to art do better academically, are more confident, and are more creative than their art-eschewing counterparts. If you’re thinking of signing up your little one for art lessons, consider some of the many ways art can transform their life.
Not all kids are athletes, and that’s okay. However, that doesn’t mean that kids don’t need physical outlets through which to express themselves. Fortunately, even kids who are unlikely to ask for gymnastics lessons or join their school’s sports teams can express themselves physically through art. Whether they’re rocking out on the drums, singing their hearts out, making installation art, or taking the stage in a school play, art provides a physical outlet for kids who aren’t eager to become a sports star.
While many adults view childhood through rose-colored glasses, being a kid is actually pretty darn hard. For many kids, art is a great way of expressing the feelings they’re having a hard time putting into words. If your kid has a hard time opening up to you, try signing them up for art lessons, getting them involved in local art projects, like painting murals at a local school or performing in a play, or simply get out your craft supplies when you’re at home together and make things with them. Not only does making art together offer your child an opportunity to talk to you one-on-one, those paintings or performances can help you get a better gauge on how your kids are feeling, even if they’re not quite ready to put those feelings into words yet.
Not all kids have the same abilities, and it’s important to make sure that children with different needs are also provided an outlet for their emotions and creativity. Art provides the perfect option for children who might not have the capabilities necessary to play sports or even speak, giving them a much-needed outlet to express themselves, even when traditional means of communication won’t cut it. Encouraging non-neurotypical or physically disabled children to create art also gives us a rare opportunity to enjoy art derived from an often-underrepresented group: artists from Frida Kahlo to Chuck Close have all made amazing art, in spite of their disabilities, and it may in fact be their unique perspective on life that enabled them to create such masterpieces.
While we often think of sports as a team effort and art as a solitary pursuit, that’s far from the case. For kids who have a hard time making friends or don’t have many opportunities to do so outside of school, art can offer an important social outlet. Whether your kid is participating in a play with children from other schools, performing in a band with some new friends, or making cards to brighten the day of someone in a nursing home or hospital, art can make it easier to connect to new people and places. Better yet, art can help children realize there’s a whole world outside the confines of their school or small town, and a whole community of creative people eager to embrace and foster their gift.
Social interactions in childhood—especially the pre-teen and teenage years—can be the catalyst for a major confidence crisis. While there’s not much you can do to make the ins and outs of those awkward years easier, art can give kids a newfound source of confidence. Feeling good about a painting they completed, a play they were in, or a new song they wrote can help boost the confidence of any kid, making it easier to feel good about themselves in the long run.
Letting your kids express themselves with art is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. While not every child will become the next Picasso or Monet, providing them an artistic outlet will help them better express themselves, give them a sense of pride, and can instill in them a lifelong appreciation for art in its many form. The next time your little ones are looking for something to do, break out some instruments, crayons, or paint—that one simple action might just change their life.