Activities Spark Kids' Arts Interest

As schools cut back arts programs, here are ways parents can fill the void.
courtesy of the Main Line Art Center

Yesterday I learned that the art teacher at my son’s elementary school would not be back next year…or ever. I guess I should be happy that at least his school still has a music teacher, even if it is only half time. My daughter’s high school has long since lost their orchestra. Band is holding on by its fingernails. Drama is a thing of the past.

Schools continue to eliminate arts programs yet, according to Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, “A number of research studies over the past several decades have drawn a clear correlation between early exposure of children to the arts and increased long-term critical reasoning, communication and social skills.”

If the schools can’t expose our children to the arts as much as we’d like, then that makes our role as parents that much more critical. What can we do in our daily lives to assure that our kids are soaking up the benefits of the arts? Plenty. Here are some ideas for exposing your child to the arts every day.

From Imagine! Introducing Your Child to the Arts, published by the National Endowment for the Arts, comes the following list of ideas.

courtesy of the Perkins Center for the ArtsDance

Provide a place and time for you and your child to explore movement. Make up stories by acting them out with body movement. Pretend to use roller skates, a skateboard and a bicycle.

Practice movement as it relates to music or rhythm such as clapping, marching or rocking.

Take your children to see all styles and forms of dance.


Listen to your child sing or play an instrument.

Sing. Invite your child to sing along with you.

Encourage your child to move to the music you hear.

Make musical instruments out of simple materials such as rice and beans in a plastic container.

Attend live music performances with your child. Libraries and community centers often host free music events.


Encourage play and imagination.

Supply lots of props for dramatic play such as hats, scarves, baskets, bags and plastic dishes.

Build on your child’s interests through dramatic play. For example, if your child has an interest in animals, ask her to be the “vet.”

Tell stories thorough dramatic play, acting out a well-known children’s story together.

Attend a play geared to children.

courtesy of the Main Line Art CenterVisual Arts

Create an “art corner” at home filled with a variety of art materials.

Provide a place to exhibit your child’s artwork.

Plan an “art party” for your child’s next birthday.

Find art in the everyday world (calendars, book illustrations, murals, architecture and monuments).

Express personal ideas and feelings about individual works of art. Value your child’s perspective.

Visit a museum, gallery, or art center. Many art museums host a “free day” for families.

Martha Wegner is a freelance writer. Click here to find children’s arts activities in the MetroKids calendar.

The Next Level: Classes, Camps and Private Instruction

courtesy of the Perkins Center for the ArtsWhen your child develops an arts interest, you can build on it with classes and programs provided by private instructors, community arts centers, summer camps, YMCAs and JCCs.

Diane A. Felcyn, assistant director of the Perkins Center for the Arts in Moorestown and Collingswood, NJ, says the arts can help kids develop in several ways. “Starting with the youngest children, they can improve their motor skills,” she says. “With dance and movement activities, they learn rhythm, balance and listening to instructions. Beyond that, they exercise creativity and stimulate all parts of the brain by allowing imagination to take over. Sometimes the best ideas come from opening the mind.” The Perkins Center offers visual and performing arts classes, music education and a summer arts camp.

The Churchville Nature Center in Churchville, PA offers nature-based art activities for children. Marge Custer, director of the center's Lenape Village, says, “Art gives children a different perspective on things in nature. It teaches them to be resourceful with what they use, and to recycle things. They learn to work together in groups and to share.”

For a searchable list of classes, see Our Camp Guide can be searched by acting/drama, arts or music.


Categories: Education Features