Is your seventh grade daughter likely to roll her eyes if you ask her if she’d like to take cello lessons? Do you anticipate a blank stare from your fourth-grade son if you suggest a trip to an art museum to see oil portraits?
It’s okay. Really. There’s art out there for them. Art isn’t just about ballet and Beethoven. It’s much broader than that.
The most important thing is that your children receive art and music education of some sort because it will strengthen their problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. Studies like the 2012 NEA report “The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth: Findings from Four Longitudinal Studies” show that arts education can lead to significant academic gains, more student engagement and higher rates of college enrollment. While they’re developing their creative side, they’re also developing persistence, self-confidence and motivation.
That means you have permission to think beyond the usual, perhaps a little-too-narrow definition of art to find something that appeals to your child.
“Maybe they’re not interested in a museum, but they would prefer to do an acting class,” says Kristen Engebretsen, arts education program manager for Americans for the Arts. “There’s such a wide range of different arts options available.”
“The key is really meeting kids where they are,” agrees Keith Hejna, communications manager for Little Kids Rock, a program that brings music instruction to more than 130,000 public school students nationwide.
For example, Little Kids Rock operates a “modern band” program that gives children the chance to get immediate experience with a musical instrument. The kids dive right into learning chords and playing popular songs. They’re immediately engaged, Hejna explains. And learning to play that Black Eyed Peas song may just lead them toward a broader interest in music that will last their entire lives.
So start with your child’s interests and go from there, Engebretsen says. Here are some great ideas to get you started.
If your child is into …
Computers: Try a class where he can learn how to create his own computer game. This introduction to graphic arts requires math and design skills. Or consider enrolling him in a photography class, where he can digitally edit and manipulate the photos that he takes on his computer.
Sports: Look for a museum or gallery with an exhibit of sports-themed art or memorabilia. Or sign your child up for an art class where she can paint pictures of baseball players or sketch soccer game scenarios. This might also be a great opportunity to nurture a burgeoning interest in photography.
Music: Not every child is going to be interested in classical or symphonic music. But you can still nurture a love of music by enrolling your child in a program where he can learn how to play the guitar or drums and play songs that he likes. And one day, he might even discover the great composers of past eras.
Making things: Maybe your child doesn’t particularly care about drawing or painting, but she might be interested in learning to use other media to create. Yarns and other fibers, wood, metal, beads … the possibilities are nearly endless. Check with local art galleries, community colleges and art stores for possible opportunities.
- Look for arts opportunities close to home. Americans for the Arts offers a searchable web directory on its website, where you can select your state and then browse for arts organizations in your area.
- Check with your child’s school. Some schools offer programs like Little Kids Rock or after-school instruction in dance, music, graphic arts or even cartooning. If your child’s school doesn’t offer something specific, find out if other schools in the district do.
- Share your family’s culture with your child. This might pique their interest in something that could shape your search for the perfect type of art for them—with the bonus of giving you the chance to spend some quality time together.“You’re doing it with your child (and) also you’re sharing a piece of you with them,” says Engebretsen.