Early musical training helps develop brain areas involved in language and reasoning. It is thought that brain development continues for many years after birth. Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways. Linking familiar songs to new information can also help imprint information on young minds.
There is also a causal link between music and spatial intelligence (the ability to perceive the world accurately and to form mental pictures of things). This kind of intelligence, by which one can visualize various elements that should go together, is critical to the sort of thinking necessary for everything from solving advanced mathematics problems to being able to pack a book-bag with everything that will be needed for the day.
Students of the arts learn to think creatively and to solve problems by imagining various solutions, rejecting outdated rules and assumptions. Questions about the arts do not have only one right answer. Recent studies show that students who study the arts are more successful on standardized tests such as the SAT. They also achieve higher grades in high school.
A study of the arts provides children with an internal glimpse of other cultures and teaches them to be empathetic towards the people of these cultures. This development of compassion and empathy, as opposed to development of greed and a “me first” attitude, provides a bridge across cultural chasms that leads to respect of other races at an early age.
Students of music learn craftsmanship as they study how details are put together painstakingly and what constitutes good, as opposed to mediocre, work. These standards, when applied to a student’s own work, demand a new level of excellence and require students to stretch their inner resources.
Every person can learn from dancing. Not everyone will grow up to perform dramatic leaps in a corps de ballet or to shuffle off to Buffalo with the Rockettes, but every child deserves the opportunity to dance. For babies and toddlers, creative movement offers a range of experiences that facilitate natural, easy play and proper development of alignment, neurological coordination and a fundamental exploration of baseline concepts that are the building blocks for future learning.
For preschoolers, children about 2 1/2 to four, movement play in a creative dance setting can help to provide an essential educational experience. Through movement, songs, games and rhymes, children not only flex their muscles as they gain strength and endurance, but they challenge themselves emotionally and cognitively as well.
Creative dance for small children approaches many ways of learning. Inherently kinesthetic, a solid creative dance class should be appealing to both boys and girls, offering ample opportunity to hop, bound, run, dive, leap, jump, turn, kick, and stretch. Kids, of course, love to move.
As an educational model, dance uses rhythm, honing children’s aural skills, and giving them a chance to approach conceptual ideas through their bodies. Creative dance also relies on linguistic play like rhymes and games that involve the use of fun new language and vocabulary. Academically speaking, in a ten-week session of creative dance for preschoolers, your child can and should be exposed to most of the basic academic bases they’ll climb to in their elementary education. But they’ll tackle these new ideas not through tests and standards, but through fun, playful and engaging activities.
As with any enriching educational activity, consistency is key. You and your child can play at the pool once or twice over the course of a few months, and have a great time. But if your goal is to have your child become safe and comfortable in the water, you’re probably going to want to take regular lessons.
That’s why it’s recommended that children be involved in a regular creative dance class, so they can get to know the teacher and his/her classmates, so they have the chance to build on the conceptual vocabulary that has been worked with in previous weeks and so they can gain a greater understanding of the material. But most importantly, consistency and the repetition and affirmation it affords will provide your child with a wider launch pad for their own creativity both in and out of class.
Here are a few of the benefits of Creative Dance for preschoolers:
– Increased body awareness, kinesthetic comfort and ease
– Improved alignment, flexibility and neurological patterning
– Emotional and social growth and development
– Greater self-esteem and autonomy
– Linguistic and aural (listening) skills enhanced
– Beginning understanding of academics such as math, reading, spelling and science
– Approaches ‘classroom skills’ necessary for school experiences, such as taking turns, following directions, listening, sharing and communicating needs and feelings
– Develops an early creative spark in individuals and groups
For more information on the benefits of dance and other art forms on early childhood education contact the Asheville Arts Center.
- Preschool care and education, except for certain low-income programs, is considered a private service and receives little or no federal funding.
- While the importance of early childhood arts education has received greater attention in recent years, the majority of funding and programming is directed to grades K–12, with preschools being largely underserved.
- Arts education should not be considered a frill, but a necessity. Since preschools are not part of the public school system, funding sources vary greatly. When budgets are tight, arts programs, teachers, and supplies are often cut first.
- More than four million children attend preschool programs nationwide.
- Preschool-age children are primed for learning and greatly accepting of most art forms.
- Compelling evidence exists that early arts experience has an impact on all aspects of a child’s learning and development and that, in many ways, “earlier is better.”
- Early childhood thus presents both a unique opportunity and a unique challenge; a part of that challenge is to engage and support all who care for and educate young children in making the arts an integrated and vital part of their earliest experiences.
- We know that “art,” understood as spontaneous creative play, is what young children naturally do—singing, dancing, drawing, and role-playing. We also know that the arts engage all the senses and involve a variety of modalities including the kinesthetic, auditory, and visual. When caregivers engage and encourage children in arts activities on a regular basis from early in life, they are laying the foundation for—and even helping wire children’s brains for—successful learning.
Source: Arts Education Partnership, Children’s Learning & the Arts: Birth to Age Eight
Pre-literacy skills such as reading and writing are greatly improved when students are exposed to a quality, integrated arts education. Research shows us that studying dance, for example, substantively helps preschoolers with reading readiness skills, while the discussion of music helps with language skills. The report “Critical Evidence: How the Arts Benefit Student Achievement,” commissioned by the National Assembly of States Arts Agencies (2006), also found research demonstrating that dramatic play helps children’s comprehension skills and improves reading and pre-reading skills among all groups, especially those first graders whose reading was below grade level.
According to “Looking at Art with Toddlers,” by Katherina Danko-McGhee, Ph.D., exploring and discussing art with even very young children pays off by helping children organize their thoughts and develop logical, yet creative thinking. Children learn that “visual symbols can communicate ideas” and story telling can help improve descriptive language. Taking care to allow children the opportunity to talk, dramatize, sing, dance and otherwise creatively communicate allows them to sharpen their ability to use symbolic thought.
Math and logic and their relationships to the arts also hold a fascination for the researcher.
The highly publicized “Mozart Effect” revolutionized our society’s thinking about the value of music to the young child’s mind, and although specific results have been debated, it has generated new research and has come to symbolize a new way of thinking about the importance of the arts.
The 2006 National Assembly of State Arts Agencies report entitled “Critical Evidence: How the Arts Benefit Student Achievement,” analyzed studies that demonstrate measurable improvement in performance in math, especially among economically disadvantaged students. Music instruction is proven to help develop spatial temporal reasoning, which may lead to more sophisticated thinking about math concepts.
Perhaps more importantly than test scores and grades are the less tangible, but powerful effects that critical study of the arts can give us. These include cognitive skills such as reasoning ability, problem solving skills, creativity and inventiveness, all of which are improved when children discuss, create and participate in the arts. They learn to draw inferences and strengthen their abstract thinking. Research in “Critical Evidence” found increases in fluency, originality and improvisation among children with a good integrated arts education. Once again, the largest improvements were found among young children who had critical social and developmental needs and were struggling below their peer groups.
Improved self-esteem, perceptions of school and respect for others are other positive benefits of art exposure.
We all do it at some point in time. We feel the rhythm, hear the music and before we know it, we are dancing. We may not have the finesse of the ballroom dancer, or the speed of a cloggier or the grace of the ballerina, but when you are up and dancing it doesn’t really matter.
Children who dance have increased self-esteem, coordination, balance and poise. Dancing cannot only be fun, but educational. Whether you enroll your child in a dance school or a program through the local community center, as long as they are exposed to the feel and the beat, they will have fun.
Let’s look at how dancing can help your child to grow. A child’s self-esteem is enhanced with dancing. In a classroom setting, children are placed by age and skill level. Accomplishing the different positions of ballet or steps and routines in Tap create a sense of self-worth for the child. Being able to create moves with the music is a very satisfying event for a young dancer. And dancing is not just for girls. Boys are becoming more active in dancing, just look at all the boy bands and the synchronized dance moves they perform.
In addition to self-esteem, dance can reinforce a sense of pride. A child who wears glasses, has braces, is “pudgy” or maybe a little clumsy will find a renewal in their pride when dancing. When you are on stage or dancing by yourself, you are in a different world. It may not happen overnight, but it does happen.
Grace and poise are two physical benefits of dance, in addition to providing an intense and fun form of exercise.
A child in dance learns different positions and steps, which utilize all parts of their bodies. They are educated on proper posture, head and body alignment and moving with their entire body to create a flow of movement. Dance techniques have been used to train professional athletes including football and basketball players to help them develop faster moves on the playing field and allow them to move without injuring their bodies.
There is also a great deal of discipline involved with dancing. For the youngest dancers it is less rigid, but as you progress with years of experience, the discipline becomes stricter. Visions of a stern, older woman sitting by the bar tapping a heavy stick come to mind, but it is rarely like that. The discipline will involve positioning, practicing, learning, practicing, respecting and practicing. The longer a child dances, the more respect for others and themselves they will have. Dance has evolved from a thing skinny, pretty girls did in tutus to an active and recognized sport.
Not every child who dances when they are young will go on to become professionals, or even continue to dance into their middle and high school years. But the majority who has danced at some point in their lives will tell of the fun and the discipline. The feel good rhythm that moved their feet then, continues to course through their veins today. And performing arts endures: once a dancer always a dancer.
During the past few weeks I’ve gotten some really cool clips of our young artists during their rehearsal and performance process. It is so rewarding to be involved and get to see even our youngest performers take over the stage! Our Academy students will be traveling to the National Junior Theatre Festival in Atlanta, GA this coming January of 2011. Let us know what you think! Leave a comment below 🙂
Academy member Aislin Freya Pax Thompson just returned from an exciting adventure in NYC where she worked on the Fame Jr. Choreography DVD for MTI’s Broadway Jr. division. Her rigorous schedule included six days of six to eight hour rehearsals and we are proud of her for rising to the challenge. After all, she’s just nine and was the youngest of 21 students (mostly teenagers) cast out of thousands of musical theatre students from all over the country! An avid performer, she flew back from NYC just in time to take the stage as Molly in Parkway Playhouse’s production of Annie. In fact, her very first show was Annie when she was three. She has been in over 20 productions all over WNC, with some favorite roles being Tinkerbell in Peter Pan, Victoria in CATS, Jitterbug in The Wizard of Oz, Fudge in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, and Gretel in The Sound of Music.
Congratulations again to Aislin for her outstanding achievement! We look forward to seeing her and all the Academy members grow this next year as they prepare for the 2011 Junior Theatre Festival!