I have always had a love of the arts. While I’m not particularly skilled in fine art or music, I have always soaked up any opportunity to watch live music, theatre, or view art exhibits. So, it was only natural that I wanted to share this love with my daughter, who is almost four years old. It was easy to introduce her to music as early as when she was an infant, but our time spent listening to music is more deliberate now. We have Friday night dance parties and last summer I took Nina to several shows at Folkfest. To this day, she still recognizes the band The Strumbellas which she loved seeing live. It’s amazing to me to discover which songs and sounds she seems to gravitate towards. They range from pop music like Taylor Swift (but really, who can resist Shake it Off?) to the Beastie Boys to Fleetwood Mac to Classified. She also seems to enjoy country music and anything with a fiddle or banjo.
Nina has only been introduced to live theatre once or twice but children seem to naturally have the ability to perform and act through everyday play like dress up and make believe (playing house, for instance). She still seems to be at an age where she can’t sit still through a whole production and live theatre may just not capture her attention just yet.
Next month, the Ottawa International Children’s Festival will be taking place for over one week, May 4 to 13, and I’ll be taking Nina to one or two of the shows, which consist of live theatre, music, and other interactive activities.
Research shows that when children are exposed to the arts, they have an opportunity to improve their communication and critical thinking skills and they also grow socially. Exposure to the arts promotes empathy and a healthy release of emotion.
You can introduce your child to art forms like theatre by expanding on the concept of make believe when your child is playing. Children always like to re-enact everyday activities like school, house or taking on a specific role like a doctor. As a parent, engage your child and encourage him or her to expand on the idea by asking questions and not shying away from pretending along with them. If your child has a particular interest, for example, in animals, let them take centre stage as the main character, a vet for instance.
You can foster a love of the arts in all its forms through spontaneous and planned exposure to them whether it be festivals like the Ottawa International Children’s Festival I mentioned earlier, classes or just taking advantage of a child’s natural curiosity and imagination.