Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Anytime's a Good Time to Introduce Your Child to the Arts, by Dr. Edie Demas (post 2 of 2)

Here is a quick look at key moments in your child’s development, drawing connections to arts experiences that can reinforce and enhance their growth. The Milestones focus on two age groups, THE PIONEERS (2 – 4 yrs old) which I discussed last week and THE EXPLORERS (5 – 9 yrs old). Please keep in mind that these are broad guidelines — you know your child best!

THE EXPLORERS (5 – 9 yrs old)
These are your child’s Renaissance years. Try to squeeze in as much as you can. This is when it becomes increasingly important to bring your child into the decision-making process and to honor her growing curiosities and interests, even when they differ from your own. Right now, your child is doing AND watching in ever more sophisticated ways.

Your Explorer is curious about many arts/cultural activities and forms many opinions, synthesizing many skills. She has as intense need to know, unbridled curiosity and lots of questions. She takes great pleasure in sharing her knowledge, ideas and experiences with you.

THE EXPLORERS: Important Arts Smart Milestones

Intellectual / social and emotional milestones
Critical Thinking – during this period, your child will respond to arts experiences by creating engaging and detailed stories and reports that are increasingly persuasive, informative or entertaining. She will also start to recognize how time, place and culture can impact art and artists or people in general and then form related connections to her own life, community and current events.

Autonomy and Independence - your child is now eager to share more complex reasons for what he likes and dislikes about a piece of art/performance and will use appropriate arts and culture vocabulary to express herself as well as to describe a variety of art forms that represent diverse cultures.

More and more, she can take care of herself because she’s experienced these things before and she will relate the experience to herself, "I was a little bit scared when the witch came out, but then I remembered that it’s just pretend, like when we saw that other show.”

• Growing Social Bonds - as your child moves through this time, he will begin to view cultural excursions as social activity, want to share these activities with his peers and be able to recognize and describe the distinctive communal role of these experiences as well as the role of artists in society (e.g., identifies artistic professions, such as painter, sculptor, architect, etc).

• Empathy - An important component of this time is your child’s maturing ability to analyze and compare the ways that individuals and families are depicted in different works of art/performances and a dramatically developing and vital ability to empathize with these characters, their stories and the stories of the artists who created the work, in other words, to walk in someone else’s shoes and begin to view the world from multiple perspectives.

Skill-based milestones
These varied abilities will increasingly become a source of pride and bring a tremendous sense of satisfaction. The skills described below are just the tip of the iceberg of this very fertile time.

Core skills include the ability to:
make increasingly complex and realistic artwork using lots of details, several colors, shapes, materials and techniques using increasingly recognizable and recurring themes and stories.

tell and remember stories, songs, dances, plan dramatic play and play different characters.

improvise dialogue and movement.

play musical instruments and use/incorporate artform appropriate materials and equipment, such as paint brushes, cameras, props, costumes, scenery, musical accompaniment.

rehearse and perform simple plays, puppet shows and dance sequences using movement and music/sound.

The Explorers are moving quickly through a period of exploration to expertise. They want real, grown-up experiences, materials and conversation. They are rapidly less and less interested in “baby stuff.” Think skinny crayons vs. the fat ones or real LEGO® vs. the toddler variety and you’ll get the picture. What’s so fun about this stage is that more and more, anything is possible. Depending on your child and if you haven't already, now is a good time to consider introducing her to "grown up" art and culture, not just the "for kids" variety. The key developmental characteristics of this time, like an increased attention span and growing flexibility, just make it easier and in turn, feed your child’s intellectual, emotional, social, physical and creative development.

Look for balance between shared and independent activities. Just like honoring personal preference is central to developing the habit of reading for pleasure, personal preference is increasingly critical to developing curious, creative and culturally active young people. As your child moves through this phase it is important to encourage him to pick something new for you to do together. This process will parallel and support other processes of increasing independence, like choosing books, clothes, managing his free time or making his own lunch. Remember, creative problem solving is developing rapidly now. It’s time to harness and nurture this skill!

This post is an excerpt from the forthcoming book Arts Smart: Raising Creative, Cultured, and Capable Kids, by Dr. Edie Demas. It may not be reproduced without written permission of the author.

Dr. Edie Demas has served as the Director of Education for The New Victory Theater since 2001, during which time she has more than doubled the number of school and community-based partners and launched the New Vic in the Classroom Program, which currently provides 850 workshops free of charge to New Vic Education Partners. In order to establish this program, Edie created a teaching ensemble, currently comprised of 40 professional artists and the six education staff members. In 2008 the New Victory’s Education department received the distinguished Arts Education Award from Americans for the Arts and Edie herself received a BAXten Award from the Brooklyn Arts Exchange, recognizing her contributions to the field of Arts Education/Theater for Young Audiences and support of Teaching Artists.

This summer, Edie will move on from The New Victory to complete her book, Arts Smart: Raising Creative, Cultured, and Capable Kids. In addition to writing Edie will continue to research, teach, and consult in the field of arts education from her new home in Los Angeles.

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