Art is Smart
“I don’t say everything, but I paint everything.”
— Pablo Picasso, painter and sculptor
The middle school years are emotionally difficult. Kids can be highly moody, rebellious, distant, and rude, but they still need you for guidance. They’re being pulled in many different directions by friends and peers, trying to figure out what their core values are, how to express these values, and how their abilities measure up against peer competition. This time is hard for them — and you! So keep the long-term goal in mind. You want your child to become a responsible, independent adult who contributes to society.
One thing that helps kids is feeling a genuine sense of accomplishment. The arts can provide this because in the arts, there is no right or wrong answer, only better or worse solutions to different problems. Plus a study by Stanford University and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching reports, “Young people who learn the rigors or planning and production in the arts will be valuable employees in the idea-driven workplace of the future.”
The arts help children learn important life skills. They boost social skills, encouraging working with and learning from others. They increase language skills because kids are interested in learning more about the arts and how to improve their abilities in the arts. They help kids be more tolerant of differences because the arts can immerse them in unfamiliar cultures that span other times and other countries. Most importantly, making and appreciating art spurs curiosity, which helps develop lifelong learners.
Here are some things you can do together at home:
- Attend cultural events together and share the arts with each other. Go to concerts as a family. Many cities offer free concerts and dance performances all year round. You can check your local community paper or online city programming sites for weekly listings of arts events.
- Visit museums. Many museums have free admissions night or children-centered programming.
- Walk around your town or city and look at what’s around you. How did artists design different buildings? Which are the most visually pleasing? Are there sculptures or murals, graffiti or other public art around? Do you hear music playing? What fashions do you see? What do you like?
- Take photographs of what you and your child see in the world around you. Encourage your child to make up stories or songs about these pictures.
- Read books together about different artists. What does their work mean to you and your child? Go to the public library and ask the librarian for ideas about books.
- Listen to music around the house. Play music from your culture and explain why it matters. Have your kids play their favorite songs and tell you why they love them.
- Dance together! Dancing is fun, it’s good exercise, and it helps everyone start talking to each other.
- Make dinnertime “story time.” Have everyone talk about anything interesting that happened today, or what he or she saw or thought about.
Talk together about what you see and hear, whether in books or in real life. Ask your child questions such as: What do you like and why? What, if anything, is surprising? Why do you think the artist chose to depict the subject matter shown? Would you like to create your own version of an artwork you saw? Supporting your child’s interests in the arts at home and while out and about will not only help improve his academic achievements, but will also bring you closer together.