Supporting Your Young Artist

Self-Discovery, Self-Expression

Encouraging the arts for 10-12 year-olds


Young artists at this age are becoming self-aware and increasingly interested in expressing their thoughts and ideas. The arts are a vital extension of this newfound self-expression.

Features of these ages:

At this stage, attention begins to turn inward. Children are becoming tweens, a preadolescent step between primary childhood and being teenagers.” The independence that emerged in the earlier stage has evolved into tweens’ expectations to make choices for themselves. Peers continue to grow in importance. Friends are typically the same gender, and it is not uncommon for tweens to develop crushes. Tweens begin to question adults’ rules. It is typical for tweens to develop gender stereotypes about art forms. Bodies begin to change during this stage and puberty begins.

The arts at this stage:


  • With puberty’s arrival, body image begins to change as well. This stage happens earlier for girls while boys typically hit puberty closer to age 12. The onset of puberty can lead tweens to grow in self-consciousness. Tweens studying dance formally will do best in environments where they feel emotionally safe and artistically challenged.
  • The ability to use movement to express ideas and feelings is fully realized during this stage. Tweens are able to tackle a range of dance styles.
  • The physical activity of dance may have benefits for the tween brain and muscular systems beyond the enjoyment of dance.


  • It’s not too late to start formal lessons at this stage. Research has shown that beginning lessons around 11 or 12 can lead to a greater chance of sticking with the instrument.
  • Boys may become increasingly reluctant to sing at this age, so male role models can be particularly powerful influences. Girls will typically find singing, particularly in groups, to be an enjoyable experience.
  • Technological tools and apps that allow tweens to make music can be extremely compelling and engaging.


  • Tweens can and should be exposed to a range of dramatic material, which they can appreciate and discuss. Tweens, however, are still thinking concretely and may take rigid positions about issues brought up in theatrical work. They will benefit from discussion that encourages perspective-taking of different characters.
  • Children have the cognitive development and maturity to be good audience members. They can attend performances appropriately and appreciatively.

Visual Arts

  • Artists begin to include significantly more detail in their work. Their thinking is still concrete and they are becoming increasingly aware of precision in their work. Tween artwork is also often characterized by realism.
  • The subject of tweens’ art often reflects ideas that have personal meaning. Tweens become increasingly interested in representing their own ideas and point-of-view in their artwork.

For all the arts

  • Look for opportunities for tweens to participate in the arts with other tweens.
  • Cultivate tweens’ interests by exposing them to a wide variety of styles in the arts.



Patti Saraniero
Original Writer

Editors & Producers

Lisa Resnick
Content Editor

Kenny Neal
Manager, Digital Education Resources


Child Development and Arts Education: A review of Current Research and Best Practices. Prepared by the College Board for The National Coalition for Core Arts Standards. January, 2012

Image via Creative Commons; flickr.com user Erik Olaerts

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