My Child, the Arts, and School

Why Arts-Friendly Schools Matter: Pre-K to Second Grade

Learn how to support your child in the arts at school


Art is Smart

Albert Einstein

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
Albert Einstein, physicist

Did you know singing, dancing, painting, and make-believe help children learn better in school? Research shows that many young children thrive when their studies include the arts. “Doing” arts also offers important overall life lessons. For example, the arts encourage observing and describing, two skills very useful in any endeavor, whether for work or play. Plus, the arts offer children a constructive means of self-expression, which can lead to self-knowledge and self-confidence.

The effects of arts programs also reach beyond benefits to the individual child. They are a way to build community. Group art-making—a play, a music ensemble, a mural—brings together students with different skills, abilities, and perspectives. Team members learn to respect each other and often become friends. Arts programs also introduce students to different cultures, past and present, so that kids can learn about their own backgrounds and those of others.

Additionally, artworks are meant to be seen or heard by others. When a school exhibits the art created by its students, it draws together the families and friends of the artists in celebration. This type of gathering is a further way of building community and thus strengthening the educational mission of the school.

Here are some helpful tips to tell if your child’s school is arts-friendly:

  • Is children’s art on the walls?
  • What arts programs and instruction does the school offer?
  • Are there full-time arts teachers in music, visual art, dance, theater?
  • Do students in every grade receive arts instruction?
  • What space is available for arts instruction? If classrooms are not available, can other spaces such as the auditorium, cafeteria, gym, or elsewhere be used?
  • Does the school have partnerships with arts organizations?
  • Do the kids perform in their own classrooms or for the whole school?
  • Are there field trips to concerts and museums?
  • Are the arts included in the school’s budget?
  • Is there a school arts committee?
  • If you have questions about the arts, who is the best person to ask?
  • Do teachers and principals want to hear from you?

Whether your child’s school has a lot of arts programming or only a little, most schools can use extra help from parents. Here are some ways you can help support your school

  • Offer to hang kids’ artwork in the classroom or hallways.
  • Ask questions about the school arts programs at Curriculum Night, Back-to-School Night, or Parent-Teacher Conferences.
  • Find out how to start or join an arts committee.
  • Offer to bring your artistic skills into the classroom.
  • Share the dances, music, or stories from your own culture with students.
  • Help organize a family arts celebration with arts activities for all ages, from drawing to dance lessons to group singing. This can also be a fundraiser (although that requires a great deal of organization).
  • Volunteer at an arts event by helping with food, transportation, or set-up.
  • Ask a school or parent leader to talk about school arts programs at the next PTA meeting.
  • Talk to other parents about the arts in school.

These are just a few ideas about how you can help support the arts in your child’s school and to help your child grow academically, emotionally, and socially.


Editors & Producers

Lisa Resnick
Content Editor

Tiffany Bryant
Assistant Manager, Audience Enrichment

Further Information

To learn more about arts education for yourself or to help persuade school administrators:

Catterall, James S. The Arts and the Transfer of Learning.
An overview of the Critical Links report argues for more research about the benefits of arts learning, especially in affective areas (such as motivation and engagement) as well as transfer of skills, particularly when learning is understood as “situational, interactive, and extremely complex.”

Davis, Jessica Hoffmann. Why Our Schools Need the Arts. New York: Columbia Teachers College, 2007.
The arts provide unique opportunities for learning and development because they involve tangible products and ambiguity, focus on emotion and process, and foster connection to others.

Deasy, Richard, ed. Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development. Washington, D.C.: Arts Education Partnership, 2002.
A compilation summarizing and discussing 62 research studies that examine the effects of arts learning on students' social and academic skills.

Horn, Jeanette Horn. “An Exploration into the Writing of Original Scripts by Inner-City High School Drama Students,” Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic Achievement and Social Development, edited by Richard Deasy. Washington, D.C.: Arts Education Partnership, 2002.
A report on how student attendance and interest in the arts improved after an ethnically-diverse student group collaborated on a theater project.

The Center for Arts Education

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Adapted from original content produced by the Center for Arts Education (CAE) , a nonprofit organization which promotes arts education in New York City public schools.

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