Countless research studies have concluded that exposing young children to the arts improves everything from academic performance to self-esteem. The bottom line is clear: the arts play an essential role in a child’s development. “The arts build character, inspire thought, provoke conversation, and awaken cultural awareness,” says Roderick Justice, Producing Artistic Director with the Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati.
And it is never too early to begin fostering a child’s love of the arts. “Even before a child is born, they can experience movement and sound. Arts education for an infant or young child is exposure and environmental,” explains Amy Dennison, Program Manager of College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) Preparatory and Community Engagement. Fortunately, Cincinnati is bursting with fun and easy ways for kids to get excited about all that the arts can offer.
Visit a museum
It may seem intimidating to mix young children and priceless works of art, but with a little preparation, a trip to a museum can spark a lifelong love of the artwork. The key is starting slowly – don’t plan on seeing the entire museum in one visit. “Twenty minutes is just fine,” Dennison says.
For those who are still hesitant, the Cincinnati Art Museum offers a Museum Manners Guide on their website that provides helpful talking points parents can discuss with their children before their visit. While on the website, be sure to look for the museum’s Family Focus Guide that turns a trip through the galleries into an art-themed scavenger hunt.
Many museums also offer regular programming designed with children in mind. The Taft Museum of Art 3rd Funday Sundays, held on select third Sundays, feature kid-sized art info, hands-on fun and family-friendly performances – all at no charge.
Families can find programs like this and many more on ArtsWave’s CincyArtsGuide. The calendar sorts events in a variety of ways, including categories for tots, kids and teens.
Attend a performance
From the ballet to the theater to the symphony – there are so many opportunities to see art in action in Cincinnati.
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s Lollipops concerts offer dynamic musical programs perfect for families with children ages 2-10. “The concerts are active – at one I went to with my own kids, the conductor came out in a Darth Vader costume and used a light saber to conduct! And they’re shorter, so even the littlest ones have less of a chance to get squirmy,” says Hillary Copsey, Director of Communications and Marketing with ArtsWave.
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The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati’s MainStage at the Taft series introduces children to the magic of live theater through one-hour productions performed by professional actors. “The thematic connections within our productions appeal to children as well as the young at heart,” Justice says.Enjoy everything from interactive concerts to comedy acts during Fitton Family Fridays at the Fitton Center for the Creative Arts. Entertainment is designed to appeal to children of all ages – from preschoolers to teenagers – and a reception of kid-friendly drinks and appetizers is served prior to each show.
Take a class
Perhaps the best way to gain an appreciation of the arts is to create it, and early childhood is the perfect time to dabble in different disciplines to see where interests may lie. That is precisely why CCM developed their stARTS program, which introduces 3 and 4-year-olds to music, dance and theatre through child-friendly experiences. “By not focusing on specific artistic disciplinary skills or techniques, we offer a rich, sensory environment that prepares the young child for further study in our program, whether it be music lessons, acting classes, or dance classes,” Dennison says.
Those ready to pursue a specific discipline can search the Enrichment and After-School Programs Directory at Cincinnatiparent.com to find classes in dance, theater, music and the visual arts.
Whether in a museum or theater, concert hall or classroom, introducing young children to the arts opens their minds to endless possibilities. As Copsey so eloquently concludes: “Exposing children to art helps teach skills such as empathy; when they watch or act in a play, they learn to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. Art sparks curiosity; when they look at a painting or watch a dance, they consider how it was done and why, and if they could do it, too. When kids make art, they learn to experiment and re-imagine the world.”
That, in a nutshell, is the beauty of art in all its forms.