Top 10 skills children learn from the arts
By Valerie Strauss , Updated: January 22, 2013
You don’t find school reformers talking much about how we need to train more teachers in
the arts, given the current obsession with science, math, technology and engineering (STEM),
but here’s a list of skills that young people learn from studying the arts. They serve as a
reminder that the arts — while important to study for their intrinsic value — also promote
skills seen as important in academic and life success. (That’s why some people talk about
changing the current national emphasis on STEM to STEAM.) This was written by Lisa
Phillips is an author, blog journalist, arts and leadership educator, speaker and business
owner. To learn about Lisa’s book, “The Artistic Edge: 7 Skills Children Need to Succeed in
an Increasingly Right Brain World,” click here. This appeared on the ARTSblog, a program
of Americans for the Arts.
By Lisa Phillips
1. Creativity – Being able to think on your feet, approach tasks from different perspectives
and think ‘outside of the box’ will distinguish your child from others. In an arts program,
your child will be asked to recite a monologue in 6 different ways, create a painting that
represents a memory, or compose a new rhythm to enhance a piece of music. If children have
practice thinking creatively, it will come naturally to them now and in their future career.
2. Confidence – The skills developed through theater, not only train you how to
convincingly deliver a message, but also build the confidence you need to take command of
the stage. Theater training gives children practice stepping out of their comfort zone and
allows them to make mistakes and learn from them in rehearsal. This process gives children
the confidence to perform in front of large audiences.
3. Problem Solving – Artistic creations are born through the solving of problems. How do I
turn this clay into a sculpture? How do I portray a particular emotion through dance? How
will my character react in this situation? Without even realizing it kids that participate in the
arts are consistently being challenged to solve problems. All this practice problem solving
develops children’s skills in reasoning and understanding. This will help develop important
problem-solving skills necessary for success in any career.
4. Perseverance – When a child picks up a violin for the first time, she/he knows that
playing Bach right away is not an option; however, when that child practices, learns the skills
and techniques and doesn’t give up, that Bach concerto is that much closer. In an
increasingly competitive world, where people are being asked to continually develop new
skills, perseverance is essential to achieving success.
5. Focus – The ability to focus is a key skill developed through ensemble work. Keeping a
balance between listening and contributing involves a great deal of concentration and focus.
It requires each participant to not only think about their role, but how their role contributes to
the big picture of what is being created. Recent research has shown that participation in the
arts improves children’s abilities to concentrate and focus in other aspects of their lives.
6. Non-Verbal Communication – Through experiences in theater and dance education,
children learn to breakdown the mechanics of body language. They experience different
ways of moving and how those movements communicate different emotions. They are then
coached in performance skills to ensure they are portraying their character effectively to the
7. Receiving Constructive Feedback – Receiving constructive feedback about a
performance or visual art piece is a regular part of any arts instruction. Children learn that
feedback is part of learning and it is not something to be offended by or to be taken
personally. It is something helpful. The goal is the improvement of skills and evaluation is
incorporated at every step of the process. Each arts discipline has built in parameters to
ensure that critique is a valuable experience and greatly contributes to the success of the final
8. Collaboration – Most arts disciplines are collaborative in nature. Through the arts,
children practice working together, sharing responsibility, and compromising with others to
accomplish a common goal. When a child has a part to play in a music ensemble, or a theater
or dance production, they begin to understand that their contribution is necessary for the
success of the group. Through these experiences children gain confidence and start to learn
that their contributions have value even if they don’t have the biggest role.
9. Dedication – When kids get to practice following through with artistic endeavors that
result in a finished product or performance, they learn to associate dedication with a feeling
of accomplishment. They practice developing healthy work habits of being on time for
rehearsals and performances, respecting the contributions of others, and putting effort into
the success of the final piece. In the performing arts, the reward for dedication is the warm
feeling of an audience’s applause that comes rushing over you, making all your efforts
10. Accountability – When children practice creating something collaboratively they get
used to the idea that their actions affect other people. They learn that when they are not
prepared or on-time, that other people suffer. Through the arts, children also learn that it is
important to admit that you made a mistake and take responsibility for it. Because mistakes
are a regular part of the process of learning in the arts, children begin to see that mistakes
happen. We acknowledge them, learn from them and move on.
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