5 Benefits of Performing Arts Programs

By: Mollie Shauger | Wednesday, October 16, 2019 | Youth Programs

A group of children enjoy a drama class. Credit: iStock

The performing arts - whether it’s singing and dancing on stage or working behind the scenes - has numerous benefits on a child’s social, emotional and academic development. Not only is in an outlet for youth to use their creativity and imagination, performing can help them to overcome anxieties and fears about public speaking, and boost self-esteem and confidence.

Meryl Budnick, Cultural Arts director at the Wayne YMCA, and Gailmarie Sprague, Enrichment and Family Programs director at the South Mountain YMCA, shine the light on some not-so-obvious ways the arts benefit children.

1. Literacy skills

“I think one of the major benefits that a lot of parents don’t always see is the literacy skill-building that comes from participating in a theatrical production,” says Sprague. “Many of our kindergarten participants come into rehearsal not knowing how to read, and being able to memorize their lines and hearing the words on paper being performed is helpful for early readers.” Older children who perform also sharpen their literacy skills by working through the vocabulary, context and emotion of the writing, she says.

2. Expanding worldview

“Many shows also take place in a specific location, time or period, which helps build historical context and familiarize children with the world around them or events that shaped our current society,” Sprague says. “Theatre allows our young performers to step into the shoes of others and think critically about what another person’s reactions, family, lifestyle and relationships may look like.” Theater teaches kids about who they are, who they endeavor to be, and to become more aware of others’ viewpoints, adds Budnick. 

3. Social and emotional learning

“Kids learn empathy and they might be involved in telling stories that make them think harder about current social issues,” says Budnick, who recently helped produce “Spring Awakening,” with teens at the Rosen Performing Arts Center at the Wayne Y. That show presented opportunities to talk about social issues such as the #MeToo Movement, teen suicide and sexuality. Stories that are told on stage can help children to find their own voices, learn their own lessons, and become well-rounded individuals, Budnick says.

4. Healthy habits

Performers may be asked to sing and dance at the same time, so it’s important to keep their bodies in the right condition, Budnick says: “So eating healthy, staying hydrated and taking care of your physical and mental well-being is as important as performing.”

5. Acceptance

Theater brings people on stage and in the audience together, and provides a community for people with similar interests. “Diverse groups of people come together with differing backgrounds to tell the story that is written. Many of our kids find their ‘tribe’ at the theater where kids are accepted for who they are,” Budnick says.

Looking to sign up your child for a dance, music, theater or art class? Browse our programs to see what is available at your local YMCA. Because the Y is for all, financial assistance is available for eligible individuals and families who want to participate in Y programs.



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