Many people often think that theatre classes aren't right for their child. Perhaps your son has never expressed a desire to act or your daughter isn't interested in dancing, so you've never explored the possibility of them trying those hobbies. But what if there were other things for them to learn, underneath the tap dancing or acting out a part in a play?
Theatre doesn't just teach you to act, or dance, or sing. It can also instill in your child things they might not effectively learn elsewhere!
Theatre can help your child develop their sense of self and identity.
Children sometimes have difficulty coming out of their shell into the little person they are. Theatre can help them to develop their sense of self and identity by simply allowing them to be expressive and creative in a safe environment. Tools such as improvisation and interpretive dance can often help a child overcome barriers of who they "should" be as opposed to who they are. Shy children often find that acting is a great release for them; taking on another character can help them to feel safer in being more outspoken and over time this feeling of safety can migrate into their everyday life.
Theatre will expand their friendship group.
Children make friends everywhere, given enough time. It's good for your child to have friends outside of school, and it encourages them to talk to children from other backgrounds they might not meet elsewhere. Often their classmates will change each term in a theatre program, which will expand their friendship base and help a shy child overcome obstacles like making new friends. It will also help you as parents to meet other families with children of a similar age. You never know, you might make lifelong family friends!
Theatre will help your child to learn responsibility.
Learning lines and songs off by heart at home helps a child to develop a sense of responsibility. Unlike school, where they'd just be reprimanded and maybe punished for not doing their homework, in theatre they would also be impacting everyone else if they don't know what they're doing. When you are in a production, you are part of a wider team which relies on each member to know their roles, no matter how large or small. It's important for a child to understand that their role is important and that they matter, even in a production where there might be 50 other children taking part.
Theatre will help your child to develop their confidence.
Generally, performing can help children be more confident - if they can get up on stage in front of a group of people, that's going to prove to them they can do things they didn't know they could do. Even if your child already has a good sense of it, theatre classes will help to grow and maintain their confidence in a safe environment. Good self confidence is a life skill not many people have from a young age. I believe it's very important for a child to believe in themselves as early as possible so that adulthood is much easier to navigate!
Theatre will help your child to explore talents they might not know they had.
Many children don't know what they are capable of, and need the chance to explore new skills. Perhaps your child is not a skilled singer, but has a keen eye for dance moves. Theatre will help to bring out your child's best singing voice and develop their dance moves further. If they haven't explored these avenues yet, then theatre is a safe place to do so, because everyone else is in the same boat. You never know, your child might be the next West End performer!
Theatre will improve their communication skills, co-ordination and fitness.
Learning to dance to a rhythm helps to co-ordinate the body and the brain at the same time, which is a very important life skill. Dancing also requires a certain level of fitness; jazz hands and box steps are staples of the musical theatre world and dances can be highly energetic! Playing a part in a show requires the actor to learn to communicate their lines to the audience as if they've just thought of it, rather than learnt it off a page. Communication is a great tool for a child to learn early on, since it's a staple requirement for later on in life.
Theatre is fun!
Take it from someone who has been involved in amateur theatre since the age of 5 - it's fun! New shows each term, new people to talk to, new songs to learn, and dances to perfect. It keeps you interested, on your toes and is uplifting every week to see how much you've achieved. Then you do the performance and it's exhilarating being on stage and showing the audience what you've learned. The applause at the end of a show is always well deserved and each child knows that they have helped to bring about such a successful production!
As for life skills, learning to work with a different group of people each term is going to help develop a child's sense of identity, so they can be themselves all the time. Performing helps to give a sense of confidence to even the shyest of children; having confidence as an adult and a teen will help to ensure confidence in their abilities for the rest of their life. And who knows, skills they pick up during their time at a theatre school might pay off big time when they get older.
So, now you know. Theatre is a wonderful world of learning and expression, and I reckon every child has the right to try it at least once. Go ahead and make 2018 that year of possibility for your child!