Children who participate in the arts from a young age consistently perform better and achieve more both during their years of arts participation as well as decades later than their non-arts participating peers. Numerous studies have outlined clear, measurable benefits for children in high-need communities. A National Endowment for the Arts study found that “74 percent of students in the low-income group who had arts experiences by the eighth grade were more likely to plan to go to college.” They performed better on standardized tests than their “arts-poor” peers and showed higher capabilities in both math-based subjects and languages. The benefits of arts-participation also extend out of the classroom, as they are more likely to volunteer, read news sources, and vote.
We could write pages on the developmental benefits that arts participation has on children (and many people have!). Artistic creation can greatly improve a child’s fine and gross motor skills. Both making art or simply talking about art has shown to improve language and communication skills. Children who participate in the arts exhibit higher levels of concentration, have better decision-making skills, and are better able to find creative ways to solve problems and complete tasks.
Arts participation can boost a child’s self-esteem in a variety of ways. First off, the simple correlation between better school performance due to the variety of benefits listed above and increased confidence in the classroom. Additionally, the arts instill a sense of pride and self-expression. When children’s voices are being heard and understood by classmates, parents, and society in general, they develop critical feelings of acceptance and self-worth.
“We had a student who was disinterested in the program at the beginning, but by the end he was making comments on how the music made him feel and which instrument he would choose. Very powerful to watch.” This is feedback we received from a teacher whose class attended an Inside the Orchestra for Schools programs. Music and arts break down emotional barriers. They allow us not only to feel deeply but to work towards understanding and processing our feelings. These are critical skills for children to develop because emotional understanding is a key component in healthy human relationships.
Arts participation and appreciation opens a child up to the world and its many cultures. The arts can teach children about societies and civilizations from all over the world, which in turn allows them to relate to and empathize with people from all walks of life. The arts let children form connections and build familiarity across cultural boundaries. They can also literally allow children to connect with people through joint expression or creation. Music, for example, can bring together musicians from totally different countries who speak none of the same languages and help them to transcend communication barriers by allowing them to create something beautiful through a universal language.