In this blog, we hand over to one of our fantastic entertainers, Alex Louise, to tell you all about how drama and creative arts can have a profound impact upon your childs' development.
Once upon a time, there was a little girl who was so very shy; until one day, a friend of hers invited her to a wonderful drama club where she learnt so many things. She learnt how to feel brave, confident and strong, how to work in a team and believe in herself: that little girl was me.
I think no matter what path in life you take, drama can give you the skills you need to take on the world. There are key skills for success in life that children can gain in a fun, imaginative way through an involvement in the Arts.
Here are 10 ways drama is vital in children's development:
1. Imagination and creativity
Kids have this wonderful innate ability to be imaginative; but as they grow up it can slowly diminish if we don’t give them the opportunity to explore it. Being a party entertainer, we know that imagination is key and when dressing up as a Unicorn fairy or a Superhero or a Mermaid, there is always a worry that the kids won’t join in, won’t believe: because as adults we don’t. That feeling disappears within seconds when you see a child’s face light up because they do believe in fairies! They let their imaginations run wild and you are that superhero or mermaid or unicorn to them- and I can tell you it's a great feeling.
Role play is not only a massive part of dramatic play, it helps children in life scenarios too, by allowing them to explore their imagination and creativity they can improve their problem solving skills, respond better to real life situations, and have a fantastic sense of fun throughout life.
2. Working together
Kids can sometimes struggle with not getting exactly what they want; it’s their way or the Highway!
I have seen it happen before at parties and at drama clubs: a child wants it be their turn to use their idea and there can be tears when it doesn’t go their way. The great thing about drama is there can be so much collaboration and cooperation involved in playing games or creating theatre, that it creates an opportunity to showcase the benefits of teamwork. Children can see that when they wait their turn, or try out someone else’s idea, the end result is still having lots of fun and creating something even more exciting working together. Group games, improvisations, sing-a-longs are so helpful at teaching kids these skills.
3. Energy release
When I attended my training for Poppy’s Parties, Rosie said, (and I’m paraphrasing here!) “If after your party, you don’t feel like you’ve ran a marathon then you haven’t done it right.” I wasn’t entirely sure what she meant…. until I did! Kids have bundles of energy and you want to make sure it’s used in the right way. All the movement games, dancing, improvising that kids do in drama is a great way to keep them active, burn off excess energy and improve the control over their bodies and how they move.
4. Talking and reading
My favourite time at my drama club is the performance term; the kids get so excited about having a chance to become a new character and perform for their parents.This excitement is why I have seen first hand how much learning a script can improve a child’s reading and communication skills- it’s a way of learning new words, phrases and sentences with an element of joy and fun; and it gives children a chance to express themselves in a way that they wouldn’t normally be able to. Teaching children about projection, vocal warm ups, how to deal with stage fright and nerves also improves their talking abilities ten-fold; I swear some of my drama kids can speak better than most CEO’s because they have been taught presentation!
I’ve worked with children for a while and I’ve seen that when they fight or argue, talking about how they feel helps them to understand and empathise with the other party involved. When acting and playing a part, we can explore all of the emotions that we are capable of in a safe and supportive bubble. Improvisations and character development is a great way for them to learn conflict resolution and ultimately make them a more caring, loving human beings- a vital trait for living a happy life!
There are so many ways drama can give children the opportunity to have responsibility and leadership; for example, simple drama/ party games, such as Simon says, follow the leader or directing a scene with their friends all put them in positions of authority. All these games give them a safe space to make their own choices, be in charge of learning and gain confidence in their own ability.
Trust me- we know as party entertainers that children can have the attention span of a goldfish. It keeps us on our feet and always challenges us to keep being engaging and fun, and it works- we can keep 25 children entertained for a whole hour! Unbelievable? Unrealistic? Well it happens- check out our reviews if you don’t believe me!
This is because we are engaging them and meeting them at their level of energy and joy- children will sit and listen if they know they need to focus- losing focus means missing out on the fun! We all have a little competitive side in us, a need to do well- and the drama games involving focus tap into that. The kids know that if they want to succeed, they need to concentrate!
As I mentioned, I was quite a shy child: although I did have friends, I initially struggled to make them. Being a part of something where you share a passion with others can create such strong bonds. When you see the same kids working together every week in a creative space, you can see that it really creates strong bonds and helps children grow and develop their relationships. In some cases (based on my own experience) making friends through drama classes creates amazing lifelong friendships.
Now this might sound like a slight contradiction, given everything I said about drama being an energy release! However, because drama can be such a supportive and safe space for kids to explore and create, it can actually help provide an environment where they can reduce anxieties or worries they have and creates a sense of freedom and breathing space. It also helps with any nervousness or silliness they might feel, especially when you have a room full of 20 kids crawling around pretending to be animals! Not only do the games focus on 'relaxing' the mind for improved self confidence, but many drama classes have an element of 'mindfulness' where the children can experience a moment of calm and get a chance to reflect on the class.
10. Building confidence
Drama helps children improve so many essential skills, which in turn boosts their confidence. I’ve seen it work in mere minutes at a party where a shy child hides behind a parent and is afraid to join in to then go on to be laughing, having fun and putting their hand up to join in for the next game. Of course, it can also be a much slower progress, but it’s amazing to see a very quiet, unassuming child walk into your drama club and get to watch them blossom and see their confidence grow. Children who are confident project more when they speak, feel brave enough to make new choices with characters and are more fearless- all fantastic qualities, not only in childhood, but throughout life.
Even if they don’t become the next Judi Dench, getting a child involved in the arts will not only benefit them now, but for years to come.
Alex Louise is an experienced party entertainer at Poppy's Parties, as well as running regular drama clubs in and around Brighton and Hove.