My daughter’s school recently took the kindergarteners to see a play. I was thrilled with the fact that the school takes advantage not only of local arts but sees the arts as an important part of their curriculum. My daughter was thrilled with the fact that she got to ride the bus and see Junie B. Jones live (are you aware of the horror that is Junie B. Jones? If not, consider yourself lucky). But it got me thinking that it’s not just the school’s job to expose her to those types of things. It’s also my responsibility as a parent.
So what are some ways that I can do that without travelling too far or spending too much money? Here’s what I came up with:
Enjoy local theater. There is just something about attending a play. The live production elements make it so much more real and relatable than going to a movie or watching TV. But, unfortunately, many stage plays are cost prohibitive. However, experiencing the fun of a stage play doesn’t have to happen on Broadway. It can happen at your local theater company, high school, community college, or church. It’s inexpensive and your kids get to see everything that happens to create that form of entertainment. Afterwards, you can talk to your kids about the different jobs that happen in the theater from the actors to the costume designers to the musicians, and all the other jobs. It exposes your kids to different career options and may foster a love of something they might not have otherwise known they love.
Attend a concert. Music. I love music (a lot. In fact, when I’m alone, I’m almost always listening to something). There’s been a ton of research conducted by people smarter than me that highlights just how important music is in brain development, helping kids achieve academically, and honestly, listening to music is really relaxing. I believe every kid should experience a live concert to get the feel of live music. Like theater, it doesn’t have to happen at a major arena. There are free concerts in the park during the summers, high schools and middle schools have concerts throughout the year, and so do bookstores, libraries, and sometimes, coffee shops. Not only is it great family time, but attending these is a great way to support your local economy.
Visit an art museum. I am not a huge fan of visual art like paintings, sculptures, etc. I do like photography though. I think it’s pretty and beautiful to look at, and I can appreciate the talent it takes to make it, but when I look at that stuff, it doesn’t evoke any emotion in me the way music does (except for photography). I mean, it’s pretty but I don’t get it. That said, I still think it’s important for kids to see different forms of art. You can do that by looking for free nights at art museums, going to an exhibit at an art school if you have one nearby, or even taking your kids to a free or inexpensive art class at the library, craft store or community center.
Create your own curriculum. Dorothy was right. There’s no place like home. If you have limited access to a library or park or school or any other venue that provides cultural events, why not do it at home? Write a play with your kid and then perform it for friends and family (or just family), complete with costumes and sets built from what you have around the house. Draw or paint your own pictures and then hang them up around your house. Get dressed up, make some hors d’oeuvres, and pretend you are at a gallery opening. Go to YouTube and search for a live concert in any type of music. Watch it together. There are a number of ways to expose your kids to the arts without having to spend any money or even leave your house!
If you’re unsure how to find these events, Google is your best friend. Just search for “free plays” or “free concerts”. Look at your school district’s event calendar. Use your city or town’s event calendar. I subscribe to a website that sends me emails twice a month with events in and around my state; look to see if you have one in your area. There are a number of ways to find this information should you want it.
I don’t want you to think that I’m pushing you to expose your kids to the arts. If that’s not your thing, that’s okay. But I don’t want you to not to do it simply because it’s too expensive. And with so many schools cutting arts programs, it’s more important than ever that we, as parents, step up and fill that gap. If we can find ways to do it without emptying our wallets, that’s even better.
Readers, what are some inexpensive ways you engage in the arts?