10 Skills Children Learn From The Arts That Help Them Succeed In Life


 Now more than ever, employers are looking for creative thinkers who can move their business forward, not just academic achievers who know how to maintain the status quo. Being able to think on your feet, approach tasks from different perspectives and think ‘outside of the box’ will distinguish your child from others. In an arts program, your child will be asked to recite a monologue in 6 different ways, create a painting that represents a memory, or compose a new rhythm to enhance a piece of music. If children have practice thinking creatively, it will come naturally to them now and in their future career.


For many people, stage fright is one of their greatest fears. Some people get physically ill at the thought of speaking in front of their colleagues or making a presentation to clients. The skills developed through theatre, not only train you how to convincingly deliver a message, but also build the confidence you need to take command of the stage. Experience in theatre gives children practice stepping out of their comfort zone and allows them to make mistakes and learn from them in rehearsal. This process gives children the confidence to perform in front of large audiences. Imagine what children could achieve with all the confidence they need to succeed.


Artistic creations are born through the solving of problems. How do I turn this clay into a sculpture? How do I portray a particular emotion through dance? How will my character react in this situation? Without even realizing it kids that participate in the arts are consistently being challenged to solve problems. All this practice problem solving develops children’s skills in reasoning and understanding. The arts teaches children to approach problems as exciting opportunities to challenge their skills and creativity. Art is a powerful avenue to work through problems that may occur in life. It allows children to imagine possible solutions and test them out on their peers. This is a valuable exercise that will help develop important problem solving skills necessary for success in any career.


Life presents us with many challenges that require us to be dedicated, persistent, and patient, whether it be writing a 10-page history paper or working on a multi-layered presentation for the CEO of your company. Experiences in the arts helps kids understand and appreciate where persistence can get you. When a child picks up a violin for the first time, she/he knows that playing Bach right away is not an option; however, when that child practices, learns the skills and techniques and doesn’t give up, that Bach concerto is that much closer. In an increasingly competitive world, where people are being asked to continually develop new skills, perseverance is essential to achieving success.


The ability to focus is a key skill developed through ensemble work. While participating in music, children must watch and listen to each other in order to know when and how to make a contribution to a piece of music. The same applies to experiences in dance and theatre. Keeping a balance between listening and contributing involves a great deal of concentration and focus. It requires each participant to not only think about their role, but how their role contributes to the big picture of what is being created. Recent research has shown that participation in the arts improves children’s abilities to concentrate and focus in other aspects of their lives.


The performing arts develops a child’s awareness of how they are communicating with the world through their body language. Many people go through life unconscious of the messages they are sending with their posture and gestures. Through experiences in theatre and dance education, children learn to breakdown the mechanics of body language. They experience different ways of moving and how those movements communicate different emotions. They are then coached in performance skills to ensure they are portraying their character effectively to the audience. This is powerful, not only, on the stage, but in a job interview!


Receiving constructive feedback about a performance or visual art piece is a regular part of any arts instruction. Visual arts, for example, has a culture of group critique, where children are encouraged to share and talk about each others’ work. Children learn that feedback is part of learning and it is not something to be offended by or to be taken personally. It is something helpful. The goal is the improvement of skills and evaluation is incorporated at every step of the process. Each arts discipline has built in parameters to ensure that critique is a valuable experience and greatly contributes to the success of the final piece. This is an invaluable skill to develop as children, as when they become adults, they will begin to be evaluated in their workplace and must learn to take that feedback as constructive and not a personal attack.


Most arts disciplines are collaborative in nature. Through the arts, children practice working together, sharing responsibility, and compromising with others to accomplish a common goal. When a child has a part to play in a music ensemble, or a theatre or dance production, they begin to understand that their contribution is necessary for the success of the group. There are no small parts, only small actors! Through these experiences children gain confidence and start to learn that their contributions have value even if they don’t have the biggest role. In a work environment this skill is essential, as companies always want employees who can be team players.


When kids get to practice following through with artistic endeavors that results in a finished product or performance, they learn to associate dedication with a feeling of accomplishment. They have practice developing healthy work habits of being on time for rehearsals and performances, respecting the contributions of others, and putting effort into the success of the final piece. In the performing arts, the reward for dedication is the warm feeling of an audience’s applause that comes rushing over you, making all your efforts worthwhile. The incredible achievements kids experience through the arts help them realize that extraordinary things can occur when you are dedicated and persevere through challenges. With this outlook on life, there are no goals that a child cannot accomplish.


When children practice creating something collaboratively they get used to the idea that their actions affect other people. They learn that when they are not prepared or on-time, that other people suffer. For example, when one person does not show-up for a dance rehearsal, it affects the progress of the ensemble and the morale of everyone there. There is a gap, someone without a partner and someone who will be behind when they return. Through the arts, children also learn that it is important to admit that you made a mistake and take responsibility for it. Because mistakes are a regular part of the process of learning in the arts, children begin to see that mistakes happen. We acknowledge them, learn from them and move on. This is a crucial skills to learn early in life because it contributes to the development of integrity of character, which every employer is seeking in a potential staff member.

To download a PDF copy that includes additional material on “How Do You Know” that a child is developing each of the 10 Skills Click HERE.

Lisa Phillips also authored a book, The Artistic Edge, which explores why leadership skills taught through the arts are what young people need most to be successful in life.