FOR KIDS

In­vest­ing in the fu­ture through cre­ative en­deav­ors

Times of the Islands - - Departments - BY ANN MARIE O’PHEL AN

Kids and the Arts

Art is cru­cial for chil­dren!” says Denise Ahlstrom, owner of Karma and Co­conuts in Cape Coral, which of­fers a va­ri­ety of classes and work­shops for chil­dren and adults. She ex­plains that art and other cre­ative en­deav­ors not only stim­u­late the right side of the brain, but also build con­fi­dence. Pro­vid­ing chil­dren with cre­ative out­lets such as draw­ing, paint­ing, mu­sic, dance, pot­tery and theater is an in­vest­ment in their fu­ture suc­cess. Stud­ies have shown that creativ­ity helps chil­dren un­der­stand how to solve com­plex prob­lems and works to cul­ti­vate in­no­va­tive minds.

South­west Florida has a num­ber of fa­cil­i­ties that of­fer a va­ri­ety of arts-based pro­grams for area chil­dren.

The Al­liance for the Arts in Fort My­ers has a full sched­ule of chil­dren’s classes and work­shops in draw­ing, dance and mu­sic. As­sis­tant direc­tor Brandi Couse ar­gues that ex­po­sure to the arts at a young age has long-last­ing ben­e­fits. “Among the many ben­e­fits that the arts af­ford kids are pos­i­tive modes of ex­pres­sion, in­creased con­fi­dence, greater prob­lem-solv­ing skills, im­proved cog­ni­tive func­tion and aca­demic per­for­mance,” she says.

“Ad­di­tion­ally, the arts are a great way for chil­dren to de­velop per­se­ver­ance, fo­cus and col­lab­o­ra­tion,” says Heather Roper, youth ed­u­ca­tion direc­tor at the Cen­ters for the Arts Bonita Springs, which pro­vides classes and lessons in mu­sic, theater and art for chil­dren.

Erin Peter, the chil­dren’s sum­mer camp direc­tor at BIG ARTS on Sani­bel, says that even chil­dren who don’t want a ca­reer in the arts can still have fun while flexing their cre­ative mus­cles. “Art is im­por­tant in any field,” adds Peter.

While some chil­dren will study the arts on a se­ri­ous level and con­tinue with ca­reers in mu­sic, writ­ing or art , oth­ers will still ben­e­fit from hav­ing a cre­ative back­ground. Con­sider in­ven­tors such as Ap­ple co­founder Steve Jobs, who spent a good year and a half tak­ing cre­ative classes. Al­bert Ein­stein played the vi­o­lin through­out his life.

The Na­tional En­dow­ment for the Arts re­ports that a whop­ping 93 per­cent of STEM (science, tech­nol­ogy, engi­neer­ing and math) grad­u­ates com­pleted some kind of mu­si­cal train­ing in their lives, com­pared with only 34 per­cent of the rest of the pop­u­la­tion. When it comes to the vis­ual arts, dance, act­ing and cre­ative writ­ing, STEM stu­dents also have a higher-thanaver­age in­volve­ment.

The STEM oc­cu­pa­tions are grow­ing at 17 per­cent, in com­par­i­son with other oc­cu­pa­tions that are grow­ing an av­er­age of 9.8 per­cent. The cre­ative arts are ben­e­fi­cial to a good chunk of the work force.

Adding creativ­ity to a child’s life can come from tak­ing or­ga­nized classes, but it can also come from un­ex­pected and ev­ery­day places. Ahlstrom made it a point to find cre­ative out­lets ev­ery­where with her own two chil­dren as they were grow­ing up. “Whether it was mak­ing a mo­saic out of gar­den stones, or a wreath out of tree bark, or clay from soil, it was im­por­tant to me to teach my chil­dren that art and the po­ten­tial for art is ev­ery­where and does not need to cost any­thing,” she ex­plains.

The list goes on. “Chil­dren can en­joy a theater show, in per­son or on TV. They can dance in the liv­ing room, sing along with the ra­dio, make a home­made in­stru­ment (such as dry beans in an empty wa­ter bot­tle) or act out a scene from a fa­vorite chil­dren’s story. Even draw­ing, col­or­ing and paint­ing—wher­ever it is al­lowed,” says Couse, whose own chil­dren like to draw faces on the prod­uct pic­tures in the gro­cery ads found in the news­pa­per, strive to repli­cate fa­mous art­work and scour the In­ter­net for other cre­ative ideas.

“Vis­it­ing mu­se­ums, at­tend­ing art-fo­cused events and par­tic­i­pat­ing in the arts to­gether are also great ways to get chil­dren more in­volved in the arts,” says Roper, who ex­plains that through the arts, chil­dren learn about them­selves, oth­ers and the world around them.

Par­tic­i­pat­ing in the arts cre­ates crit­i­cal thinkers, in­no­va­tors and prob­lem solvers, no mat­ter what field a child chooses to pur­sue. Plus, the arts of­fer an out­let for both chil­dren and adults to find more en­joy­ment in the world.

From left: Karma and Co­conuts in Cape Coral, BIG AR TS on Sani­bel Is­land, and the Al­liance for the Arts in F ort My­ers all of­fer chil­dren in Lee County a mul­ti­tude of op­por­tu­ni­ties to im­merse them­selves in the vis­ual and per­form­ing arts.

The Cen­ters for the Arts Bonita Springs of­fers a full sched­ule of classes for chil­dren ages 18 months and up.

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