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5 Ways Drama Helps Children at School

5 Ways Drama Helps Children at School

A lot of people will be thinking ahead to their little one starting school in September. You might be concerned about your child starting school, particularly if you have a summer-born child. My children (now 7 and 9) are both August born and I remember being nervous about how they’d cope with the more formal demands of school. Perhaps they have a very short attention span, find it difficult to sit still, or they are very shy and find it difficult to speak up in group situations or to make friends. Or perhaps they lack co-ordination and balance and just seem too little to be joining a formal school environment.

As the mother of two summer born children, who both started drama classes just after they turned 4 years old, I can’t recommend the activity highly enough. I honestly think the things they have learned in their drama classes have transferred to their school lives. I’ve even had a teacher ask if my daughter does drama lessons because she reads with such good expression, giving every character in the book its own voice and personality — and she has done this from an early age thanks to drama giving her the ability to think about characters and how they would speak and the tone of voice they would use in different situations.

The benefits that drama (combined with dance) gave my two children (a boy and a girl) in their early years at primary school include:

  • Focus — when learning new dance moves and learning when to say your lines, concentration is essential. It’s a gentler way of teaching young children to keep their attention centred on a given task than say just sitting them down with a text book but it will eventually transfer into all activities they do.
  • Confidence — my son was a very shy 3-year-old and had to start school a month after turning 4. He took quite a few weeks to settle his drama classes. He is now 7 and there is no doubt that his drama lessons have given him a huge boost in self-confidence. I burst with pride recently when watching his class assembly seeing him deliver his lines clearly and with such nonchalant confidence! This is undoubtedly in large part due to all the drama he has done in the last few years.
  • Physical skills and co-ordination — dance classes are great for helping young children become more coordinated and to be more aware of their bodies and posture. Dramatic play helps children develop both gross and fine motor skills.
  • Language development — Drama teaches and encourages expressive language. Children are motivated to communicate with their classmates and therefore must learn to speak from the perspective of their make-believe roles. Dramatic play is often a more relaxed place for children who are shy or withdrawn to learn how to participate in a group.

In order to work together in a dramatic play situation, children learn to use language in a natural way, to explain what they are doing. They learn to ask and answer questions and the words they use fit whatever role they are playing. Their vocabulary range grows as they begin to use new words appropriately. The importance of reading and writing skills in their everyday lives becomes evident by their use of literacy materials that fill the area. As their reading skills improve they will often read with far better expression than their peers who are not taking drama classes because they are used to bringing characters to life.

This has certainly been the case with my now 9-year-old daughter who reads every book out loud as if she’s on a stage. Every teacher she’s had in the last three years has commented on how she loves to read out loud in class, putting on different character voices and tones to suit different emotions!

  • Cognitive skills– When children are involved in make-believe play, they used their imagination and pictures in their mind to recreate personal experiences, as well as to imagine themselves in situations they have never been in. When children come together with experienced drama teachers in this form of play, they also learn how to share ideas, and solve problems together.

There are many other advantages that children will gain from drama classes at any age but these are specifically the main benefits I have seen in my own children who started drama from the age of 4. As the youngest children in their year I have seen how it has helped them catch up with the older children in their year too. It is probably the best activity I could have signed them up for.

Why not look into signing up your child for drama courses? It could be the activity that unlocks potential in your child in so many different areas of their school and personal lives.

I highly recommend Masquerade Theatre Arts – a highly professional but fun drama school with classes in Kingston and Ealing and a show every June at the Beck theatre in Hayes.

The birth of                          West London Kids

The birth of West London Kids

A marketing professional by background, I switched from the corporate world to running a nanny agency after my second child. Whilst running the agency I also did freelance marketing work with a party company, pre-school activity providers and a drama school.

In this new world of marketing services that really meant something to me, that I had seen first had benefit my own children, a light switched on! After five years of running the West London branch of Buttons Nanny Agency, I decided to sell my franchise and concentrate fully on providing marketing services to children’s brands, particularly children’s activities.

Fast forward 18 months and lots of time and money spent on personal development (it’s amazing how little you mind when it’s something you are passionate about), I decided to give Imposter Syndrome a final kick in the teeth and signed up to the expensive but well regarded Digital Mums course, to tick off any areas of development that I had identified in myself to become a more accomplished digital marketing manager.

When it came to choosing a campaign, I had a long think of other ideas, but I kept being drawn to doing something to do with children. In West London there’s a lot out there on social media for younger children but my two little cherubs are now 7 and 9. I am conscious of time speeding up and I’m keen to make more of our free time. I wanted to do something that would focus more on older children and how to expand their city kid horizons, so they make the most of living in London but also get away from screens, learn to enjoy being active from an early age, get more encouragement to be healthy in both mind, body and spirit from an early age.

More about me

I have lived in London for nearly 20 years now (yikes that’s scary to see in writing!) but I grew up both overseas. My junior school years were in Saudi Arabia, my free time spent mainly in a swimming pool or being dragged along on Hash House Harrier runs and walks in the searing hot desert by my father! The camping with friends was fun though and my childhood both there and subsequently in the green countryside of South Wales was very happy.

On our return to the UK, I was lucky enough to have a horse and a daft, lovable Golden Retriever dog. I spent a good proportion of my teenage years with friends riding outside in all weathers. We hacked, we competed, we went to Pony Club camp, even as we got older and had to multi task with sixth form partying! I could ride out in forests, open fields, commons, beaches and sand dunes, I was indeed very lucky. Although as I got into my mid teens I started to yearn to escape the small country market town of course, looking back it was a wonderfully safe environment to grow up in and once which encouraged my love of being outdoors.

Bringing up children in London

I have experienced mixed feelings about bringing up children in London. Our lovely area of Ealing has a friendly vibe and plenty of green spaces, but I know my children go older that they are going to have a very different teenage existence to mine. That said I am immensely proud of their rich view and knowledge of the world at such tender age. Neither of them is yet even 10 years old, but they are culturally very aware, love to learn about different customs, countries and languages and very open to new experiences and trying out different activities. They both have a fabulous, very diverse friendship group and on the whole I think they have amazing lives here in West London.

Our children have grandparents living in both Wales and in Somerset so they have had plenty of school holidays out of the city and get a beautiful balance that way. Of course, not every city child has the opportunity to spend much time in ‘proper countryside’, but I think there are many ways that the city and countryside can collide if we look for those places and try to both explore our own neighbourhoods — and perhaps venture a bit further out of our local rut more often!

So let’s celebrate our children’s good fortune to live in this green and family orientated corner of the greatest city in the world! Let’s inspire each other, get out and about, make the most of what is on our doorstep. But at the same time let’s try to practise mindfulness and be conscious of how are busy London lives can be a big stress on families. It’s good to get out of the city too and in West London there are a multitude of glorious places within easy reach by train or car.

It’s also about expanding our children’s minds with a variety of experiences from an early age. I’m a strong believer that it really helps a child to be involved in lots of different extra curricular activities. Not perhaps in Reception when they are so tired after school but pacing it to a level they can cope with — and enjoy! Mine do a whole host of different children’s activities from tennis, drama, swimming, football, horse riding and more. I am conscious that things will have to be dropped soon as homework demands grow more heavy in high school but for now they love all the activities they do and I see no reason (except perhaps tightening finances!) for changing that.

Something for all budgets

Every family has a different budget of course, but as West London families we have an abundance of choices in easy reach. Many activities are free from museums and galleries, street entertainers on the South Bank or Covent Garden, to the wealth of glorious parks, from central London to each and every corner of the city, you are never far from a free cultural activity, or a wide open green space in London. It’s just that life gets in the way a lot and we tend to just all into patterns of doing the same things in the same places. Nothing wrong with that per se, but sometimes it’s good to do something different right? To discover a new place to walk, play games or relax in a park, to see a new theatre show, or to learn something new in a free museum exhibition.

There are also an incredible variety of kids activities in West London. Every area has literally hundreds of options to choose from. It can be mind boggling but I think it’s good for children to try a range of different extra curricular activities when they are young. My rule is they can stop doing things but they have to finish the term (no flakiness!)

Benefits of extra-curricular activities

A drama class is about way more than teaching your children to perform on stage for example — it teaches them confidence, verbal skills, makes them happier to put their hand up in class, helps with their expression in reading, teaches empathy and how to deal with their emotions healthily.

Football is about learning to work as a team, coping with disappointment when you don’t win, keeping fit and dedication in all weathers. The transferable benefits of almost every children’s activity are huge. It’s well worth investing as much as you can afford in encouraging a wide variety of interests in children from an early age. They will always have this to fall bak on and sports, arts and other hobbies are so important for our mental health in an increasingly time-pressured world.

These days our state schools are so restricted by the tightening budgets curriculum, particularly from Year 3, that it’s increasingly important to make sure your child is doing some activities out of school to given them a more ‘rounded education’ than what school provides along. This doesn’t need to be fencing and sushi making (West London parents though we are!) and it doesn’t have to cost very much, or anything at all. If you have the time to put in (which I admittedly often don’t so hence outsourcing a lot of activities to children’s activity providers with far more skill and patience than I have!), you can do a lot of things for free or minimal cost, such as ball games in the park.

Other people are more creative home birds than I am, so if you love crafting, cooking and are more artistic than I am, there’s loads you can do with your children at home very cheaply and we can of course share ideas about that too. I personally would love some inspiration in this area, as doing creative activities at home is not really my forte (although with my children being now aged 7 and 9, I feel the moment has probably passed here). Open to trying it though so I will be looking out for content to share.

It’s all about balance …

Bringing up children in London (or any other big city) needs to be about balance, enjoying the wide variety of activities and experiences on offer, whilst maintaining sufficient time to relax together as a family, spending quality time together, either at home or by taking opportunities to get out into our more rural surroundings when we can. It doesn’t have to be massively expensive. If you don’t have a car, you could invest in a family railcard and there are loads of places in the Home Counties alone that you can easily explore together and get to very easily.

West London children really can have the best of both worlds!

Felicity

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