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.