By Alison Moulton
1. Explore early. From the time your children are babies, play a variety of musical styles in your home. Explore diverse stations on online streaming services, or check out CDs from the library to listen to classical, jazz, zydeco, folk, or bluegrass music.
2. Go hands-on. Allow children to finger paint, make collages, and sculpt with clay. Let them bang on pots and pans or shake maracas in time to music, or visit a musical art park to explore sound and rhythm. Dance around the house together. Sing as you go about your day. Record silly songs or skits your children create. Let them explore and experience the joy of music, theater, dance, and art as part of your family culture.
3. Channel surf. Use car rides to expose older children to different musical genres with a “Music Critic Club.” Channel surf the radio among diverse stations. After each song, ask kids to rate the song from 1 to 10 and give reasons for their rating. Discuss each song, then explore a new station.
4. Start outside. Outdoor community concerts are a perfect way to begin attending arts events with young children. Explore free concerts at Indian Creek Plaza in Caldwell and other outdoor venues, or attend a free outdoor band concert or symphony performance. Summertime, especially, offers many opportunities for live music around the valley. Children can move more freely in outdoor settings, and snacks can help keep their attention. Attending outdoor visual art events, like Art in the Park, can also give young children experience with art in a more casual setting if they aren’t ready for a traditional museum. (Art in the Park is set for September 6-8 at Julia Davis Park in Boise.)
5. Attend abbreviated performances or family nights. Many organizations offer abbreviated performances, or performances especially for young people. Caldwell Fine Arts offers a 1-hour “Nutcracker Ballet” that is ideal for a younger audience and families on a budget. The Boise Philharmonic offers a family Pops concert, and Idaho Shakespeare Festival offers Family Nights where children under 6 are welcome.
6. Call ahead with questions. Most arts organizations will be glad to answer questions about whether a performance is appropriate for children. Go ahead and ask if there is an intermission, if you can request an aisle seat, or if they offer booster seats. You can also ask questions about content such as language or adult situations. They’ll be happy to make sure that a performance is a good for your children.
7. Prepare. Even young children can enjoy concerts, plays, and exhibits with proper preparation. Pre-teach your child etiquette on an age-appropriate level so they’ll feel comfortable and know how to behave in a new situation. If possible, listen to recordings of music they’ll hear, or learn about the life of an artist they’ll see. Providing context for a performance can help keep their attention throughout the performance. For young children, it may be wise to pack a small book to read or notebook to color in as a backup plan in case they grow restless.
Don’t hesitate to experience the arts with your family! Your child might just surprise you with his or her willingness to experience something new. With a little help from you, your child can gain confidence and become an arts-savvy kid.
Alison Moulton is executive director of Caldwell Fine Arts. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.