Why Children Should Be in Theatre

By Shreya Shivashankar

Haim Ginott, a world renowned child psychologist and parent educator, once said, “Children are like wet cement. Whatever falls on them makes an impression.” During their formative years, children are rapidly developing segments of their personality, such as their creativity, imagination, morals, empathy and many other characteristics that shape who they are. What better environment for a child to do that in, than in the world of the performing arts, especially in the magical expanse of the theatre.

Tina Treasuryvala, who founded Starkids Speech and Drama Academy in 2001, kindly lets us in and gives us a glimpse of children in theatre and the attributes they may pick up during their time there.

The foremost benefit that the child receives through performing in the theatre is confidence and high self-esteem. “We’ve had kids who are so shy, who refused to get off their chairs for 3 months and a year down the line they’re participating in our annual show,” Tina recalls fondly. A study done at the National Theatre in London showed that children who performed in theatre had higher levels of self-esteem and an increased aptitude for listening and speaking. Performing in front of a live audience can greatly contribute to a child’s confidence and charisma which also improves their diction, pronunciation and memorisation abilities.

Another characteristic trait that children develop is empathy. Empathy is a human quality that can be the most difficult to teach, however the theatre grows and nurtures empathetic children. Tina explains, “They are constantly role-playing, which helps to put themselves in another person’s shoes.” Participating in musicals or plays about human struggles exposes children to feelings that they themselves might have not experienced, thereby generating empathy and respect within them for the characters that they portray.

Teamwork is another key skill that children pick up during their time in the theatre. Tina points out that, “Kids learn to depend on each other for cues, blocking positions and by the end of the production they are one big happy family.” A production can only run smoothly when all children involved play their part, giving them a true sense of responsibility. Regularly participating in teamwork also fosters various other qualities in children such as exercising patience for others, being collaborative, accepting and appreciating different perspectives, and building their time management skills.

Tina also educates us on how the theatre creates a stress-free environment for children. “It’s a very nonthreatening atmosphere where there are no wrong answers. The sky can be brown, the grass can be pink. There is absolutely no pressure in a drama class.” The uniqueness and flamboyance of a child are not only accepted but celebrated in such an environment. It can be hugely liberating, especially for a child, to be encouraged to step on a stage and just be free and let go. This stress-free ambiance also conceives comradery amongst children and friendships that they might cherish for the rest of their lives.

Last but certainly not the least, performing in theatre immensely boosts creative thinking in children. “They are constantly stimulating their creativity and developing their thinking skills - something they may not [always] do in school,” Tina informs us. Drama classes also plant the seed of divergent thinking in children. Divergent thinking refers to coming up with multiple different answers or to thinking out of the box. Participating in scripted theatre or improvisational theatre promotes this kind of thinking in a child and helps them expand their imagination and creativity.

Tina mentions that, “Kids are wonderful and I absolutely love working with them. Yes, every child should join a theatre program. If you want your child to realise his or her true potential, a speech and drama class is a must.”

Conversing with Tina made me realise that drama teachers are a genre of their own. They are fascinatingly different from any others a child may have encountered at school. A theatre teacher/instructor is expressive, accepting, emotionally present and enthusiastic to inspire their students. This forms a wonderful space for children to develop positive characteristics. While attending drama classes and performing in the theatre can be a fun extracurricular activity for children, it is crystal clear that it also provides enormous benefits to their personality development. It would be a good choice for parents to recognise this and encourage their children to explore the curious and compelling field of theatre.

Editorial Desk

Editorial Desk