3 ways taking children to the theatre can boost their emotional development
Have you ever taken your child to the theatre?
There’s no doubt it can be a magical and memorable experience – but, according to experts, taking youngsters to watch a live performance could also provide a host of developmental benefits, including improved emotional intelligence and opportunities to discuss difficult subjects.
Add to that the fun – and bonding experience – both kids and parents can have from attending a live show, whether that’s a panto, play or a musical, and it’s clear that a trip to the theatre is a great family outing – particularly if you can grab a few cut-price tickets too.
However, new research shows nearly a third (30%) of parents say their child has never been to the theatre. Meanwhile, of the 70% of parents whose youngsters have seen live performances, 90% say their children get excited about going, and nearly one in five (19%) say they talk about the performance for months after seeing it (for years, in fact, in some cases).
The research by Encore Tickets, also found that 46% of parents enjoy going to the theatre with their child, because they believe it’s good for their development, and two-thirds say they enjoy it because it’s a family experience they can share together that brings happy memories.
Experts are in full agreement. Going to see live theatre shows can help aid children’s understanding of emotions, according to Birkbeck, University of London developmental psychologist, Dr Natasha Kirkham.
Kirkham, a researcher at Birkbeck’s Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, also says there’s clear evidence that attending theatre performances can help enhance social bonds, and play a useful role in helping children develop emotional intelligence. Here’s a closer look at how going to the theatre can be great for kids…
1. It helps family bonding and strengthens relationships
Research by University College London shows those who attend the theatre together will synchronise their heart rates, which is shown to promote affiliation (close connection) and social bonding. Kirkham explains: “When people behave similarly, they perceive each other as more alike, which in turn creates a sense of connection or attachment. Going to the theatre with family and friends can therefore offer the potential of promoting relationships, in addition to the already known benefits of spending time as a family.”
This has clear implications for child development, she adds, given that childhood is a vital time for forming social groups and bonding. She points out that developmental psychologists have known for years that play-acting is a fundamental part of development, allowing children to engage in different personalities, work their way through complex social relationships and navigate emotional issues. “It’s exciting to consider that attending the theatre could offer some of the same benefits,” says Kirkham.
2 . It helps improve emotional intelligence
The narrative of performances can bring to life the most dramatic yet distressing issues that people experience. Topics such as love and friendship, bullying, violence and experiencing the death of a loved one can all feature in theatre productions, all of which play out the emotions involved and often the consequences. And by witnessing these sorts of topics, but in a fun and safe environment like the theatre, children can access unfamiliar emotions, even more effectively than when reading stories.
A study by the University of Arkansas found that when primary and secondary school pupils saw Hamlet or A Christmas Carol, they had enhanced knowledge of the plot and vocabulary in the plays, greater tolerance, and improved ability to read the emotions of others. The researchers, led by Jay Greene, a professor of education reform, concluded: “Seeing plays is an effective way to teach academic content; increases student tolerance by providing exposure to a broader, more diverse world; and improves the ability of students to recognise what other people are thinking or feeling. These are significant benefits.”
3. It opens up conversations around difficult yet important subjects
The Encore Tickets research demonstrated that seeing a theatre performance can have a lasting impression, as children often spoke about what they saw for months, sometimes even years, afterwards. Kirkham says this shows the impact a story performance can have on a child, and how – by exposing them to things – theatre can help enable open discussions about subjects that can be tricky to bring up.
Kirkham says that after the children, parents and teachers had been to see a play that discussed bullying and violence, she conducted workshops and group interviews on these topics at primary schools in 10 inner-city areas with high violent crime rates.
“By attending a play that discussed these pertinent issues, the children, their parents and teachers were able to engage in dialogue about the gap between what the children were experiencing and what the adults were seeing,” says Kirkham. “Taken together, this suggests an evident benefit of theatre attendance for children, across a range of developmental areas. Theatre can improve social bonding, allow for emotions to be explored in a safe space, and kick-start conversations about important issues.”
The Press Association
Latest posts by The Press Association (see all)
- World Diabetes Day: Could you name the 7 subtle signs of the illness? - November 14, 2018
- 12 things you should know about the flu virus - November 14, 2018
- Charles enjoys giggles with grandson George as family photos mark 70th birthday - November 14, 2018
- Wet wipes, and 6 other things you really shouldn’t be flushing down the toilet - November 13, 2018
- As salsify makes a comeback, here’s how you can cook with it - November 12, 2018
Leave a Comment!
Community Terms & Conditions
These content standards apply to any and all material which you contribute to our site (contributions), and to any interactive services associated with it.
You must comply with the spirit of the following standards as well as the letter. The standards apply to each part of any contribution as well as to its whole.
be accurate (where they state facts); be genuinely held (where they state opinions); and comply with applicable law in the UK and in any country from which they are posted.
Contributions must not:
contain any material which is defamatory of any person; or contain any material which is obscene, offensive, hateful or inflammatory; or promote sexually explicit material; or promote violence; promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age; or infringe any copyright, database right or trade mark of any other person; or be likely to deceive any person; or be made in breach of any legal duty owed to a third party, such as a contractual duty or a duty of confidence; or promote any illegal activity; or be threatening, abuse or invade another’s privacy, or cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety; or be likely to harass, upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person; or be used to impersonate any person, or to misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person; or give the impression that they emanate from us, if this is not the case; or advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act such as (by way of example only) copyright infringement or computer misuse.
Nurturing a safe environment
Our Silversurfers community is designed to foster friendships, based on trust, honesty, integrity and loyalty and is underpinned by these values.
We don't tolerate swearing, and reserve the right to remove any posts which we feel may offend others... let's keep it friendly!