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The Effects of Theatre on Children

By , Yorktown, NY
Little kids are like little people. They have their own personalities, with their little quirks as well as their little hobbies. They react to situations and are influenced by their surroundings and peers. They are able to demonstrate this through theatre. This gives them an opportunity to discover themselves and others around them. Theatre is a positive outlet in which children can express their feelings and be who they want to be through singing, dancing and acting. Theatre gives children an opportunity to shine as well as work in group. It has a way of impacting all who gives theatre a chance and leaves them with life changing experiences. I believe this because I have been going to theatre camp almost all my life, and now work , as a councilor, at the camp. I have discovered a world of difference in my growing up experience, as well as those of others who I have worked with.By working at the theatre camp,I have noticed that theatre affects children in three major ways, emotionally, socially and educationally. I have noticed that once a child is exposed to theatre their life is benefited and positively chanced.
The theatre camp I work at consist of sessions of two weeks each throughout the whole summer which teaches singing, dancing and acting techniques . There is a voice instructor, dance instructor and improve instructor as well as theatre crafts, lunch and free time to just play games. Throughout the day we alternate to each workshop which is approximately 45 minutes long. The groups range from Group 1 (the youngest,ages 5-7) to Group 6(the oldest, ages 11-13) (I specifically am a Group 1 councilor ). Each group receives two scenes from the given play being produced. Each child in the group gets a their own chance to shine by being given one line each. This allows each child to equally contribute to the show and not feel like one child is better or more special than another. They practice this in the improve workshop. This workshop is where the child is helped to become familiar with the lines and teach them fun theatre games. Along with the two scenes the groups get, they also learn a choreographed dance to go along with the scene. They learn the lyrics to the song and learn how to sing and dance (at the same time). They learn the parts of the stage by moving in the dance up and down the stage. In between the learning of the dancing, singing and their lines, we give them a break by teaching them theatre crafts. Theater crafts consist of face painting, picture frames with their picture in it where they are displayed in the lobby during the show, masks, visors and door hangers, just for fun! Although, we are a theatre camp, we teach much more than just theatre. We teach friendship, teamwork, positive attitude and self esteem. Children of each group get a chance to bond and really get to know one another. They work together to learn their line and help each other with the dance by using teamwork. By working at this camp i have noticed that theatre is a bridge which links learning and social behaviors, especially with the young children .

This theatre camp affects these young children emotionally. They strive for perfection. I have seen that they get upset and disappointed when they mess up their line. They will sit there and practice it over and over until they got it perfected. They have such a great deal of determination for such young child. But once they reach their goal, they are the happiest children ever. They have smiles ear to ear and feel accomplished and joyful. I was surprised to discover that most children are indeed hard on themselves. They don’t like being embarrassed in front of other children their age. They get really shy when they make a mistake. But when their councilors praise them, they become confident again. The children look up to me and the other councilors. They want our opinion and our approval of their actions. They want us to be proud of them and when we are, their self esteem skyrockets. Although they seem like they have everything under control, we still have to remember that they are five, six and seven year olds. They amaze me how much they can do at such a young age. We make sure we give them plenty of “game breaks” and “free time” as a result for doing such a great job. This gives them opportunity to relax and have a break. This is done, so they don’t get upset, tired and overworked. Therefore, children are emotionally influenced by theatre in many ways.

Children who participate in theatre camp are also affected socially. I have noticed that they are very helpful to one another. If a child is unsure of their lines or the dance or even song, other children around them will help them. It is the most adorable thing, to see other children around them trying to help them learn the dance, song or their line. There are always the children who make rude remarks to the children who have a hard time catching up the the group’s speed, but we sit them down and explain to them everyone is different and are good at different things. We make them apologise and most of the time, the situation is solved. It is also nice to see, that at that young age materialistic items don’t matter. Children of all different social status’ play together. Not one child is excluded from the group. The children are all extremely friendly to one another. If there is a child sitting alone, another child goes up to invite them over. They are very sensitive to other’s feelings and seem to understand each other. It is touching to see this at such a young age because once children grow up, they start to become egocentric and think more and more of themselves. These children are very sociable for such a young age, and it is so cute to watch them in action.

Although they all get along together, I have noticed that age makes a significant impact between them. Even though the children are in a three year age range, I can see the difference between the five year olds and the seven year olds. The five year olds have shorter sentences and more fragments. They speak more softer and are less confident in their thoughts and actions. They seem to be more attached to the councilors and look for their attention constantly. These younger children want to be close to us councilors because it makes them feel safer and protected. Also, while dancing, their movements are smaller and less sharp and accurate. Their memory of remembering the dances are not as strong and their rhythm during the dances are not accurate. The older children of the group, on the other hand are more independent. They’d rather spend time with the other children in the group then the councilors . They don't crave our attention constantly. They also have stronger sentence structure and more stronger opinions. Most of the time, they are the ones that are the loudest and most talkative, making them more difficult to handle. This is so because they have stronger opinions and beliefs, making them think they are better than others. Their sense of rhythm is better then the five year olds and have more sharper hand motions as well as a greater ability to remember the dances. Therefore, between the three years of the group, the children are very different from one another.

I have also noticed that there is a difference between children in theatre camp’s literacy rate. Literacy is necessary for theatre because they need to be able to read their own lines. Although, some children truly struggle with it. That is where the councilors come in. We help the campers and get them confident with the lines. There are two different groups of children concerning literacy. Those are, the children who can read and the children who struggle . While practicing, the group of children who can read, are able to say their lines with enthusiasm. This is so because they don't struggle over reading the words. This gives them the option to work on other aspects of the line they have. This comes in handy because then us councilors don't need to work with them that much on the lines and focus on having fun with them. The children who struggle reading on the other hand, need repetition and practice with their lines. This takes more time and effort for the child and us councilors. They mostly struggle with the words and straggle over the line, unsure of how to pronounce it within each time they do it. By watching each group carefully, I have concluded, that once it was show time, the children who had a hard time saying their lines ended up saying them perfectly on stage. Some of the children who read the lines perfectly each time practiced ended up getting stage fright and unsure of their words. They needed a councilor's help. This was interesting to see because they were the the children who were perfect readers and perfect speakers. It could possibly be because they weren't use to a big crowd with bright lights and the high pressure or maybe another totally different reason. Either way, this was a very interesting situation expressed at theatre camp that I would like to further investigation.

These three examples of theatre affecting children, are just three of many more. There is so much that theatre has to offer children of all ages. In all aspects of life children are affected by theatre. Theatre is beneficial to children and can open their world to new surroundings. They can learn better by this way of teaching and can improve in their behaviors and their academics. This is an easy way for children to be influenced to culture, as well as better their own life. I have seen how theatre has affected many young children, as well as my self and my brother and some close friends. I am positive that if a child is exposed to theatre, it will make a world of difference and chance their life significantly.





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