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dance & Art

benefits of dance in young people

For the love of dance

By children's health, dance & Art, Mental health, Music and singing, play, Theatre

Learning to dance is not just about mastering choreography or moving to the rhythm; it offers numerous physical, emotional and cognitive benefits, making it a valuable and enjoyable activity for children.

Here are some compelling reasons why children should learn to dance:

• Physical fitness
Dance is an excellent form of physical exercise that helps children develop strength, flexibility, and co-ordination. It promotes cardiovascular health, enhances muscle tone, and aids in maintaining a healthy body weight. Regular dancing can instill healthy habits that may last a lifetime.

• Motor skills development
Dancing requires precise movements and control of various body parts. As children learn different dance styles, they improve their fine and gross motor skills, which are essential for everyday activities like writing, playing sports, and self-care.

• Balance and posture
Dance teaches children how to maintain good posture and balance. These skills are not only beneficial for their physical wellbeing but also for their overall self-confidence and how they carry themselves in everyday life.

• Self-expression
Dance provides a creative outlet for children to express their emotions and feelings. It allows them to communicate without words, helping them develop emotional intelligence and self-awareness. Dance can also be very therapeutic and a great way for children to process their emotions.

• Confidence building
As children learn and perform dance routines, they gain self-assurance. The applause and positive feedback they receive boost their self-esteem and help them become more comfortable in social situations.

• Social skills
Dance classes often involve group activities and performances, which encourage teamwork and co-operation. Children learn to work together, support each other, and build friendships through shared experiences.

• Discipline and focus
Dance requires discipline and concentration. Learning complex choreography and striving for improvement instills a strong work ethic in children. They also learn the value of patience and practice as they work towards mastering dance techniques.

• Cultural awareness
Dance is a global language that transcends borders and cultures. By learning different dance styles, children gain an appreciation for the diversity of world cultures and traditions. This exposure can promote tolerance and open-mindedness.

• Stress reduction
Dancing is a joyful and fun activity that can act as a stress reliever. It allows children to forget their worries, even if just for a little while, and experience the joy of movement and music.

• Boosted memory and cognitive skills
Dance involves memorising sequences, steps and patterns, which can improve memory and cognitive function. It challenges the brain and enhances problem-solving abilities and cognitive flexibility.

• Creativity and imagination
Dance encourages creativity and imagination. Children often have the opportunity to choreograph their movements, fostering creativity and critical thinking.

• Lifelong love for the arts
Early exposure to dance can cultivate a lifelong appreciation for the arts. It may inspire children to explore other artistic forms such as music, theatre or visual arts.

• Career opportunities
For some children, dance can become a lifelong passion and even a career. Professional dance opportunities include becoming a dancer, choreographer, dance instructor or even working in the entertainment industry.

So, learning to dance is definitely not just about the physical movements; it’s about developing a holistic set of skills that benefit children in various aspects of their lives. It nurtures their physical health, emotional wellbeing and cognitive development while fostering self-expression, discipline and a lifelong love for the art form. Whether dancing for fun, self-expression or professional aspirations, the benefits of dance make it a valuable addition to any child’s life.

panto time

Panto time – oh yes it is!

By Christmas, dance & Art, Mental health, Music and singing, Playing, Relationships, Theatre
by Nicola Thornton
Ropetackle Arts Centre

Where’s the one place you can take all the family at Christmas and be guaranteed they will crack a smile, even those that don’t like smiling? (I’m looking at you, too-cool teenagers!)

Yes, it’s the Christmas pantomime! An explosion of noise, dry-ice, jokes, music, cheesy scripts, creaking sets and gaudy costumes that any other time of year might have us running for the hills, but at Christmas it is suddenly the best thing you’ll ever do.

panto sussexIt starts the minute you arrive at the venue. The staff and volunteers all have bright eyes and wide grins that actually look genuine, the café or kiosk is serving Christmas-themed cookies and cupcakes and Christmas pudding flavoured ice-cream. The bar is serving large glasses of everything, including delicious mulled wine. The smell of excited anticipation is everywhere.

As you take your seat, the questions start. Child number 1: “What’s behind that curtain?” Child number 2: “I think I do want to go to the loo now, can you please take me?” Spouse: “Have you got a wet-wipe?” Grandparent: “Are you sure you won’t get a parking ticket?”
Teen: “Why am I here again?”

As you answer them all with a wide grin that looks anything but genuine, something starts to happen in the wings. The curtain goes up, the lights go down and you’re off – off to that land of chaos, magic, satin, glitter and glitz, where nothing is real. You encounter a beautiful princess, a handsome prince, perhaps a genie or fairy godmother, a clown who keeps tripping up, two ends of an animal costume and some sprightly young dancers.

An ample-bosomed Dame – who often looks better than you on a good day – points out to the audience, hands-on hips – animated and proud – and keeps the show, and the gags, on the road. The villain – boo! hiss! – is dressed in black velvet and has your youngest hiding behind their hands but loving them at the same time.

You stomp, you shout, you tell them “He’s behind you!”, you laugh, you groan. You sing, you clap, you watch, you join in, and you chuckle at something that has made the Dame crease up. You pity the poor bloke two rows in front who gets mercilessly picked on and then cheer at his good-sportiness as the audience applaud. You sneak a peek at everyone in your group and you notice one thing: they are all, bar no one, absolutely caught up in the moment.

You find yourself caring that the leading character reaches their goal and lives happily ever after. You want the villain to learn a lesson and become a better person. You believe in the power of community and people working together to make a dream come true. You look around and see the same hope, joy, and wishes on everyone’s face. Pantomime is a universal, unifying experience and the joy is contagious.

At the interval, the clamber for the loos and refreshments is a messy one. Everyone discusses their favourite character, that bit that happened that clearly wasn’t in the script, the Dame’s eyelashes that look like spiders and the brilliant dancing. The fact Evie from child number 1’s class is sitting two rows behind. The noise is heightened, the excitement palpable.

The second half starts with gusto and you’re off again. The set has changed from a forest to a castle. Everyone has a different costume on, especially the Dame, who is now on her fourth outfit of the evening. There’s a touching moment when the clown and the leading light, fed up with being misunderstood by everyone else, vow to be BFFs. There’s more laughs, more slapstick, more props, more getting up and singing along – more fun, more games. There’s a moment when the leading couple find each other, against all the odds, and everyone breathes a huge sigh of relief. It’s all going to be OK.

The finale is here. The part where everyone is on stage at the same time, where a wedding may or may not take place. Where the princess looks the prettiest she has ever looked, the prince the most handsome. The costumes have changed again. The Dame makes another grand entrance; this time in her biggest, flounciest wig. The villain is welcomed, having changed for the better, learned the error of their ways. The silliest song gets sung again (and again) and you get on your feet and all join in. You catch your teen’s eye and they smile a real smile, a child again in an unguarded moment.

You wave, clap and whoop as the cast take their bows. The lights go up, the curtain falls, you gather up your brood and weave through to the exit. Two hours of escapism now over as you head back home – tired and happy, with a ringing in your ears. Another family memory made – and that repetitious song inside your head till spring…

Ropetackle Arts Centre, Shoreham-by-Sea, W. Sussex is a vibrant performing arts venue that prides itself on being family friendly.

Find out more at www.ropetacklecentre.co.uk

Lion king actor

More than just a story… The importance of drama

By Christmas, dance & Art, Education, family, Music and singing, Theatre

by Jess Wittert
Prep School Head of Drama, St Catherine’s Prep School

Each summer term, many primary and prep schools end their Year 6 KS2 journey with a public performance of a musical, play or even a pantomime. This is not because teachers have run out of curriculum content at the end of Year 6, or that we want all students to go on to be actors! So, why has this become a convention? In short, ‘putting on’ a play can be an incredibly rich learning experience for young people, whilst it is also an opportunity to stretch and challenge students in a range of capacities.

Stories have an important place in helping children and adults alike to understand the world we live in. Through stories we are invited to explore different cultures, characters, relationships and emotions. We can travel to new places and realms. They aid us in evolving an enhanced appreciation of ourselves and the roles we can adopt amongst our peers. Every year, I choose the story that my students will discover through our production with great care. Often, coming-of-age tales seem incredibly relevant; stories where characters go on rich adventures, face complex challenges and have no choice but to learn and grow from their mistakes. Tales where characters must work together to achieve a common goal, or where children’s voices hold important messages that are heard by the adults around them are also subjects that young people connect with and are inspired by.

If every opportunity is seized, there is wonderful scope for creating a powerful cross-curricular approach to developing a show. By learning about the literature, history, art, music, and dance that surrounds a story, we cultivate an appreciation for traditions, beliefs, design and stagecraft. As part of the preparations for our school’s recent production of The Lion King this term, the girls studied the patterns, designs and colours used in African prints before creating their own designs for fabrics, masks and marketing materials. They studied each character in the script and crafted symbols and emblems to represent them; meticulously forming links between characters who were related or belonged to the same group. Later, these were hand printed onto fabrics using block printing techniques so that they could finally be made into the cast’s costumes. Through workshops with external educators, they learnt about the importance and significance of symbolism in Adinkra printing; the rhythms and collective energy used in African drumming; and the storytelling techniques, as well as traditional movements, that can be generated through dance. We focused on the importance of recycling materials and made masks and props out of plastic milk bottles. This process was amazing – our girls were captivated by the transformation achieved with these simple objects. In addition to this, by singing songs in African dialects, we enhanced our understanding and appreciation of sounds and languages. The opportunities for extending the students’ learning through stimulating and interlinked topics are boundless.

One of the most significant aspects of all the productions that I have been privileged enough to be involved with has been the way in which the whole school community comes together to contribute towards the show. All who take part bring their own zeal, interests and attributes; we encourage everyone to become involved in an aspect of the show which they are passionate about or challenged by. Not all students, for example, want to take part as performers so they choose to acquire talents as stage managers, puppeteers, or technical assistants. Watching everyone discover what they can achieve as part of these ventures is brilliant.

It is always my hope to inspire confidence in all my students so that they leave the prep school feeling that they can achieve anything that they set their minds to. By working together as a large team with their peers, teachers, parents and helpers, they appreciate that a broad breadth of skills should be brought to any project. That being part of a community, creating links in one’s learning and sharing rich experiences is not only life enhancing but also empowering.

Before our most recent production, an 11 year old student came to my desk. “Thank you,” she said, “I really didn’t want to do it but now, it’s my destiny.” She was referring, rather effusively, to our recent Year 6 theatre production and her calling to be part of future theatrical casts. Why was she so gushing, you may ask? One could make many assumptions as to where her enthusiasm stemmed from, but simply, the experience of being part of an ensemble cast, rehearsing, crafting and performing our musical had given her a deeper sense of self-confidence, a keen interest in stagecraft, a wonderful feeling of accomplishment and team spirit, whilst she had learnt a great deal. Yet, most importantly, the event had brought real joy. Understandably, she wished that she could relive this process all over again, moving from perceived dread to elation!

“I’m going to audition for everything I can,” were the last words my student said to me as she left my desk. What a wonderful metaphor for life.

St Catherine’s Prep extend a warm welcome to parents who would like to see what this actually looks like here at St Catherine’s, Bramley with regular Open Mornings. Please visit our website for further dates and information www.stcatherines.info

dicvk whittington actor

Is live theatre the key to empathy and academic achievement in children?

By Christmas, dance & Art, family, Music and singing, Party, Theatre

by Summer Jeavons
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

During the past few years countless children have missed out on trips to the theatre – whether with their family or on school trips – due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many things have changed during that time, but can we afford to let children and young people miss out on the experience of seeing live theatre? Dr Natasha Kirkham, a professor in Developmental Psychology at Birkbeck University doesn’t think so. She conducted a study in 2017 which that found taking children to see theatre can significantly positively affect their academic performance as well as allowing them to develop their social, emotional and cognitive skills.

In terms of the benefits of theatre on academic achievement and comprehension of set texts, seeing a play live in the theatre rather than on a screen has been found to improve children’s academic performance and engagement with set texts, as well as allowing them to achieve a deeper understanding and appreciation of the material. A two-year study conducted by the Brookings Institute found that increases in arts learning, such as engagement with theatre, significantly affect students’ school engagement, university aspirations and their likelihood of drawing on works of art as a means of empathising with others.

Exposing children and young people to theatre was also found to be a powerful tool for facilitating their self-efficacy (an individual’s belief in their capacity to act in the ways necessary to reach a specific goal) to promote positive social change, improving their ability to discuss complex and difficult subjects as well as developing their empathy.

Children’s empathy and emotional intelligence are developed through everyday interaction but they are also nurtured by music, books, and in particular, watching live theatre performances. When watching characters interact on stage, we as the audience connect with them and experience what they are thinking and feeling as if we were thinking or feeling it ourselves – we are practicing how to understand others. Having a safe space to explore difficult emotions is essential to strengthening empathetic muscles and live theatre provides the perfect platform for this. Bill English, founder of the San Francisco Playhouse, states that: “Theatre is like a gym for empathy. It’s where we go to build up the muscles of compassion, to practice listening and understanding and engaging with people that are not just like ourselves. We practice sitting down, paying attention and learning from other people’s actions. We practice caring.”

Theatre nowadays is more accessible to children and young people than ever. With shows to cater for all ages – from theatre designed for babies and toddlers, to stage adaptations of the nation’s favourite children’s books – the world of the stage is increasingly one that children and young people are welcomed into and inspired by. For older children and teenagers, theatre can start to rationalise and provide context to the complex world around them, often representing their own experiences and allowing them to feel heard and that their voices have value. At a time when they are likely to be struggling to establish their identity, theatre can be absolutely invaluable.

Taking your family to the theatre can be a fantastic way of making lasting memories and spending real quality time together. For children (and grownups!) going to see a play feels like something special, something out of the ordinary. Whether it’s the grandeur of the building itself, finding your red velvet seats or begging for a tub of ice cream in the intermission, the experience of going to the theatre is something unique before the play has even begun.

And when it comes to Christmas, there’s nothing quite as magical as taking the kids along to see a festive pantomime. Local pantos have become an institution for many families, coming along every year for adventures with all the sparkles, songs and slapstick silliness you could ask for with everyone from children to grandparents in tow! At a time when everyone is being brought together, there’s nothing quite like a panto to get the whole family humming festive tunes and full of cheer ready for the big day. With true love, a comedy dame, a grand adventure, spectacular dance routines and a heart-warming moral at the core of the story, there’s something for everyone.

Whatever age your kids are, there is always something valuable to be found from seeing theatre. Whether it’s engaging their imaginations and allowing them to dream, opening their minds to others’ perspectives or helping them to engage with and enjoy the texts they are studying at school, the experience of seeing live theatre is unequalled.

The magic of pantomime is something the whole family can enjoy and at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre it’s always wonderful to see multi-generational families in the audience. The theatre has lots of upcoming family shows, including festive panto Jack and the Beanstalk! www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk

 

 

ugly sisters

The power of panto!

By Christmas, Comedy, dance & Art, family, fun for children, Theatre

by The Capitol, Horsham
images by Toby Phillips Photography

For many children the only time of year they will visit their local theatre is to see a pantomime, often as a school trip, so it’s important their experience is a good one and one where some lifetime memories will be made.

Can you cast your mind back and remember the first ever pantomime you saw?

The magic of live theatre is as salient for children as it’s ever been, providing time away from screens, mobile devices and their day-to-day world into a place which is new and exciting, lots of fun and encourages imagination.

Pantomime provides a chance for children to come together with all generations of their families to see a live show which will make everyone laugh, sing along and feel happy.

The word ‘pantomime’ comes from the Greek word ‘pantomimos’, which meant a dancer who acted all the roles in the story. Pantomime, as a type of theatre, originates from ‘Commedia dell’Arte’, a 16th-century Italian entertainment which used dance, music, tumbling, acrobatics and featured a cast of mischievous characters including a Harlequin, a mute, quick-witted rascal who carried a magic bat, wore a mask and dressed in clothes made of patches.

Until 1843, theatre licensing restricted the use of spoken word in pantomime. The Theatres Act lifted the restriction, allowing any theatre without a royal patent to produce a play with dialogue.

Today the basis of a good pantomime has a storyline of good versus evil often derived from a fairy tale or nursery story. It includes colourful costumes, dancing, topical jokes with good measures of slapstick comedy, special effects and, of course, lots of audience participation.

Audience participation is important as it offers the chance for children to interact with the cast and the rest of the audience who are encouraged to boo the baddie, argue with the Dame and warn the Principal Boy the villain is near them by shouting out “He’s behind you!”

From daylight into darkness through the entrance doors, a theatre provides a sensory experience – the background music in the foyer, the smell of popcorn and pyrotechnics, the velvety feel of the theatre seats, the excitement building up to the curtain rise, flashing lights, glittery scenery and a tasty ice cream during the interval.

It’s a chance for children to see scenes brought to life with magical characters, fairies, heroes, heroines, eccentric costumes and to see things they would normally only read about in books or see in films.

Studies have proven that people who visit theatres as children are more likely to book theatre tickets throughout their adult lives broadening their cultural outlook.

In theatre and drama classes, pantomime can help develop nonverbal communication, concentration and the ability to put action and thought together. Pantomime can be incorporated in most lesson plans to encourage the students to engage in some fun and learn at the same time.

The theatre is a powerful space and can have a massive impact on a younger audience. Some children are completely overwhelmed by it all but others become curious and want answers to lots of questions: “How can I get up there to sing and dance?” “How do those lights work?” “Where does the sound come from?” “How did the baddie just ‘disappear’ off stage?”

A visit to the theatre can often spark an interest which leads to a hobby or even a pathway to a career. Drama generally builds confidence and helps concentration, develops language, communication skills, coordination and emotional intelligence helping children to understand the world around them.

With theatres being closed for such a long time during the COVID pandemic, it made many of us realise how much we missed it when it was swiped from our day-to-day lives.

Matthew Effemey, Venue and Operations Manager at The Capitol, Horsham where Cinderella will run from 8-31 December said “It’s a great responsibility to introduce the joy of pantomime to a younger audience at an impressionable age, so a good theatre must ensure that the overall experience is one to remember.”

Cinderella will run from 8th -31st December at The Capitol, Horsham www.thecapitolhorsham.com

 

dancing tutu

Dance is good for the soul

By dance & Art, fun for children, Mental health
by Lynda Forster
Dance Art Studio

Exactly what benefits can dance classes offer kids? The list is endless and not just about learning a few steps to perform… Apart from the physical elements of helping to keep them fit and active, dance is also proven to benefit their mental health and social skills which is something we should all be focusing on more during these times.

Children always leave a dance class happy and relaxed even if they’ve had an ‘off’ day or they’ve been feeling a little reluctant to join in at the beginning of the lesson. Whilst engaged in the lesson, the movements produce endorphins which channels their negative energy into a positive calm and those feelings of stress and anxiety will soon disappear, so not only are they staying physically healthy they are staying mentally healthy in a fun way, learning a new skill.

It takes time and lots of patience to master new steps. When children listen to music and learn a dance to its rhythms – it stimulates their brain which improves their cognitive abilities. Children are constantly reminded about when they were babies they fell over many times until they could walk properly, they kept practising until they could and this seems to resonate with them. These are coping mechanisms which are valuable life skills.

Feeling healthier both physically and mentally will push them towards great things in the future. Working in a consistent lesson setting will also help your child’s self-esteem grow as they dance and share ideas with their friends and peers. An atmosphere of trust and support is necessary for a dance group – that feeling of support, community and camaraderie is also beneficial towards their mental wellbeing when outside of their normal comfort zones.

So many wonderful friendships can be formed through this physical art form, the emotional connection of creating movement together and sharing ideas is therapeutic. For younger children this will involve something as simple as galloping in pairs, waiting their turn and then both working together trying to win ‘stars of the lesson’. These could be awarded for the happiest dancing smile, the pointiest toes or the best posture, and for older children there are mimes, choreography tasks to encourage expression and creative thinking. Eventually leading them through to having a dance exam partner throughout their grades, this can be for 10 or more years, so having someone to share the same experiences and love is truly magical for them – many of our past students remain friends in adulthood.

Being a dance student certainly keeps them busy and during their tween and teens years they’ll hopefully prefer spending their spare time rehearsing with their network of dance friends rather than slouching around on their phones looking at negative social media posts and constantly comparing themselves to others – so investing in dance lessons certainly has an endless list of positives. For you, seeing your child develop from a preschool ballet and dance movement class through to a young person able to perform ballet en pointe or tap dance and shine on stage is a wonderful journey.

Recent studies suggest continuing dance and exercise during important academic exams such as GCSE’s can help to re-focus, lay down information in the brain and subsequent recall. Teen brains are wired to seek fun and pleasure, so surely if they stop all their fun creative hobbies during these exam periods they will not have the mindfulness benefits that dance provides – yes exam success is very important but a top grade academic record is of no use if your mental health is suffering. It’s about balance and time management which again is another life skill. Many students have told me that having dance helped get them through these exams.

Dance teachers themselves have often danced since they were young children and have followed their passion, they love what they do and have so much to give back, children feed off this positive energy. Dance teachers are normally very good at reading ‘vibes’ by the way their dancers perform in lessons. Unlike academic teachers, a child will often have the same teacher for a number of years, from tot to teen, so they become a stable person in their life and someone they can confide in during difficult times and who can offer support.

Continuing dance lessons online throughout the lockdowns has certainly been richer for many children and young people and although you can never create the same atmosphere as in person lessons, having that familiar connection and social aspect to look forward to certainly helped keep them physically and mentally motivated and kept their interest alive. It’s also given them a new found confidence as they’ve adjusted to solo learning.

Dance Art Studio is located in the Fiveways and Preston Park area of Brighton offering pre-school ballet and dance for 3-4-year-olds and graded ballet, tap, modern theatre dance and street as well as boys only tap and jazz. Exams and performance opportunities. We also hold holiday workshops. www.danceartstudio.co.uk

Music and babies

Benefits of musical toys for babies and how to make your own

By dance & Art, fun for children, Mental health, Music and singing, play
by Ellie Mckinsey
www.knowyourinstrument.com

If you recall your childhood years, you may remember that nearly any object – anything at all – can become a toy. A ruler or a rod can suddenly become an enchanted sword or a magic wand, a comb transforms into a guitar, a piece of paper when crumpled enough and tied with string becomes a puppet, even a pet. The possibilities are endless as a child learns to develop creativity and let their imagination soar.

Indeed, the best toys don’t even have to come from a store. A child may leave an expensive stacking toy in favor of crinkly paper, and that’s fine. Anything that sparks imagination, engages the senses and encourages social interaction can be considered a toy. Objects that let children explore new shapes, textures, sounds and colours are great for developing minds and bodies.

Here we’re taking a look at musical toys and what babies can get from playing with them. We’ll also share with you some tips on making your own musical toys for your babies to play with, using stuff you may already have at home. Let’s get started!

Importance of musical toys for your baby
In the first four months of a baby’s life, their emotional, sensory and motor experiences help prepare them for further developmental achievements. At this early stage, babies benefit from sensory toys that involve bright, contrasting colors, textures and pleasant sounds.

Moreover, by four months, babies can already bring their hands together in the middle of their bodies and use their eyes to co-ordinate hand movement. Musical, easy-to-grasp toys such as rattles help build grip and tactile stimulation while stimulating hearing.

By their sixth month, babies can now sit and hold objects with their hands. They start manipulating objects with more controlled movement patterns. At this phase, babies benefit from toys that roll or move and make sounds when touched. This further enhances gross motor skills and sense of hearing, and prepares babies for crawling (watching a baby crawl after a rolling egg shaker is super adorable).

Musical toys that encourage movement also give babies a sense of accomplishment and gratification that would inspire them to create the sounds again and again. It’s like they’re already making their own music! Soon, babies would develop a sense of rhythm, a more refined sense of hearing and more control over their movement.

This mix of motor control and sensory awareness is crucial for your baby’s overall development. The ability to fine-tune movements and notice differences in sounds is important for learning to communicate and later on, play an instrument such as a guitar, piano, viola or the drums.

Tips for making your own musical toys
So, are you ready to get crafty and make your own musical toys? Here are some fantastic ideas to get you started.
• Old or unused pots, pans, large tin cans and plastic bowls are great for beat-making and can be played with or without an object to hit them with (like a wooden spoon).
• Make your own rolling shaker or rattle using empty plastic water bottles. Put small raw pasta shells, marbles or pebbles inside and glue the cap shut.
• Give your baby a tactile and sensory feast by making scrunchy, noisy socks. Remember those socks that have lost their partners? They’re perfect for this project – simply put crinkly wrapping paper in them and close off the ends with a secure and tidy knot. Let your baby scrunch the socks with delight.
• Got an empty tissue box and extra elastic bands lying around? Fashion a string instrument with them!

When making your DIY musical toys, remember to watch out for any potential hazards like small parts, sharp corners or edges, loose strings and toxic materials. Make sure the materials you use are clean and baby-safe. Give your toys a test run before letting your child play with them, and always keep an eye on your baby during playtime. Have fun! –

 

The perfect musical instrument for little fingers?

By dance & Art, Education, Music and singing, play, Playing

There’s a tiny little instrument that offers a big punch, Al Start from Go Kid Music is singing the praises of the humble ukulele. Let me stop you right there! You were about to turn the page, but hear me out! There are a few really great reasons why this small, innocent looking instrument could be your secret (musical) weapon. Indulge me…

There’s a window of opportunity, while your children are at primary school, to open up their world to music. You have the perfect combination of their brains being right in the ‘learning zone’, their little fingers start to do what their brains tell them (most of the time!) and they are open-minded and naturally curious.

For children of primary school age, I would argue, the ukulele makes a brilliant first instrument. Remember when you were at school? Perhaps not as long ago as I, but there was the good old recorder – a solid standard across the land, waiting for us to blow far too hard during a rendition of London’s Burning in assembly!

If the recorder was not your thing, then maybe it was the violin. Nothing wrong with that, but there’s a tremendous amount of technique to learn before you’re able to get a decent sound that doesn’t resemble a cat crying. For most children this can be a real turn off – a barrier to learning an instrument that could change their life forever. Children need quick results; they need the ‘win’ to encourage them to continue. That’s what makes the ukulele such a champ.

In just one lesson, your child will be able to play at least one song, and it’ll sound good! From there it’s only a matter of learning a couple more chord shapes and they will have the solid foundation to be able to play a wide selection of songs. If they prefer to pick tunes rather than strum chords, with just four strings it’s easy on the fingers, small and light to hold, meaning they can concentrate on learning the notes rather than worry about troublesome technique.

From your point of view as the banker, you’ll find the ukulele gives bang for your buck! You can buy a perfectly decent ukulele with good quality (Aquila) strings and a carry bag for under £25! Plus as the faithful audience member, you’ll appreciate how mellow the ukulele sounds (unlike it’s feline counterpart) while you paint that smile on and listen to Smoke on the Water for the 12th time!

What about lessons? Many schools and music services now offer ukulele clubs for free, there’s usually a keen teacher who will lead lunch-time or after-school uke club! Paid lessons are in small groups which make them fun and affordable.

YouTube has a plethora of free tutorials, and just searching the word ‘ukulele’ plus the song title your child fancies will bring up endless options.

There’s always a downside to playing a stringed instrument – you do have to tune them! To start with, the ukulele will need you to help it stay in tune. But don’t worry, there are many options. You can download a tuner app to your phone for free, find an online tuner that plays the note of each string for you to match, or you can buy a small clip-on digital tuner for under a fiver. So, don’t fall at the first hurdle. Persevere, and your ukulele will stay in tune.

The last of my favourite perks of your child learning the ukulele is that you can learn along with them. There is no excuse to mourn your lack of persistence with the violin any more. The ukulele makes an ideal shared activity, especially if you plump for online lessons. You can spend quality time with your child as well as being the next Von Trapp family and the life and soul of your next family gathering!

Handily, the ukulele comes in a range of sizes to suit us all. The smallest (soprano) is ideal for most children, the next size up is the ‘concert’ which is fab for growing hands and smaller adults. The ‘tenor’ is perfect for guitarists and those of us with bigger hands – I prefer a tenor uke as I was initially a guitarist, but I also love the concert size. They come in every colour under the sun – but do get the good strings already fitted as I mentioned earlier. I find the Mahalo M1 soprano range to be a great starter ukulele (no, I’m not an affiliate I just rate them) they tick all the afore-mentioned boxes and are widely available online.

So, I hope I’ve given you food for thought. If there’s a gift-giving opportunity on the horizon, perhaps you could give the gift of music (and treat yourself at the same time)!

Having taught ukulele in schools for over a decade Al Start has perfected the art and packaged it into one super-cool family-focused club! The Go Kid Ukulele Club features online lessons taking you from total beginner to ukulele hero at your own pace, for the price of just one ukulele. Check them out here: https://club.gokidmusic.com

As soon as they stand, they dance…

By children's health, dance & Art, Education, Mental health, Playing, Relationships
by Lynda Forster
Dance Art Studio

Cuts in education budgets sadly impacts on most creative subjects as they are classed as ‘non-core’. Unfortunately, throughout lockdown, children from preschool to teens, suffered with their wellbeing and confidence because of lack of contact with their peers.

This is another reason why it’s so important to set them up early with not only a healthy diet and plenty of exercise, but with a physical activity which channels into the creative art form of human expression. This will help keep their minds healthy and balanced whilst learning a skill that will stay with them for life. Many dance classes moved online during lockdown and offered pupils a weekly lesson – this helped keep a sense of normality for the dancers and ensured they kept up with a skill, whilst keeping their social connections alive with their dance friends and teachers. I’ve heard such positive feedback from parents and older dancers who all, more than ever, appreciated the benefits and happiness that a dance class brings.

Dance as an art form is beautiful and breathtaking. There’s nothing quite like watching a skilled dancer turn and leap across the stage in time to the music, telling a story with their body.

But dance provides benefits far beyond that available to those trained in the discipline. For young children, dance and creative movement can help improve their cognitive development, building skills necessary for success later in life.

Here are ways creative movement can benefit children during the early childhood years:

Sensory awareness
Young children are highly sensory beings. They flock to things that stimulate their senses of touch, taste, sight, smell, and hearing.

Dance and creative movement provide stimulation for three of those five senses at once: touch, sight and hearing.

By listening to the music and learning how to move in time with the beat, children begin to more finely hone their senses and learn how their bodies can work in harmony with the stimuli around them.

Development
Dance provides opportunities to hone both gross and fine motor skills.

From turning and jumping to carefully controlling the movement of hands and fingers, dance engages all aspects of a child’s physical development.

Dancing also awakens the inner creativity in all children, allowing them to hear a piece of music and decide how their body can best respond to it.

In early childhood creative movement, it’s important to have a mixture of structured directions for moving as well as plenty of time for individual exploring. This balance gets children used to bringing to life someone else’s creative vision while giving time for their own exploration.

Social skills
To have a healthy social life, children must understand and embrace their own uniqueness.

Through creative movement, they learn that not everyone interprets music the same way they do, and not everyone moves the same. This helps children see that everyone is different but no one is wrong in their individuality.

Health and fitness
Dancing is great exercise. Teaching children from a young age that frequent exercise is fun and beneficial helps build lifelong lovers of sports and movement. This leads to improved health and wellness as adults.

Language
Co-ordinated movement is essential for proper brain development, which is necessary to developing language skills.

The right side of the brain, the sensing and feeling side, functions best through creative activities. The left side is the logical thinking and planning side of the brain.

Dance allows both sides of the brain to engage, as children must follow steps and directions while also utilising their creativity and interpreting the music.

Body awareness
Young children often cannot tell the full limits of their own bodies.

Through dance, however, they learn in a controlled environment what their bodies can and cannot do and what actions they need to take to perform a desired movement.

Dance helps build co-ordination and spatial awareness, which in turn improves children’s gross motor skills.

Concentration
Remembering the next steps in a dance sequence requires a great deal of concentration. So does sitting down to participate in school work.

Using and honing concentration skills in early childhood better prepare children for the expectations of the classroom.

They learn when it’s OK to move and when they need to sit still, what types of movement are acceptable, and how to stay within their own physical boundaries.

Respect
Through dance, children learn that it’s not possible to move in someone else’s space. If you do, you crash and no one gets to dance.

Learning this skill helps children understand that everyone has their own body boundaries, and they should respect the limits of those boundaries at all times.

Self-esteem
As children learn and develop new skills, their self-esteem increases.

Just like in school, play, and the rest of their lives, dancing and creative movement gives young children new skills to learn and master. This progress keeps them motivated and interested, leading to better tenacity later in life.

Why ballet?
Ballet is the focus for most dance schools, but you’ll also find tap dance, modern musical theatre, jazz and contemporary.

It is considered the absolute foundation from the very early stages where it is taught in a fun imaginative way using mime, props and stories that young children relate to. From here there is a gradual healthy build up, taking children up through the grades with a recognised exam at each level, although these are added options.

What are they learning?
• Correct technique and terminology.
• Strength and endurance.
• Timing and appreciation of music.
• Poise and posture.

Enrolling your tot into a ballet and dance class will help enrich their world around them in so many ways!

Dance Art Studio is located in the Fiveways and Preston Park area of Brighton offering preschool ballet and dance for 3-4-year-olds and graded ballet, tap, modern theatre dance and street as well as boys only tap and jazz. Exams and performance opportunities. We also hold holiday workshops. www.danceartstudio.co.uk

Art saves lives

By dance & Art, Education, family, fun for children, Mental health, Music and singing, Playing, reading, Relationships, Theatre
by Eleanor Costello
Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival

Young people face new challenges every day. From navigating the complexities of an ever-changing Internet culture to fighting for their future in an era of climate crisis. Art provides opportunities for everyone to make sense of the world, to test our boundaries and let our imagination thrive. Children benefit from having the opportunity to read books, go to theatre shows and to make their own art.

The acclaimed poet and Brighton Festival 2020 Guest Director, Lemn Sissay said; “Art saves lives, it literally saves lives. Art is how we translate the human spirit. That’s why you have art and religions. That’s why people sing. That’s why we read poems at funerals and weddings, we need some bridge between the spiritual, the physical, the past, the present, the future.”

Through events like Brighton Festival, young people can explore, discover and participate in the arts. For 30 years the Children’s Parade has officially marked the start of Brighton Festival, with over 5,000 participants, including 3,473 school children, stepping into show stopping costumes they have designed and made themselves. Around 10,000 people come along to see the parade and be part of the largest annual children’s event in the UK. The parade is a unique event produced by community arts organisation, Same Sky, which offers thousands of young people the chance to come together in creations they’ve designed around a central theme, giving them a sense of belonging. In 2020, the Children’s Parade theme is Nature’s Marvels, offering a platform for participants to think more about the world and environment around them.

Stories fire the imagination, invite us to empathise with and understand others, give children the creativity needed to face the world and even the tools to change it. Young City Reads is an annual Brighton Festival and Collected Works CIC reading project. A book is selected for primary school children in Brighton & Hove, Sussex and beyond to read and discuss, culminating in a final event with the book’s author at the Festival in May. In 2019, over 3,000 pupils took part in free weekly activities. For 2020, the chosen book is Malamander by Thomas Taylor, featuring a daring duo Herbert Lemon and Violet Parma who team up to solve the mystery of a legendary sea-monster. This is a chance for schools across the county to foster a love of reading in young people and give support to teaching staff to think outside the box with their curriculum.

Hilary Cooke, Brighton Festival Children’s Literature Producer says; “Children’s book events are an opportunity to turn the private activity of reading into a shared experience. Being in a room with a new (or favourite) author and a group of young readers is quite magical, with laughter, imagination and surprise. Illustrators drawing live on stage create another layer of creativity that is beautiful to watch (and possibly my favourite thing).” Due East, Hangleton and Knoll Project and the community steering committees enable local residents to make their vision come to life in Our Place, a Brighton Festival event that has been running for three years. Pop up performances take place across Hangleton and East Brighton with a community event in each area. Seeing arts and culture being celebrated and given a platform in their own neighbourhood opens the door for young people to think differently about the places they live in.

Brighton Festival offers opportunities for young people in Brighton and beyond to experience groundbreaking, original and spectacular performances by international artists. Australian company, Gravity & Other Myths bring a new jaw-dropping circus show bound to blow the minds of aspiring acrobats, Drag Queen Story Time gives children the opportunity to be who they want to be with a LGBTQ friendly storytelling, and hilarious theatre show Slime allows two to five year olds to squish and squelch their way through a tale about a slug and caterpillar.

May is a time of spectacular celebration across the county, with Brighton Fringe, The Great Escape, Artist Open Studios and Charleston Festival in addition to Brighton Festival’s jam-packed programme.

Supporting the next generation of art-goers is integral to Brighton Festival’s spirit and this year’s programme aims to bring a variety of events for children and young people – from infants to Instagrammers. Children of all ages can discover, create and participate in the arts, giving them unexpected and enriching experiences that can be shared with their friends or family. Many events are free, others starting as low as £5 and there are often family offers so the whole clan can come along.

Head to www.brightonfestival.org today to find out what’s happening at Brighton Festival from 2nd to 24th May 2020.