boy playing guitarMaybe your 4-year-old scampers around wearing her ballet tutu over her blue jeans. Perhaps, after watching a season of “American Idol,” your son wants singing lessons. Or your kindergarten finger-painter has become a teenager interested in Georgia O’Keeffe. 

Whether your child has an innate interest in the arts—or you’re trying to encourage an interest—there are many summer activities where she can indulge her curiosity about dance, music, acting, painting, ceramics, photography, and more. The arts focus largely on individual achievement and abilities to transform a canvas, a block of wood, or a string of notes into a personal masterpiece. Performing and fine arts camps and programs can offer an opportunity to think outside the box in a safe, creative environment. Campers can find a fresh way to imagine, invent, and think.

Sensory Stimulation

“To learn, we depend on our senses to process the information around us. There are three major learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. We all learn differently, but a school classroom or a traditional camp may only teach using one or two styles. Exploring the arts in a focused program will expand your child’s horizons and allow her to use all of the learning styles,” says Sara Peschke, a studio ceramic artist and instructor.

Further, she says, “A child may not find success in academics or sports, but often may feel safe and successful in the arts. Age, instead of skill level, is usually the only prerequisite to taking a class or enrolling in a camp. Experienced counselors will set a broad rubric in place so that within those guidelines, all of the children in the program can be successful.”

A child may not find success in academics or sports, but often may feel safe and successful in the arts.

Creative Thinking

An arts camp experience has some of the same benefits as an athletic camp. It improves hand/eye coordination and skills, and increases self-awareness and feelings of self-worth. “The arts engage both the right and left side of the brain,” says Peschke, mom of two. “Exposure to the arts is cross-curricular, making use of academic, expressive, or physical skills that can enable a student to feel success in an area they otherwise thought they were not as capable.” Here’s how:

  • A student who does not excel in math but is strong in painting or sculpture will come to understand the mathematical concepts of space through building with clay or wood. 
Children who love to sing, dance, and act can gain new skills and confidence that will serve them well if they pursue classes or performance opportunities during the school year.
Many parents find the arts invaluable for a child who marches to a different drummer. “It’s great for the minds that never turn off, the kid with insatiable curiosity, or the ADD child,” says Peschke. “The arts provide a place for that soul who otherwise feels displaced.”
Art camp also enables kids to make new, like-minded friends. Because children work closely together, the camps offer a natural setting for teamwork and shared goals. “Discussion and critiques, as well as an art show or a dramatic or musical performance at the end of the session, are inspiring. They provide a sense of unity, as well as closure to the project or the end of camp,” Peschke says. 

Claire Yezbak Fadden is a freelance writer and mom to a camp counselor.

In what areas have your kids found their artistic passion?