Can Exposing Your Kids to the Arts Make them Smarter?

Is anyone else out there as concerned as I am about school budget cuts wiping out an important opportunity for your kids to do better in life?


Having earned my degree in Fine Arts, I’m all too aware of the short-sighted perception of art and music being viewed in public education as a sort “superfluous luxury”. In fact, the Arts are the first thing to go when a school system undergoes drastic budget cuts. 

The best way to change this kind of thinking is to better understand why exposing our kids to the Arts is essential to helping them do better in the outside world when they become adults:

The Arts help kids learn how to think differently. Unlike “core” courses like Math, English, and Science, the Arts teach kids that there are many different ways to interpret the world. Additionally, the Arts teach kids that there is often more than one solution for solving a problem. So while I'd never want to downplay the importance of obtaining a solid foundation in the “core” courses, it can be equally important to develop an additional set of more abstract and creative mental thinking skills that will help your kids adapt better to change in both the workplace and social relationships. (Need proof? Check out Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard.)

Music education may boost cognitive development. Studies have shown that music education can contribute positively to social learning and development, according to Martin F. Gardiner, PhD, an expert in the ways in which the Arts impact cognitive development. Researchers with the Department of Education Reform in Arkansas conducted an independent trial study and found that students who participated in an arts program at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, demonstrated significantly stronger critical thinking skills when analyzing a new painting. Additionally, writers of an article in the journal EducationNext asserted that the study outcome indicated that the Arts could not only help make your kids better thinkers, but could also make them more empathetic, nicer, and have a higher tolerance for others.

How you can get involved:

Many of the public school arts programs that have been cut are being supplemented by parent funds and volunteers, and that's a good thing. Independent organizations like the National Art Education Association and the Youth Music Education Foundation are also helping out. To get involved, volunteer at local independent Arts foundations in your area that promote and support the Arts in education. If you don't find something that suits your interests, consider spearheading your own Arts program within your community.