As we fast approach that wonderful time of the year that every child is waiting for called summer, some of you are wondering what to do with your children to keep them busy during this time. For those children and teens who regularly participate in the arts during the school year, it is good to continue that through the summer months. You do not want your child to lose the momentum they have gained over the past several months. For those children who have never participated in an arts camp or class, summer is a fabulous time to try it out!

So as we think about summer, let me give you seven good reasons why you should enroll your child or teen in an arts activity this summer.

Arts education is linked to better academic performance. I have mentioned this before, but let me just remind everyone that students who study art are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement and three times more likely to be acknowledged for school attendance. Musical instruction, for example, boosts brain development in young children that can last into that individual’s adult life. Summer arts programs explore problem solving skills which directly relate to better grades and better academics. Critical thinking skills are also key. The idea of students asking more questions rather than being fed answers ignites a renewed love of learning.

Summer arts programs encourage collaboration and innovation. Because of the relaxed type of environment that often exists in the summer, students are encouraged to work together and be more creative. A nurturing, non-competitive environment where everyone is accepted provides an atmosphere for students to be themselves and to be more expressive. The focus is on the process rather than the product, so regardless of the skill level, everyone feels important.

Creative people are happy people. Studies now show that those students who are busy being creative demonstrate a high level of internal satisfaction. Children are happy when they are creating something at camp! In fact, they get excited about what they are doing and learn how rewarding it can be.

Summer arts camps create a sense of identity. Summer camps focus on fun and community. It’s a place where everyone is accepted, new friendships are formed, an appreciation for diversity is developed, new skills are learned, creativity and emotional expression is explored and a sense of self-worth is highlighted. As these areas begin to grow in a young person, a wonderful sense of identity emerges. The idea of working alongside others and being encouraged to step out and take risks is an important part of building that sense of community and forming good relationships. It’s a great experience!

Students make new friends and form meaningful connections. Although students come to camp from many different schools, and often different cultures, camp is a great place to meet others who have similar interests and share similar passions and talents. Students get along and accept one another because they understand each other. This is a place where strong bonds can be formed.

Students can explore their talents in a safe environment. Because summer programs are just that, they exist for a short period of time. That means, this is a good time for parents to enlist their child or teen in multiple arts activities to explore what their talents might be. It’s cost effective and fun!

Students learn a lot in a short period of time. While summer is relaxed, students can learn a large amount of material in an intensive camp or class. This is because the focus of the entire day is art. It is what we call an immersion experience, and students come away from this with a great amount of knowledge. In fact, what students learn when immersed in an art study is perhaps the most effective style of learning they will ever have. And it’s great preparation for the future whether it be the teen years, college or one’s professional career.

So, let me just say that summer and art go together! It is just plain fun and rewarding for children and young people to connect to the arts in the summer. It’s good mentally and physically for them. And there is no reason for young people to become stagnant during the summer months when they can be actively engaging in something that will make them feel good, keep them connected to the arts, explore their talents and give them something positive to do! And I know just the place for you to get started with such programs and camps. At Community School of the Arts, we have activities for children from preschool through high school this summer in music, theater, dance and visual art. Please contact us, and I will personally be happy to help you!

Dr. Rosilee Russell is the founder/executive director of Community School of the Arts. Contact her at Rosilee.Russell@csafortsmith.org, call 434-2880 or visit www.csafortsmith.org.