ART Smart Parenting show

ART Smart Parenting

Summary: Each week we’ll explore why the arts are important to your child, tips on choosing arts activities for your kids, and ideas you can easily implement into your busy schedule to help YOU raise kids that are confident and successful in school and in life. For extra tips on raising smart kids, Head on over to

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  • Artist: Yong Pratt
  • Copyright: © Art Smart Parenting, Yong Pratt, 2013


 Singing with your Kids – 3 reasons to start today | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 10:32

When I speak about singing, many adults shy away from the activity.  For some, singing with your kids many not be among your most favorite activities, the act of singing together has so many wonderful benefits for both you and your child. Here are the Top 3 reasons why singing with your kids is so important: 1. Singing teaches Singing teaches kids about language and develops the brain through active engagement. This is one of the many reasons preschool and kindergarten teachers use singing to help kids learn and remember everything from the ABCs to manners? It’s a shame kids aren’t encouraged throughout all of their years in school...just think where the we would be if our kids were encouraged to sing! SINGING ENCOURAGES LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT BY: (Rice University) Encouraging self-expression, vocal imitation, grammar, and vocabulary Exercising the lips and tongue Helping children to speak more clearly, with greater ease, and confidence Teaching storytelling or how events are sequenced (read last week’s blog post on Story Telling with your Kids) Teaching patterning, rhythm, rhyme, how to listen, and the tools to communicate SINGING FOSTERS BRAIN DEVELOPMENT BY: Strengthening memory Teaches contrasts such as fast and slow, loud and quiet, long and short, tension and release Singing combined with dancing teaches us about space, energy, and time 2. Physical effects of singing The physical effects of singing are tremendous as is evidenced by numerous research studies. Singing, through the deep breathing required, is an aerobic activity that gets more oxygen into the brain creating better circulation. In addition, singing releases endorphins (the feel good hormones) into the blood to boost our spirits. Having our spirits lifted decreases levels of anxiety as well as depression. Some of the other physical effects of singing include: Improves posture, self-esteem, and presentation skills (skills parents desire for their kids) Increases lung capacity and clearing of the sinuses and respiratory tubes Improves mental alertness Tones facial and stomach muscles (something all moms want!) 3. Psychological Effects Singing helps us release stress Creates a sense of togetherness and support between you and your child. It’s no wonder that songs are often used to lull our little ones to sleep and can be quite useful to calm kids when upset, frightened, or angry. Why not use a song next time your child gets grumpy? Commit to singing ONE song with your child today. Take your child’s lead and sing a nursery rhyme or create a silly song together. Everything seems so much more fun when sung! Need help getting started?  Here's some music to get you singing with your kids.  Before you know it, you'll be doing karaoke together!                       Remember that songs don’t have expiration dates, don’t require batteries and are completely portable. The best part is, singing songs together won’t cost you a thing and is sure to bring smiles to the faces of your child (and yours, too)!

 Igniting Creativity though Stories | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 11:08

Today we’ll be diving a little deeper into creating stories with your kids.   I don’t know about you but I truly love to read read to my kids and have them read to me.  From the very beginning, it has always been important to me to share my love of reading with my kids.   New readers often develop favorite stories which they request night after night.  To give myself a bit of a break from reading the same story for months at a time, I would often request that we create stories together.  This activity quickly became our new bedtime routine.   In the beginning, I often would use the tried and true, “Once Upon A Time” as my kids were familiar with this opening.   I would make my kids the main characters to engage and get them excited about the activity.  As this activity was often part of our bedtime routine, I focused on positive and uplifting stories with happy endings.  My kids would become the heroines of these stories and make or create something great!   My youngest daughter, Daphne, loved the beginning line of “Once Upon a time, there was a brave princess named Daphne that loved [noun or verb].  One day she...”   I would intentionally and create a cliff hanger for her to add on to the story.  After several times back and forth we would create some amazing stories.  Sometimes, my girls would get so excited about creating stories, that they didn’t want to go to sleep.   I would then say something to the effect of “this part of the story has come to an end but tomorrow we can create a new chapter” as a way to entice them to sleep.   More often than not, the promise of creating a new chapter the next night was usually enough to get them to relax, fall asleep, and dream up the next adventure. At times, we would need to revisit some of their favorite stories to lull them to sleep.   A word of advice: Don’t let yourself be distracted when creating stories with your kids.  They can tell when you’re engaging with them or whether you’re only giving them part of your attention.  The point of creating stories together is to engage with your kids on a deeper level so check your email after they go to bed.  Nothing is as important as your kids anyway.   I know that for some of you, the prospect of creating stories with your kids causes more anxiety than relaxation.  Don’t let the momentary fear you feel stop you from experiencing the world through your child’s imagination. Like all worthwhile endeavors in life, the element of fear should propel not repel you.   If you don’t feel ready to dive right into story creating with your kids, you can set the stage by reading some of your kids favorite books and talking about the parts of the stories.   Discuss what happens at beginning, middle, and end. Who were the characters? What happens in the story? For more advanced readers needing some new challenges, introduce terminology like: plot, themes, protagonists, antagonists, conflict, resolution, moral, and, more.   After creating an understanding about the parts of a story, introduce some story starters such as 3 random things (i.e., a castle, a cowboy, and a soccer ball).  Encourage your child to use these items in their stories. It’s always amazing to me how kids can easily weave various objects together into a beautiful, sometime, serious, sometime comical stories and certainly always entertaining stories.   Once you’ve tackled bedtime stories, you can move into creating stories at other times or for special occasions.  Take your story creation to the next level by recording your kids narrating their own stories or visit websites like They are currently running a writing contest through October 15th so get busy, create stories with your kids, and submit them to   Please post your stories here on the blog - I am looking forward to reading what you create with your kids!  

 Art Every Day | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 11:08

In last week’s blog post, I shared my thoughts on how schools are encouraging our kids to become followers, not leaders by not being encouraged to think creativity and offer their own solutions to the problems they are presented.  In addition, mistakes are not looked upon favorably as a way to learn.  In the words of Ellie Wiesel “Education emphasizes “theories instead of values, concepts rather than human beings, abstraction rather than consciousness, answers instead of questions, ideology and efficiency rather than consciousness.” quoted in David W. Orr, Earth in Mind This lack of creativity can quickly diminish our kids sense of self worth.  As parents we need to step in and be proactive regarding the fostering of our kids creativity.   We need to  actively encourage our kids as well as ourselves to put on our creativity caps every day. “An artist is not a special kind of man, but every man is a special kind of artist,” said Artist Ananda Coomaraswamy. So what kind of artist are you?  What about your kids? Do you remember the last time you enjoyed or created art with you kids? But I have to go to a gallery or museum to enjoy art, right? Thankfully, we don’t always need to go any further than our own backyards to experience art. At times, I get bogged down in my daily activities that I can be shortsighted about the art that surrounds me.  Art to me, is about finding something unusual in the usual. The way the clouds paint pictures across the horizon at sunset, the ebbing and flowing of flowers in the wind creating a beautiful and colorful dance, or the swirling of leaves in the crisp fall air all represent art to me. Appreciating and experiencing the arts with your kids every day isn’t difficult.  It’s just a matter of reframing what you think of as art. Here are 4 ideas you can use today to encourage the creativity in yourself and your kids and enjoy art every day! 1. Give your kids a camera and go for a walk.   This idea may cause a little panic in some.  But trust me, once your kids get the hang out of using and respecting the camera (i.e., not dropping it), you’ll truly be amazed at the images they capture.  The first time I saw the photographs my oldest daughter took walking on the river in downtown Reno, I was flabbergasted.  Some of her images rivaled what I’d see from pro photographers - and she was 5 at the time. Purchase a simple point and click camera such as the Kodak EasyShare and your kids will be quickly on their way to dazzling you with their photographs.  I preferred this camera to those created for kids because they were easier to hold which was an important consideration in the not dropping the camera lesson. Getthe Kodak my kids use today! Once your kids are comfortable with the camera, grab a camera for yourself and head out for a walk. There’s no need to overly plan the outing, just let the spirit of the moment guide your walk.  Document your walk and all you see with photographs and compare notes at the end.  Don’t get hung up about the walking part, just encourage the spontenaeity of the moment.   You’ll quickly learn a lot about your kids and their perspectives once you see their photos.  2. Chalk Chalk needn’t be reserved for classrooms any more.  I find that simply by having sidewalk chalk readily available, whole afternoons can be filled with creativity.  Sidewalk chalk is cheap and comes in different sizes and colors to make each experience unique.  Whether you’re decorating your driveway, porch, or even stepping stones, chalk drawing is a joyful experience. Transfer all your stresses of the day to the chalk and see what you can create with your kids.  Chalk drawing are great for teaching many things: Mistakes are okay: Chalk is easily erased from surfaces (and clothes, too) so mistakes can be encouraged.  Don’t forget that learning to make mistakes should be reinforced as just a part of how we learn. Adults can draw, too!

 Do schools kill creativity? | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 9:05

Labeling kids as ‘smart’ or ‘not-smart’ based on the results of standardized testing really does nothing to bolster one’s self esteem (unless of course you child has great verbal-linguistic or logical-mathematical intelligence).  To review, Gardner pro...

 What do you think about arts education? | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 6:48

Despite the fact that most parents believe that the arts are important in education, arts programs from music to drama to dance and visual arts have gone by the way-side in lieu academically-based classes such as math and language arts which prepare students mostly for the taking of tests. While test-taking is not inherently a bad thing, the tests that I'm alluding to are of the standardized variety that most schools place so much credence.  The better the test scores, the higher the school is ranked.  As a parent, choosing a school with higher test score ranking may be a good starting point in choosing a school, but it should not be the only consideration.  I personally have transferred my kids out of the highest ranking elementary school in our area due in part to the focus on test-taking versus focus on the joys of learning. The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies published a document entitled "Critical Evidence: How the Arts Benefit Student Achievement."  On page 7 written by Sandra S. Ruppert, there are some shocking statistics on parental beliefs in arts eduction despite dwindling arts programs across the country.  To read the full document, click on the image. With such overwhelming support of arts in education, our public school are generally without arts classes.  So as parents, it's our responsibility to seek out and find enriching arts activities such as dance classes, music lessons, acting, and martial arts - activities that are more than just after school fun. From my personal experience, arts activities such as these teach confidence and self-esteem which transcends the arts learning class rooms and infiltrates the way in which kids view themselves and interact with everyone and everything around them.

 6 Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Karate School | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 10:35

Choosing the right karate school is an important decision.  Not only will the right school insure your child's success and satisfactions with classes but will also give you the peace of mind knowing that your child is in good hands.   Here are 6 questi...

 5 Ways to Get the Most out of Music Lessons | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 12:21

5 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Music Lessons In our years of teaching music at Academy of the Arts, we’ve discovered 5 practical tips to help our students get the most out of music lessons. 1. How young is too young?  Starting at the right age Adult students can start any instrument at any time. Their success is based on how willing s/he to commit to practicing. If you have a desire to learn an instrument, don’t let age get in the way.  We’ve taught adults in their 50‘s and 60‘s. Starting at the right age for kids is a key to their success in lessons. Some people will tell you “the sooner the better” but this attitude can actually backfire and be a negative experience. If a child is put into lessons too soon they may feel overwhelmed and frustrated and want to stop lessons. The last thing you want to do is turn a child off music just because they had one unpleasant experience which could have been prevented. Sometimes if the child waits a year to start lessons their progress can be much faster. Children who are older than the suggested earliest starting age usually do very well. The following are some guidelines we have found to be successful in determining how young a child can start taking music lessons. Piano / Keyboard We have found that age 5 is a great age to start private piano lessons.  At this age kids have begun to develop longer attention spans and can retain material with ease. Guitar - Accoustic, Electric and Bass 8 years old is the earliest we recommend for guitar lessons. Guitar playing requires a fair amount of pressure on the fingertips from pressing on the strings. Children under 8 generally have small hands and may find playing uncomfortable. Bass guitar students generally are 10 years old and older.  Voice Lessons 10 years old is recommended as the youngest age for private vocal lessons. Due to the physical nature of voice lessons (proper breathing techniques, development of the vocal chords and lung capacity), the younger body is generally not yet ready for the rigors of vocal technique. For children younger than 10, we have a children’s choir (ages 6-9) and a preschool singing program (ages 3-5) that teaches them how to use their voices properly, in a fun, relaxed environment. Flute, Clarinet and Saxophone Due to lung capacity (and in the case of the saxophone the size of the instrument), we recommend that most woodwind beginners are 9 and older. Violin We accept violin students from the age of 5. Some teachers will start children as young as 3, but experience has shown us the most productive learning occurs when the beginner is 5 or older. 2. Choose a school which offers a choice of group or individual lessons for beginners Different students require different teaching approaches. Some students progress best with the peer interaction and class motivation of a group session. Other students prefer the focused concentration of an individual one on one lesson. Once a student is more advanced it will be necessary to take private lessons to master the advanced techniques of an instrument or voice with individual attention. Make sure that your student has the option to select the learning style that is best suited for them. 3. Take lessons in a professional teaching environment Learning music is not just a matter of having a qualified teacher, but also having an environment that is focused on music education. In a professional school environment a student cannot be distracted by t.v., pets, ringing phones, siblings or anything else. With only 1/2 to one hour of lesson time per week, a professional school environment can produce better results since the only focus at that time is learning music. Students in a school environment are also motivated by seeing peers who are at different levels and by being exposed to a variety of musical instruments. In a music school, the lessons are not just a hobby or sideline for the teacher but a responsibility which is taken very seriously.

 6 Tips to Choosing a Dance School | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 13:51

While choosing a dance school in not rocket science, there are many considerations to choosing a school that is right for your child and your family. Whether you're looking to enroll your child in his first dance class or you're looking for a new school, here are 6 Tips to help you choose the right school. 1.  Location While it may be convenient to enroll your kids at the closest location to your home or work, it’s only one of the factors you’ll want to consider.  You may want to dig a little deeper into the school itself using some of the other guidelines we’ll discuss later in the show. 2. Facility   Facilities, especially floors, are often overlooked when considering performing schools, but as a parent, this needs to be very high on your priority list. Just because a school has a large space with smooth-looking floors, doesn’t necessarily mean those floors for dance.  As a dancer, I’ve danced on a number of surfaces and trust me, you can tell the good from the bad in just a few jumps or rolls. I’ve walked into lots of schools that look nice, with polished wood floor, but are really nothing more than laminate or linoleum atop concrete.  I’ve even seen painted concrete floors in dance studios!  While concrete is great for sidewalks it’s not meant for movement. So what should you look for in a floor?   Ideally, for any type of movement classes, you want to look for floating floors.  As the name implies the floor “floats” above the subfloor.  If the subfloor isn’t concrete, a solid wood floor is also ideal.  There should be a professional dance floor known as Marley on top of the wood.   A Marely floor is a dense vinyl flooring that is tough and durable and sold in rolls that are secured on top of the wooden surface. Marley floors are designed to prevent slippage, provide an extra layer of cushioning, and absorbs much of the shock of movement which can prevent injuries.  To put that into perspective gym floors are usually very sticky to accommodate sports such as basketball when traction is important, but are too sticky for dancing, especially without shoes. How do you find out this information? Ask lots of questions of flooring.  If schools aren't forthcoming about their flooring, they're probably not up to par.  Believe it or not, there are even schools out there that don’t believe the type of floor is important at all! The reality is that most schools don’t spend the thousands of dollars it costs to purchase good flooring.  They’ll usually make due with what is already in a building, including carpeting, or substitute cheap wood floors covered in some sort of sealant to make the floors appear smooth. In addition to the proper flooring, the facility should be equipped with ample mirrors and barres.  Barres are long wooden or metal apparatus which can be free standing or attached to walls that dancers use primarily in ballet. Take note of the feelings you get when you first walk into a school.  Does it feel inviting?  Do you feel comfortable?  Does it look like a place where kids should be?  Is the building well maintained and a place where you’d want to wait for your kids? A professional performing arts school should be well maintained, safe for the activities being taught, and be a place where you feel comfortable leaving your most valued possessions - your kids! 2.  Staffing (And this is a biggy!) Teachers do make a difference!  Teachers that are dynamic and and truly care about the outcome of the kids, create a positive and caring environment, provide feedback to help them grow, and instill a love of learning are what I look for when hiring teachers. Professional schools have professional staff that receive are paid, receive on going training, take pride in the work they do, and enjoy seeing the growth in their students and applaud their efforts. Look for a school that has staff that can assist you with your questions during classes.

 Your kids NEED the ARTS! | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 12:04

Why the ARTS are important for YOUR child Art is so much more than learning to paint or play an instrument. It’s about self-expression, independence, collaboration, problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, and confidence to name a few.  Throu...


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