Want your kids to be smart, critical thinkers who empathize with others? Send them to the museum! A scientific study shows that exposure to cultural institutions and the performing arts provides significant mental stimuli to youngsters.
The new study was published in the journals Education Next and Educational Researcher. It found that students who participated in field trips that were involved with the arts had higher levels of engagement with the arts, and displayed tolerance, empathy, better educational memory and critical thinking skills.
To gather data, researchers administered surveys to 10,912 students and 489 teachers at 123 different schools. Subjects were asked a series of questions, including a written piece, after they attended field trips to museums and the likes.
"Before the study, a lot of people told us that the kids would just stare out the windows," says Jay P. Greene, professor of education reform and a researcher on the study. "Well, no, they don't. They're paying attention and absorbing information."
They're also able to pick up on the subtext of artwork; they interpret -- something many still struggle with as adults.
Considering the benefits, here are five ideas for activities that will not only entertain your kids, but also help them to become cultured:
1. Explore some of the country's more unique museums. The Children's Museum in Indianapolis has a dinosaur walking out of its side. All you'll have to do is drive by and your kids will be sold. Another great spot is the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia, which has interactive exhibit zones. Kids can go down the rabbit hole of "Alice in Wonderland," or play in a mock supermarket, which sounds way better than the fake register we used to work with in our living room.
2. Attend a performance of "Yo Gabba Gabba! Live." Watch hip, friendly monsters in a band teach about colors and brushing your teeth. If you're lucky, Snoop Dogg will guest star.
3. Try out the symphony. The New York Philharmonic has a children's component, as do a number of other reputable venues. If your kids aren't into it, form a kid's band in the community. You might discover your child is a prodigy like these future Ramones.
4. Go to the planetarium, or even better, the Center of Science and Industry in Columbus, OH, where kids can pretend their mad scientists. It's safer than a chemistry set, and with less spills.
5. Enroll in a children's theater or dance class. Make sure and record all your kid's performances as it will be hilarious and cute later in life (but only to your family).