The Benefits Of Improv Classes For Kids
“What useful life skills will my child get from learning improv?” It’s a question I hear asked frequently by parents looking for classes and camps that will enrich their children’s lives. My answer is always the same; “Improv enhances all of an improviser’s life skills!”
Being a good improviser means being a good listener, a great communicator, and someone who knows how to support whatever their team or current project needs. However, it’s easy to see why this isn’t clear to someone who has never taken an improv classes for kids.
From the outside, improvisation on the stage can appear to be an effortless series of random choices made by the participants. But if it were really so careless, then how come so many coherent and well-developed characters, relationships, and even narrative stories develop during improvisation?
The answer, of course, is that there isn’t anything random or careless going on. What you witness during a great improv performance is the culmination of learning a cooperative process that’s all about sharing, observing, and putting the needs of the scene being performed above the needs of personal ego.
During a show, the art of improv can appear to be a magic trick, but the real magic comes from practicing solid teamwork skills, which transfer to (and enhance!) all aspects of life. Often a scene starts with a simple one-word suggestion from a member of the audience. The suggestion is just a seed that gets planted in the improviser’s mind. Literally anything can grow from that seed.
It’s up to the improvisers to discover just what that seed of an idea turns into. The process of nurturing that idea into a detailed, nuanced scene full of characters, relationships, and memorable moments relies heavily on the confidence to contribute one’s own ideas, and to honor and build on every following idea one’s fellow improvisers offer. If an initial idea seems strange or incompatible, this almost always turns out to be a gift– an unexpected opportunity to try something no one would have thought of otherwise.
In practice, the improv process and philosophy transfer directly into everyday living. Having the confidence to explore bold ideas offers great opportunities for learning and education. Countless fantastic discoveries have been made by those of us who were exploring an “incorrect” hypothesis only to find something valuable, new, and true that would have been overlooked.
In a work environment, the improv philosophy of using clear communication and strong listening skills leads to better efficiency. In a management position, an improv background encourages mutual respect for co-workers and the flexibility to view the unexpected as a new opportunity rather than a setback. Organizations led by improvisers have higher morale and the ability to thrive where other leaders would hit dead ends.
Of course, the most commonly sought application for improv skills is in performance, not just in fully improvised scenes, but in scripted work for stage and screen. Every performance can benefit from something spontaneous enough to give it new life, even when the scene has been performed dozens of times before.
I could ramble on all day with examples of how improv can improve every aspect of living. The ways that improv nurtures teamwork, gratitude, and thinking outside the box are countless; so when someone asks “What useful life skills will my child get from learning improv?”, the answer I really want to give is “All of them.”