Begin to encourage sophisticated tastes in your child from an early age to raise a lifelong lover of the arts.

Raising Cultured Kids

by Carly Seifert

Preschool is an optimum time for broadening your child's cultural horizons. Your curious child loves to explore the world around him, and doesn't roll his eyes when you listen to classical music or cringe when you tell him you bought tickets to the ballet. Nurture this early excitement to ensure a well-bred child with a lifelong appreciation of all things cultural.

1. Music

You can raise a child to be musically inclined and have an appreciation of music by participating in musical activities from infancy. Join an early childhood music class where parents and children sing and play rhythm instruments together. Attend the children's symphony with your child and take him to family concerts and other musical events. Around age four, your child may begin taking private or group lessons for piano or a string instrument. Music training sets the stage for a host of other cultured activities -- children who study music have a broader vocabulary, score higher in reading exams and are better able to learn a second language.

2. Theater

Early exposure to theater jump-starts a child's imagination and creativity while also increasing attention span. Linda Hartzell, artistic director of the Seattle Children’s Theater, says, “I’ve seen firsthand that theater makes for smarter, braver human beings. Theater helps connect the head to the heart.” Kids are enthralled with the costumes, characters and choreography of the theater. Check to see if your town has a children's theater group, which will often perform fairy tales or stories that are familiar to your child. Your budding thespian may also enjoy being the star herself by taking ballet classes or putting on a skit with her friends.

3. Literature

You can nurture an interest in reading beginning at a very young age. Read often with your child and read a variety of books: nonfiction, children's poems, classics and fairy tales to broaden his knowledge and cultivate his tastes. Set up a reading nook in your child's bedroom with a plush beanbag in the corner surrounded by bookshelves that he can reach. As he grows, continue to read books out loud together and dedicate time each day to reading. When he begins reading on his own, take an interest in what he reads and encourage him to join a kids' book club at your local library. Reading will be a way for your child to continue to educate himself and learn about a variety of subjects for the rest of his life.

4. Manners

Your child will grow up to be a kinder, more considerate adult -- one whom others seek out and enjoy being around -- if she is raised kindly and considerately. If she hears her parents saying "please" and "thank you" to one another and to her, you may even be spared the embarrassing moments of pleading with her to thank Grandma for the cookie. Teach her other good behaviors, such as asking to be excused from the dinner table, showing respect for other children and their toys, picking up after herself and not interrupting adult conversations. If another child treats your child poorly by not sharing or showing respect to her things, talk this behavior through with your child so that she understands it is unacceptable. Ask how this behavior makes her feel when it is directed toward her, and discuss appropriate ways to handle the situation.

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