Why should you go see theatre? What does watching a puppet show do for your child? Well, you might be surprised to find out that theatre and puppetry are ancient art forms that are not only steeped in tradition and craftsmanship, but they are also good for your brain.
Studies show that students who experience live theatre are actually better at reading, vocabulary and tolerance, more so than if they had just read the play or watched a movie of the same story. Not only that, it also helps with their social skills and general acceptance of their peers. It’s great for both their brains, and their mind. Researchers were able to analyze over 300 students who saw a play live, and compared them to their peers in a control group. This group only read the play and/or watched a movie version of the same story. The test subjects who saw the live performance not only had a higher understanding of the plot and characters, but also scored higher on Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET) and other tests of tolerance. RMET captures the ability to assess how someone is feeling through only their eyes, and the results were 21% more accurate for those who saw the live theatre show. These results were collected approximately 47 days after the students saw the performance, which means that it was not just a quick change after the show that could easily dissipate, and that theatre has the potential to have long lasting effects.
Puppetry also has its benefits; many studies show the positive impact of using puppetry on language development in children, allowing them to learn English more rapidly. Additionally, in a 2019 study that took place in Iran, it was discovered that puppetry in preschool classrooms also significantly reduced children’s behavioral problems. After seven one hours sessions with puppets that enacted different behavioral problems and common conflicts faced by the children through songs, behaviors improved significantly compared to a separate group that was simply using storytelling to explain the behavioral problems to a group of children of the same age.
Theatre reminds us that we are not alone and connects us both to the actors on stage as well as the audience members sitting around us.
Puppetry allows us to reduce our stress and find joy in surreal moments, highlighted to us by this delicate, detail-oriented art form. These activities encourage discourse and tough conversations to happen with increased empathy and acceptance and improve children’s brains capacity to retain new knowledge. It is clear that the effects of theatre and puppetry on children is significant. I believe that participation in these art forms it is a fundamental part of building a society that is empathetic and able to think critically about themselves and the world.
When we imagine what someone else feels, we understand their actions. Theatre and puppetry allow us to slow down, watch, listen and reflect. Children and adults should participate as often as they can.