Boost your child's self-esteem, teach commitment and dedication, and diminish his anxiety, all while watching a flood of creativity appear. Sound like a tough task? It's surprisingly simple. Introduce your child to the arts.

Once active in any genre of artistic expression, your child can reap endless rewards. New friends and better problem solving and communication skills are only a few advantages that can be added to the list—a list that, when complete, will be longer than the one you take to the grocery store. So, where should you start? Theatre is a good bet.

The Columbus theatre scene is as action-packed as a summer blockbuster. Just ask the kids participating in the Columbus Children's Theatre (CCT) summer academy classes, offered in seven locations in the Columbus area.

At a CCT studio on Naghten Street, I spoke to a mother of a 7-year-old returning CCT student, who also participated in the program last summer. Through these classes, her mother has seen an increase in her daughter's self-confidence, creativity and imagination. She said her daughter can meet only a few kids during the school year, and sees the same fellow students each day. A key benefit of CCT has been the opportunity for her daughter to make new friends.

The program's exercies and activities also have increased her daughter's ability to communicate and express her personality, the mother said. Although she is naturally an outgoing and bubbly child, her daughter can be reserved in front of strangers. CCT has opened doors, helping her daughter with public situations and encouraging her to become more outgoing.

Such benefits of the CCT summer program have been witnessed daily by Deborah Hanna, a passionate and enthusiastic instructor in Grove City. Hanna has seen transformations within one class, observing a child who barely speaks change into the most energetic participant at the course's conclusion. It was obvious Hanna's role in this development provides her with a great sense of accomplishment, which she admitted is her "main goal." The classes enable children to blossom during social interactions. "They are all strangers at first," Hanna said, "which changes quickly."

Children gain confidence and new friends, all while learning to be more well-spoken. "Public" and "speaking" are two dreaded words, Hanna said, but most jobs require at least some speaking before a group. "Children need to be able to show what they know; they need to learn how to be convincing," she said. Hanna believes children need to learn to be brave and these classes are the first step.

Because of the mix of personalities within the CCT summer classes, Hanna said children increase their ability to problem solve. Many students are at different levels and Hanna often witnesses more advanced children helping others, which teaches them patience and teamwork. She truly believes parents who involve their children in activities such as CCT's summer academy classes are "giving their kids a gift."

Another mom, whose 11-year-old daughter had just finished her first class with Hanna, said she hopes the classes will help her daughter with ballet and with stage fright before performances. She also hopes the classes will "teach her to smile" and provide her daughter with the ability to feel comfortable in front of audiences.
This mom already has witnessed the benefits of involvement in the arts. She said ballet has helped her daughter in school, increasing her ability to focus. Her daughter also has learned lessons of hard work, commitment and lots of practice.

Columbus Children's Theatre has been active in exposing children to the arts and offering them confidence and life skills since 1963. Summer academy classes will continue until August 22 and CCT's production of Schoolhouse Rock Live!, Jr. will run August 13 through 24. What better way to spend the end of summer with your child than by providing her with an expressive outlet that is both fun and beneficial?

Open the world of creative expression to your children now. As Henry David Thoreau said, "This world is but a canvas to our imagination."