The Psychological Impact Theatre Has on Development

By: Sarah Brill  |  November 21, 2019

By: Sarah Brill, Science and Technology Editor

From the times of Shakespeare to modern day Hamilton, theatre has shaped the way we view political, encomonic, and social events throughout history. Nowadays, theatre has played an integral role in many young minds. The fantasy of theatre encapsulates the power of “playing” without a toy or device to help facilitate imagination. However, the use of toys are helpful to kick-start an active and innovative mind. 

This idea of “playing” has been integrated into many therapeutic techniques, where children, usually aged 11 and under, can go to therapy and communicate their feelings through their actions rather than words. Usually, children who have gone through traumatic experiences are unable to verbalize what they are thinking or feeling without reliving that event. As a way to explain their situation, they may take a toy, like a car or animal, to portray their parents, themselves, or somebody else, in order to communicate their struggles. Without this outlet, a child’s mental development can be blocked, as their toxic memories can take hold of their mind if it is not released in someway. This type of playing can be a positive asset to the child and their development, as they are able to use their cast of characters to portray the play of their life story, which helps them better cope with certain undesirable situations. 

Playing is an action that comes naturally to many children, but by the time a child reaches the schooling system, the concept of imagination seems like a distant dream. The schooling system, by this point, has molded our brains into a box. We are told to think outside of the box, as long as we follow the rules that surround it. By childhood, an outlet is needed to escape from societal boxes. I, like many others, turned to theatre as a sort of catharsis. Theatre allows people to problem-solve in ways that are not taught in the classroom and which can help facilitate interpersonal relationships. Through theatre or play, children are able to notice their own bodies and the relationship between themselves and another person. This three-dimensional developed play, in the future, can develop math and science skills at faster rates, since the concept of mass and space will be developed at younger ages. 

Theatre not only teaches children to use their imaginations and creativity in a positive environment, it also teaches them social awareness, memory, and trust. These concepts are rarely discussed and taught in the typical classroom setting. That leaves theatre to take care of the job. Oftentimes, many school or academy productions in the junior age division (Kindergarten – 5th grade), will focus on “legends, myths, poems, stories, and plays that will ultimately teach children about social conflicts from cultures of the past, present, and all over the world.” This enriched environment allows for accelerated mental development both in and outside the classroom. 

In the theatre, children also develop memory techniques through memorizing lines, cues, and movements which engage the hippocampus (memory center). Memorizing is often used when learning academic subjects, and if children learn how to memorize properly when they are young, they will ultimately benefit from it more. 

One of the most vital skills produced from a theatre experience is trust. The ability to trust your castmates, the director, and stage managers is beneficial to a child’s development, since trust is one of the biggest factors when developing interpersonal relationships. Techniques learned in theatre environments allow children to analyze situations better and know who to trust, since they have been around trustworthy (and untrustworthy) people in the past. 

Child development has been categorized as many things. From Jean Piaget’s Structure of Child Development to John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory, I personally don’t think either of them have gotten it right. Development happens when it happens and milestones can only be hit if a child is enriched in the proper environment. One thing is true about psychological development though, if children are involved in theatre from a young age, their minds, both the creativity-wise and academically, will benefit greatly. 



Child Play: Its Importance for Human Development By: Peter Slade