Using the arts to reduce stress

Poverty, violence and instability have been associated with chronically high levels of stress in kids. Now, a newly published study suggests involving preschoolers from disadvantaged neighborhoods in music, dance and visual arts programs may reduce their stress.

6-year-old Max Brown has been playing violin for half of his young life. He does it because it’s fun, but his mom knows there could be more at stake.

Eleanor Brown heads the Early Childhood Cognition and Emotions Lab at West Chester University. She studied disadvantaged children enrolled in an arts enrichment program. Researchers measured kids stress levels at homeroom to establish a baseline and again after music, dance and visual arts classes.

"Children showed lower cortisol levels after music, dance and visual arts classes compared with homeroom," Eleanor says.

She says the findings help validate what many have known for a long time – that the arts are crucially important to a child’s education.

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