Kids and Improv: Playing for Life by Nancy Kratz, Phd.
What do child psychology and improvisational comedy have in common? Turns out quite a bit. A new trend in the education and counseling field is the use of improvisation to help kids improve social skills, build confidence and overcome social anxiety. The principles of Improv are combined with the theory and techniques of psychology to create a vibrant, fun experience where the kids usually don’t even realize they are learning life skills.
Coincidentally, improvisational comedy has its roots in recreational children’s games developed by Neva Boyd at Chicago’s Hull House in the early 1900’s. Viola Spolin, known as the mother of Improv, transformed Boyd’s activities into improv games and later her son, Paul Sills went on to found Second City.
The rules of Improv set the stage for a positive, accepting environment. The games focus on the present moment, respecting and helping your fellow players, and cooperative problem-solving.
From a psychological perspective, participants are learning how to self-regulate by building executive skills which research links to academic success, positive social experiences and better mental and emotional health. Executive skills are things like controlling impulses, paying attention and remembering and following directions.
Psychologists also know that children learn better in a relationship rather than book learning. The chance to practice a skill when you need it is a powerful learning experience. For example, consider Human Machine an improv game in which kids are asked to work together to invent a “machine with moving parts”. The game requires thinking about others, creative cooperation, following instructions, and problem solving all while managing one’s own feelings and behavior.
Samaritan Interfaith and Artful Impact, a nonprofit division of the School for Performing Arts in Naperville, are excited to be offering new programs using Improv to build life skills through their ZipZApZop classes. Each class is lead by a teaching artist from the School and a psychologist. Through improv games and activities the classes offer many opportunities to learn social skills, confront anxiety and build confidence. The classes are high energy, positive and engaging. To learn more about playing for life or to register for classes visitwww.samaritancenter.org or call 630-357-2456.