Improvisation is a spontaneous, fun way for kids to interact with each other. Without pre-planning or scripting, kids create scenes, play creative games and build connections through on-the-spot interactions with a partner or as a group. Because they can be wacky, inventive, and experimental, improv therapy groups are a safe and exciting way for kids to build confidence, take social risks, and practice life skills.
For our kids at In Step, social skills like going with the flow, active listening, reading body language, perspective taking, and reciprocity are not automatic or natural. Many of these kids have been bullied by their peers and continue to carry with them the wounds of social rejection. Theatre improvisation is an exciting forum to learn and practice these skills.
Improv works because its basic tenets encourage kids to take risks and try on new behaviors in a safe environment:
- Go with the flow of your fellow improvers. Keep an open mind while contributing your own ideas to the process. Loosen up and go with what’s happening in the moment.
- There are no mistakes – only opportunities. Entering a scene with this in mind keeps your mind flexible and open to possibilities. There is no such thing as saying something “stupid’ or “wrong”.
- Practice the “Yes….and” approach. Practice a flexible mindset by saying “yes” to everything in the group.
- Engage in the art of listening. Improv only works when everyone is fully present and tuned into one another.
- Have fun, laugh, be creative, and unpredictable.
In other settings like school, kids are expected to color within the lines, follow the rules, and behave. School is not the ideal environment to try out different ways of connecting with peers. In an improv group, making mistakes is encouraged, there is no way to fail, and the emphasis is on teamwork. Because anything group members contribute is incorporated into interaction, practicing improv can alter negative thinking patterns, fear of rejection, and help kids overcome social anxiety.
Like George Gershwin said, “Life is a lot like jazz….it’s best when you improvise.”