Why Kids Make the Best Actors and What We Can Learn from Them
Ever wondered why kids act so brilliantly and naturally in movies and TV?
They emote and play the role authentically and effortlessly.
I don’t think a child actor gets any professional training. He or she doesn’t go to classes or hire an acting coach. Yet, they are so believable and manage to captivate the audience.
Why is that?
What makes kids such brilliant actors?
Every time I see a show with a child I ask myself the same questions. As I thought more and more about it, I realized there are two distinctive things that kids do that make them move through their scenes with convincing ease.
These two traits are within each one of us. As days go by, we lose a bit of each. But with some awareness, we can choose to uncover our hidden most valued gifts and use them.
In children these qualities are unadulterated and unrestricted—and that’s what makes the biggest difference.
So here are the two attributes that children embrace. Their effect can be felt in many other areas of our lives.
We are born with limitless supply of this wonderful and magical ability—imagining, and creating a different reality, even if only in our heads, for a short period of time.
Children use their imagination instinctively. They let this gift run wild and they run with it.
As adults—with years of conditioning and rejection and the busyness of daily living and demands of life—we stifle our imagination. We stop seeking creative solutions. We become invisible cogs in the mechanical wheel of life called routine. After all, this is what adults do.
Only the brave and adventurous amongst us continue to allow their imagination to run wild and see where it takes them. The rest of us are making a living and are more than happy to pay for the fruits of others’ imagination in any shape or form.
It’s not like we don’t have imagination. We just stopped using it as a source of inspiration and adventure.
We do use it, however, when it comes to all kinds of fear—rejection, failure, abandonment, making mistakes, and so on.
One can say we have an imagination bias. We only imagine the worst, instead of the wildest possibilities. And we continue to do it though, in most cases, none of our imagined fears ever come to life.
Imagination can be an escape sometimes. But it can also be the doorway to new ideas and adventures that alter our reality and redefine what’s possible. What we can learn from children is this: allow imagination to lead the way—instead of using imagination as a weapon to torment and cage ourselves in limitations and fears.
And this brings me to the next point:
Confidence (absence of self-doubt)
I truly believe we’re all born confidant. And we gradually lose it, one little experience at a time.
Children don’t hesitate and derail their adventure thinking: oh I can’t do this. I don’t have what it takes. The thought doesn’t even cross their minds—until adults plant it.
Children don’t worry about what would others think—until we teach them to worry.
Children don’t fear failure. They want to play and see where that takes them without fixating on results. Their egos develop over time as society conditions them to want to look good and succeed.
Kids love to be the center of attention and they don’t mind being the focus of the camera. While kids can be self-absorbed, it’s the good kind, the kind that makes them do what they love without fear or guilt.
Then they go to school, grow up and start comparing themselves to others, feel judged and graded (everything has a grade/score) and from there self-doubt starts to rear its ugly head.
And as we grow, we feed the self-doubt monster and we second-guess everything we do.
This second-guessing is what makes us seek validation, keep changing our approach, and never feel happy with what we’ve accomplished because it could’ve been better.
Children embody natural human brilliance—unquestioned confidence, unhindered imagination and the desire to have fun in everything they do.
We all can act like children in this regard (and that would be a privilege, not an insult). If or when we make this choice, we will allow our imagination to soar and take us to places we never thought possible—without too much thought or analysis. The rest usually takes care of itself.
PS If you want to see a wonderful example of a brilliantly convincing child actor, check out Beasts of the Southern Wild. You won’t be disappointed.