Head bobbing, shoulders bouncing, legs jumping and spinning... these are some of the familiar signs of bodies who love to dance! Finding their groove and rhythm from just about anything—from the drumming sound of rain drops to the vibration of loud music playing in the car—dance is a natural progression that follows music, movement, and play.
Experts also agree that the benefit of dance in early childhood helps strengthen their fundamental growth physically, emotionally and intellectually.
And let's not forget sensory overload—for the both of you! When our alarm goes off, the first thing my daughter wants to do is disappear in the mounds of pillows. But on days when we turn up the stereo, we get a different result. Her closed fist becomes a microphone as she serenades her pillow pet, and then stretches, twirls, and swings her arms in the air as if the "hills are alive." Oftentimes I find it difficult to help her get ready for school (and on time), but I'll take this kind of morning any day, instead of pulling her out of bed by her ankles.
Here are a few suggestions to help your jumping beans express their energy through dance:
Dance together. Sign up for a "Mommy and Me" or parent/caregiver type of class where you can play an active or supportive role in your child's new environment, as well as get in on the fun too! If your dancer is shy, watching you perform in front of others, or simply holding hands during the dance moves, may help with the jitters. Plus, you'll get to see firsthand how quickly they bloom and find their own groove!
Try a variety. Visit a local dance studio, YMCA, or community rec center to learn about the types of age-appropriate classes that are available on a schedule that works for the whole family. Often these types of establishments require a monthly membership fee and/or offer individual classes at a drop-in rate. Pick a few to start with before committing to an entire semester, such as ballet, jazz, hip-hop, rhythmic gymnastics, to even belly dancing and world music!
Set expectations. To not have any. Just like dance itself, be flexible. Although classes can be a heavy investment, at any given point and time, kids may out grow it, or want to focus on one form of dance over and over again. And that's ok. Lessons learned such as following directions or social participation, are valuable skills they can take with them anywhere.
And lastly, extend the moves! Learning new dance moves is easily forgettable the moment they step outside the studio. Try practicing them at home while preparing dinner, or walking to school in the mornings. This will not only help them gain more confidence in the classroom, but will also encourage them to explore their own next step!
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