Being involved in a dance class has a myriad of benefits for young children, not all of them physical.
In this episode I am speaking with Anita Kertland, from Spring Pointe. She has a passion for teaching children between the ages of 3-5 pre-ballet skills, and brings her talents as an experienced dancer and qualified yoga teacher, and the perspective of a trained occupational therapist.
During our conversation, Anita shares her perspectives about the benefits of dance class. From improving posture, balance and muscle tone, to working on developmental skills such as hopping on one leg, jumping, galloping and skipping, and improve bilateral integration of their body by using both sides of the body. Identifying left and right sides of the body, mirroring, and crossing the midline are also benefits.
She also explains how it can do wonders socially as well, as children learn to be part of a class, attend to the teacher and follow directions. They learn turn taking, and waiting patiently when appropriate, as well as the boundaries of their own space and shared space – when is it appropriate to touch someone else or get close and when is it not?
One she particularly loves is that they come to realise that if they are not ready to start, there is the consequence of holding the group up – ‘we can’t play the music until everyone is ready!’ – and become motivated to work as a team. Performing in front of an audience, even if that audience is simply the parents watching the class, can boost their confidence enormously.
Anita explains that if your child’s dance teacher is creative, they will learn so much more than just about dance in his/her class. They will learn about animals, tasks at home, characters in books and films, different countries and their cultures and costumes.
She introduces so many stories as her classes find that dance can be used to tell a story or to express feelings. Even giving out themed stickers at the end can be an opportunity to introduce another concept and learn about the outside world!
But the benefits don’t end there! When it comes to thinking skills is where it gets really interesting. They practise so many emerging and foundational cognitive skills such as
- Forward planning: ‘Where do we need to start this movement if it moves to the right side?’
- Being organised and ready to start; understanding there is a start, middle and end: ‘What position is my body in to start this exercise? And what’s the ending pose?’
- Sequencing: ‘What step comes after the one I’m currently doing?’
- Visual Spatial Reasoning: ‘We should be forming a circle in the middle of the room’ (Spatial relations)
- Working Memory: ‘We’re learning a new step at the end of the sequence but I can still remember what’s at the beginning’
- Auditory Spatial Thinking: By attending to the music children and identifying the beat, taking cues from the music in the form of counts, energy and instruments used, and learning basic rhythms (slow…slow… quick, quick, slow…)
To even have a chance for all these benefits to work their power, children have to love coming to dance class!
So enjoyment is a huge factor when choosing a class for your child. They don’t need to have perfect balance or beautiful arched feet or be even the slightest bit graceful! Just the willingness to follow what’s being asked of them in the class and give each task a good try.
And what’s important to look for in a dance class for your little one? A kind teacher who the children feel comfortable with, children’s ideas being accepted, appropriate motor skills being worked on, simple rhythms introduced, experimentation encouraged, introduction of dance class practices like lines and turn taking, and neat grooming. And what’s not important? Perfection!
If you’re wondering if your child is ready for dance class, we have prepared a quick checklist for you to consider: