When Should Your Child Start Dance?


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    By: ActivityTree

    Your child loves music, has energy to burn and would look adorable in a little tutu. Is she ready to realize her ballerina dreams? Most dance studios do not accept students into a structured ballet or tap program until they are at least 5 years old.  However, mommy and me and creative movement classes for tots as young as 18 months are becoming increasingly common. Should you start your daughter in dance at such a young age? Here are a few things to think about before you sign her up.

    Will She Participate?

    Each child develops a sense of independence at her own pace.  Some children are less comfortable with strangers and new environments.  If this is your child, it may be best not to introduce her to a formal class when she is a toddler or preschooler.  At this stage, her resistance is truly rooted in fear and she may not be emotionally capable of overcoming her anxiety. 

    You may have more success, and save yourself a lot of frustration and money, developing a toddler or preschooler’s independence outside the dance studio first.  Introduce play dates with familiar people or in familiar settings.  Also, encourage her to dance at home or take her to an older sibling or cousin’s class to acquaint her with dance class generally.  Introduce a dance class when she has developed a bit more confidence.  Or, start with a mommy and me class that introduces your child to dance while she is no more than arms length from her mother.

    Can She Follow Instructions?

    As parents, we have all witnessed the selective listening skills of our children.  While it may seem she is ignoring you intentionally, your child’s underdeveloped listening skills may be the real culprit.  Toddlers and preschoolers are less able to follow complex instructions, less skilled at concentrating, and can become overwhelmed when presented with too much new information.  Add your expectations for your child’s future as a ballerina and the result can be disappointment for both you and your child.  You know your child.  Be sure she is mentally prepared for a class that demands her attention and focus.  If you decide to take the leap when your child is 2 or 3, make sure the length of the class is consistent with your child’s attention span.

    Is She Physically Ready?

    A shuffle step may seem pretty elementary to a parent. However, you might be surprised how difficult it is for most children to translate what they see into a multi-part move they have never accomplished before.  Dancing demands the execution of complex physical moves, with grace.  It also requires practice to perfect the proper position and movement.  Toddlers and preschoolers are simply not physically ready for the true elements of dance.  And, quite frankly, the repetition can be a bore for young children who would rather just run around.  Having said that, a child who is otherwise mentally prepared for a dance class may absolutely love a creative movement class that allows her to express herself rather than memorize a set of dance moves.

    So, is your child ready?  You are in the best position to make that judgment.  If your little 3 year old is outgoing, coordinated and listens to directions, this may be the perfect time to introduce her to dance.  Our advice, start with a creative movement class rather than a more structured ballet or combo class.  If your child is not ready, have no fear, she will not fall behind and may develop a greater appreciation for dance at age 5.

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