How Dance Can Benefit Your Child’s Early Development

When the kids were almost three I enrolled them in dance lessons for a myriad of reasons. I’m glad I did as today guest writer, Wendy Dressler, shares the benefits for dance for children.

Children develop at an incredible rate, especially when introduced to stimuli that encourage targeted use of their motor skills and minds. Dance is one of the many extracurricular activities that can assist with early childhood development and perhaps one of the most versatile.

If you’ve been looking for ways to help your child develop and reach their full potential, consider enrolling them in dance classes. Here are a few of the ways dance assists with development.

Social Engagement

While not viewed as a traditional team sport, dance necessitates a combination of both independent development and collaboration. Everything from syncing movements during a choreographed performance to sporting matching accessories for dance from Just for Kix helps your child become an active member of a community of like-minded individuals. The shared effort, passion, and teamwork helps a child develop social skills that will stay with them throughout their lives.

Bring a part of a dance class also teaches social behaviors like respect for authority figures and mutual respect among peers. Dancing helps develop emotional intelligence and the ability to empathize with others.

Physical Wellness

An appreciation for physical health and wellness should be cultivated at an early age, and dance can make that possible. At a base level, dance helps young children develop an awareness of their body and how they fit into the space around them. It assists with developing coordination and balance through the application of gross motor skills, plyometrics, and isometric holds.

As physical fitness is essential for improved cardiovascular health, disease prevention, and the development of muscular strength and endurance, the benefits of starting dance at a young age are immeasurable. This form of art in motion helps counteract the time spent sitting at school or on mobile screens that have become so accessible in recent years. As the disruption caused by blue light becomes more evident, movement and screen-free time is becoming more important for overall health and wellness.

Emotional Intelligence and Expression

Dance is a powerful way to express emotion through movement. Anger, sadness, joy– the whole spectrum of human emotion can be conveyed during the dance. For children, identifying emotions is a learning process. Figuring out how to express them is another task entirely, one that many adults never learn. With dance, children can learn how a certain emotion sounds, feels and looks.

Not only does learning to identify and convey emotions benefit the child as they learn to communicate and interact with the world around them, but it also helps them identify emotions in others. This will help them develop emotional intelligence and empathy.

Learning How to Learn

Dance isn’t always fun and games. Your child will have to learn how to follow directions and focus on the task at hand. This requires listening attentively to their instructor and paying attention to the instructions. In other words, your child will learn how to learn. This valuable skill will carry over to the school and beyond.

Finally, through the process of learning how to learn, your child will learn that perseverance is the key to success. Mistakes will be made, but so will progress. With time and dedication, a seemingly insurmountable task will become routine, and your child’s confidence will blossom.

Dancing benefits both the body and the mind, creating a strong foundation for early childhood development.

About Wendy 
Wendy is a super-connector with Outreachmama who helps businesses find their audience online through outreach, partnerships, and networking. She frequently writes about the latest advancements in digital marketing and focuses her efforts on developing customized blogger outreach plans depending on the industry and competition.

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The Show Must Go On  

Last summer I enrolled the girls in summer dance lessons, but it didn’t go as well as I hoped.  Three of the kids regularly participated, but Rylin attended a single class (the first one) for the full length of time.  Though I sat right outside the studio door, she developed extreme separation anxiety.  As the weeks pressed on, I hoped it would improve, but it never did.  

When it was time to enroll in classes for the school year, I opted out, feeling defeated.  I mulled it over and though I wasn’t hoping for a prima ballerina, I knew dance lessons (or something similar) would help Rylin develop a few essential skills.  Since we are homeschooling it was important that she learned to follow directions from another adult and feel comfortable without me.  Because Rylin associated the original studio with anxiety, I decided we should try again elsewhere.  In fact, I thought the best place was in my Aunt Linda’s class.  The first few weeks of dance at the new studio were difficult, but Linda had several wonderful techniques that effectively eliminated anxiety for Rylin.

  1. The first two lessons were a mommy and me class.  All of the parents stayed in the studio and participated so the children could learn what to expect WITH their moms.
  2. She followed a very predictable routine in the same room each week.
  3. She never forced participation, but encouraged it.
  4. She used peers as models for new skills.
  5. She used lots of praise and encouragement.

Rylin really enjoyed the mommy and me format, but when it ended, she was unhappy and distraught.  I knew that if I attempted to stay in the room, it would exacerbate Rylin’s anxiety by inadvertently suggesting, “It’s not okay for you to do this without me.”  When Rylin refused to attend class, Sydney went alone and was praised for her effort.  Rylin was seated in a designated “boring chair” outside the studio.  While in the boring chair, I did not interact with Rylin at all and did not allow her to play with toys or read books.  After sitting in the “boring chair” once, Rylin started going to class and never threw another tantrum.  In fact, she began excitedly anticipating dance class and always participated.  Over the course of the year, both girls made gains in self confidence, following directions, and developing motor skills.  Rylin began talking about going on stage and asking when it was time for recital.  She was thrilled for her time to shine.

The night prior to recital, both girls woke up at 3:00 am with terrible coughs.  Needless to say, we didn’t sleep well and the girls awoke GROUCHY!  Rehearsal was atrocious.  Both girls were clingy and whiney.  Rylin burst into tears at the thought of going on stage and there was no consoling her. Sydney agreed to dance with her class and Rylin enjoyed watching from the audience.  After seeing her class perform, Rylin reconsidered her stance about joining them.  To up the anty, George promised flowers and cookies to whoever danced on stage.  Rylin excitedly accepted the challenge!

The pair enjoyed primping for recital and wearing their sparkly pink tutus.  As it was time for me to go to the audience, Rylin began to tear up and cling to me.  I was relieved when my cousin’s daughter appeared in the dressing room and began encouraging the girls.  I felt confident leaving them with T and made my escape.  The backstage moms later told me that T was a huge asset backstage and Rylin may not have danced without her.

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As the girls’ class entered the stage I held my breath as I counted silhouettes.  I sighed as I spied six dancers instead of seven, expecting that Rylin wasn’t going.  As the lights came on, I nearly cried tears of joy as I both girls on stage and dancing together.  These babies have come such a long way from being two and three pound preemies to conquering their fears about performing.  When reunited backstage, the girls beamed with pride and Rylin began asking when she could dance on stage again.  It won’t be for another year, but we are signed up for dance again next year.



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The girls were delighted to see that Daddy delivered the flowers and cookies as promised.

 

What fears have you conquered?

 

Hugs!

 

Amber


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Commence the Extracurricular Activities

For Christmas, the quads received a generous monetary gift from a dear family friend to be spent on activities.  Originally I intended to buy a family membership to the zoo or children’s museum.  I did some preliminary research and decided memberships weren’t prudent since the quads have free admission most places until their third birthday, which isn’t until July.  When I found a dance studio offering summer dance lessons buy one, get one free I decided it would be a fabulous way to use the gift. Long before the quads arrived, I hoped to one day enroll my own children in dance lessons, and recently I’d begun thinking of enrolling the girls when they were ready.  Though I’m not planning on keeping the boys in dance lessons (unless they request them), I figured it would be a fun summer activity for all four, and an excellent opportunity for them to practice gross motor skills, following directions, and being separated from us while also being away from home.

In the weeks leading up to the first dance class, I rummaged in the attic and unearthed my first pair of tap shoes, which I wore at about three years old.  I was delighted when they fit Rylin perfectly.  I managed to find a secondhand pair of tap shoes for Sydney at Kid to Kid, and surprisingly we had hand me down shoes from my cousin’s kids that fit the boys.  Though the dance studio indicated tennis shoes would suffice, I wanted the girls to have their own classic pink ballet slippers.  Being short on time, I ordered ballet slippers and black leotards from my favorite go-to retailer, Amazon.  The quads proudly schlepped their dance shoes in toddler backpacks given to them by my grandmother,

Toddler Dance Bag

toddler backpacks

I allocated about 30 minutes to get everyone ready for class, and felt accomplished when everyone donned dance garb in 15 minutes.  That pride faded when I noticed Harper removed his shoes and Rylin pulled her hair out.  At times like that, I feel as though I’m in a constant game of Whack a Mole.  As quickly as possible, I put Harper’s shoes back onto his chubby feet and re-styled Rylin’s hair before ushering everyone to the van.

Much to my surprise, we arrived at the studio in ample time for me to complete registration and pay for lessons.  Once everything was settled, the quads waited with me for their class to begin.  More importantly, they did a stunning job staying seated the entire wait.

dance class

Sydney is fascinated by taking selfies and snapped this photo during the wait.  She really has a knack with the camera, sometimes snapping better photos than me.

When it was time for class, the quads were called by name and given a name tag.  Then, they were led into the studio and were assigned a cubby to house their backpacks.  Once they were settled, I made a quick escape so they could attend to the teachers.  Rylin was notably hesitant to participate, and I knew if I lingered she’d cling ferociously.  I didn’t hear any screaming or crying, which I figured was a good sign.  Towards the end of class, parents were invited to the studio to watch the kids demonstrate the “freeze dance”.   Of the four, only Mason and Sydney were willing to partake in this demo, and they seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.  Rylin outright refused even with me cajoling her and Harper seemed oblivious as to what he should do.  At the conclusion of class, each of the students received a sticker.  Rylin wasn’t keen on dancing, but she was rather articulate about which sticker she wanted, and where it should be placed (sigh).

dance class

freeze dance

dance class

Though I was responsible for getting the crew to dance lessons, George met me at the studio after work and helped me load the van for home.  As we approach the next dance lesson, Rylin’s been telling me she has no intentions of going.  I sincerely hope she’ll fall into place when she sees the other kids.  The boys are humoring me with these dance classes, but on several occasions Harper blatantly stated, “I’m doing baseball in the fall!”  I’m not sure he knows what baseball, or t-ball entails, however.

dance class

What extracurricular activities did you enjoy as a child?  Did your parents force you to participate in any?

hugs,

Amber

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