Updated: Sep 19, 2019
Many parents who are interested in ballet classes for young children have one image in mind: their smiling ballerina wearing an adorable tutu! Don’t get us wrong—seeing your child light up the stage and look cute while doing it is definitely one of the benefits of beginner dance classes.
However, here are a few other mental pictures we’d like to introduce: a confident preschooler who always raises her hand during vocabulary lessons. An all-star middle school athlete who is stronger and more flexible than her teammates. A happy teenager surrounded by close friends in the school cafeteria.
Many dance parents are surprised to discover that ballet classes for preschoolers create a strong foundation for the rest of their kids’ lives! Below are seven remarkable benefits for toddlers who love to dance:
Ballet classes introduce your dancer to a world of new words! Take anatomy for instance. While you probably won’t see classically trained ballerinas dancing on stage to the “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” song anytime soon, dance class is one of the best places for kids to learn words for the human body.
Isolations, or the act of moving only one part of your body in dance, are a key aspect of ballet. But before your dancer can move individual parts of her body, she needs to learn their names. In your family’s first toddler ballet classes, your child will sit on the floor and their teacher will have her start out by pointing to various body parts—from her toes and heels to her heart and tummy. These mental exercises help kids learn new words and even grasp concepts like object permanence: Just because you can’t see your toes in your ballet shoes, it doesn’t mean they’re not there!
As your dancer learns the names of body parts, she will begin to incorporate them in isolation exercises. She will quickly discover verbs for dance movements, such as:
Experienced dance teachers will turn their dance studios into classrooms, introducing your dancer to new words while also helping her develop important physical skills like flexibility.
You probably aren’t surprised that toddler ballet classes focus on flexibility. How else would your kid learn to do a flawless arabesque? What you may not know, however, is that your little dancer will be learning how to become flexible safely.
Ballet teachers will show your toddler the best posture for stretching, using these weekly exercises that promote healthy flexibility:
Butterfly stretches increase hip and inner-thigh flexibility. Dancers will sit on the floor, bending their knees slightly and holding the soles of the feet together.
Pike stretches ensure that your dancer has flexible hamstrings. Their teacher will show her how to sit on the floor with her legs closed and straight. With her knees touching the floor, your dancer will touch their toes, placing their chest on their thighs.
Straddle stretches will help your dancer work toward being able to do the splits. Sitting on the floor, she will separate her legs as far as her flexibility allows, pointing her feet and straightening her knees. With her arms extended, she will then rotate her rib cage back and forth from right to left.
Dance teachers have a fun way of describing ballet: exercise in disguise! Strength is essential for being able to hold elegant ballet poses and perform rigorous routines.
Unfortunately, strength can sometimes be overlooked by less established dance programs. An instructor may want your dancer to be able to “kick herself in the face by this time next week,” placing an unhealthy amount of focus on flexibility. Flexibility must be paired with strength for the safety of your dancer.
The best strength-building exercises for toddlers in ballet class combine playful imagination with tried-and-true fitness activities:
Mountain Climbing is essentially a sit-up with an added element of adventure. Your dancer will build a strong core by laying on their back and bending their knees to form a “mountain.” They will then move their arms to mimic climbing a rope, slowly moving up the mountain and down again.
Puppy Push-Ups are the cutest way for budding ballerinas to build arm strength. Dancers hold themselves off the floor in a plank position, slowly lowering themselves down to “take a drink out of their dog bowl” on the floor before raising themselves back up again.
Dinner Tables offer the limb-strengthening benefits of crab walks without requiring toddlers to know what a crab actually is. Your dancer will hold herself off the floor with her belly in the air, much like a table. Her dance instructor will then tell her to use one arm to “take a bite of food from the plate on their tummy.” She will alternate arms, increasing the weight on her opposite arm and developing strength and balance in the process.
The strength and flexibility offered through ballet class will help your toddler stay healthy and build the foundation of a physically active lifestyle. These benefits are invaluable, whether your kid plans to take dance classes for many years or play sports or other athletic activities. There are, however, additional benefits of preschool ballet classes that aren’t visible—ones that build inner strength.
It is likely that ballet class will be the first time your toddler is introduced to an authority figure who isn’t her parent. A dance instructor is a great ally to have on your team while teaching your dancer lessons about discipline and self-control. For example, your toddler will learn how to share space with other people and wait her turn in line.
Obviously, everyone can’t be in the spotlight all the time in class or even during a recital. Dancers begin learning the attitude of sharing by taking turns and letting each dancer have her moment to be first in line, to be the leader, and to let her light shine.
If a child chooses not to listen to her dance instructor, a learning experience may be necessary. Many movies and television shows depict dance teachers as mean tyrants who dole out harsh punishments. While these teachers may exist at some studios, most instructors will calmly explain to the dancer what she is doing wrong and that she needs to make a better choice. The instructor will help the dancer to understand that if she chooses to behave, she is choosing the reward of continuing in class. However, if she chooses to continue misbehaving, she is choosing the logical consequence of sitting with her parent outside the dance room.
These rules are not meant to shame or discourage a toddler: They exist so that young dancers can grow into strong performers who respect both adults and their peers.
Discipline teaches young ballerinas to tear down their bad habits, and the very same dance classes can build up confidence through positive reinforcement. An experienced dance instructor will create many opportunities to increase your dancer’s self-confidence while learning ballet.
There are many toddlers who can’t even make eye contact when they start taking classes. Only a few months later, they will come out of their shells and build strong relationships that can only form with a healthy dose of self-confidence.
The dance studio is a safe space for kids to be themselves and be praised for their accomplishments. Many instructors will save time at the end of classes for “talent shows,” in which dancers perform ballet skills one at a time. At the end of each performance, the instructor and other students will applaud and offer much-deserved praise. These moments, combined with the applause of a recital audience, will leave a lasting impression on your dancer.
Ballet is often considered to be art for athletes. Your kid will grow stronger and more flexible through toddler dance classes, but they will also grow more creative. Ballet creates a unique outlet for your dancer to translate their emotions, thoughts, and ideas into powerful movements.
Take “mood dancing,” for example. Your kid’s dance instructor will turn on music and then announce a certain emotion, such as sad or happy. The class will then translate the emotion into dance: slow, mopey strides for sadness or springy, explosive leaps for happiness.
Toddlers who may not be patient enough to sit at a table to paint or draw can discover their creativity on the floor of a dance studio. Bubbly energy is encouraged in this kind of art!
The friendships that dancers make in ballet class are strong because they are formed through teamwork and a love of dance. Dance class is one of the first times your child will meet other kids based on a shared interest. As they learn new skills, classmates will rely on one another and literally support their friends. Together, your child and her fellow dancers will enjoy the six benefits of toddler ballet mentioned above—and they will just think they’re having fun!
Source: Sonshine Academy