Has your child seen a dancer on stage or television and he or she wants to dance like that? Is your 5 year old asking to take dance lessons? Maybe you wonder if formal lessons are worth the expense. If you question whether the benefits of dance classes outweigh the costs, keep reading.
Here are the 6 very BEST reasons to start your child in creative movement or ballet classes
1)EXPOSURE TO A VARIETY OF ACTIVITIES Parents can be the greatest motivating factor in a decision to take dance. Parents know that exposure to many different activities increases the opportunities for positive experiences for their children. This may be a good enough reason to explore dance, but if it isn’t, read on.
2) EXERCISE.Dance is an excellent form of exercise. Even better, dancing is fun, and it encourages children to stay healthy and active in an enjoyable way.
3) CARDIOVASCULAR FITNESS.Is raising a heart-healthy child important to you? Dancing is known to build cardiovascular stamina, and ballet, in particular, is challenging, rewarding and in the long-term, offers excellent body discipline.
NOTE: The level of dance required for exercise and cardiovascular fitness is only desirable for kids over the age of 7. Keep reading to discover the most important benefits for a younger child.
4) PHYSICAL COORDINATION & MENTAL ACUITY. This is one of the most important benefits of dance! Young children have some very important jobs to master including the development of physical coordination and mental sharpness. When children begin to connect movement and music, something beautiful happens. They also become aware of how their bodies are moving and how to best control these movements. Guided movement and other techniques utilized during dance lessons help even very young children learn and develop fine motor skills and begin to apply those skills to other daily activities.
5) FLEXIBILITY, BALANCE, STRENGTH & POSTURE. Additional benefits of dance include the development of flexibility, muscular strength, improved posture and grace. There is no doubt that dancers are graceful and VERY strong. These are benefits that will contribute to increased athleticism. All forms of dance develop these attributes in kids, and ballet training is particularly effective in establishing a solid foundation for future activities that require flexibility, balance and strength.
6) LEARNING & PROBLEM SOLVING Dancing involves all brain functions simultaneously, and research shows that movement plays a crucial role in the learning process. Practicing creative arts and dance allows young children to explore problems and solve them through movement leading them to innovative solutions. Many in the medical field see this creative thinking process as an important key to lifelong success.
If you are seriously considering enrolling a young child in dance classes, be sure to find classes that emphasize creative expression and learning rather than technique. Improvisation, imagination, creativity and musicality are key requirements that will help your young child foster and develop a love of movement to music. Why is this so important?
Neurophysiologist, Carla Hannaford, explored the role of the human body and movement in the learning process when she wrote Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All in Your Head. Hannaford stated in her book, “Movement, a natural process of life, is now understood to be essential to learning, creative thought, and high level formal reasoning. It is time to consciously bring integrative movement back into every aspect of our lives and realize, as I have, that something this simple and natural can be the source of miracles” (Hannaford 1995, 214).
Here are a few more tips from CSU Dance Conservatory Director, Lisa Carter to encourage your child’s interest in dance:
- Start guided or creative movement classes between the ages of 3 and 4 to begin building a good foundation for future training.
- Understand that it will take awhile to develop the skills needed to dance like a pro.
- Be sure to start with a class that is creative and fun!
- Beware the any dance school that puts children in pointe shoes under the age of 11. Many years of technique training in soft ballet slippers are required before allowing a child to begin dancing en pointe.
By Kristin Barker
Continuing Education Senior Operations Manager
Hannaford, C. 1995. Smart moves: Why learning is not all in your head. Arlington, VA: Great Ocean Publishers.