Did you know that skills learned in dance class are also beneficial for preparing little ones for school? It’s true!
While dance is an amazing way for your little one to develop physically (gain coordination, musicality and fitness), it’s also super for social development. Building social skills through engaging in social play and social learning activities has been found to help lower cortisol levels (stress hormone) in kids (Check out this article from Verywell Family on the benefits of social skill development in Pre-Kindergarten kids). Actively working on building social skills gives kids the tools they need to increase their comfort and confidence in social settings.
Here’s 5 super social skills you may not have known a child learns in dance class:
1.Following direction. We’ve probably all had the experience of our child running like a maniac down an aisle at the grocery store. “Wait! Stop!”. Nothing. They continue to run. Following direction is a learned skill. It takes time, positive reinforcement and repetition. Taking a structured class like dance gives your child an opportunity to practice this coveted skill. Following your direction is a skill that comes with time, and so is learning how to follow direction from other adults. This is why a weekly class is so great!
2. Memory skills. Do you know the theme song to “Paw Patrol” by heart? I know I do! How do we learn? By listening, seeing, doing and applying. Everyone has a preferred way of learning, but the great thing about dance is that it touches on each of these aspects. Dance helps build memory skills in little ones by building on movements that come naturally to them (e.x. jumping, turning, galloping, marching, etc.). We build on these movements by applying them to different types of music, orders, and using elements of dance such as levels, rhythm, size and shape. Through these movements our little ones begin to develop memory skills. Being able to take a concept and apply it in different situations is a skill that is transferable to the academic classroom.
3. Dancer manners. I have a little guy at home and I am definitely guilty of letting him sing at an incredibly loud level, leave blocks all over the floor, and occasionally jump on the couch (shhh, don’t tell his dad!). However, these behaviors are definitely not appropriate for social settings. Dancer manners are a huge benefit of dance that are often overlooked by parents. What are they? They are a set list of behaviors that help guide what is and what is not acceptable in the dance room. Simply put, they are the classroom rules. We have set dancer manners for our classes with students as young as 2 years old. These are things like using an acceptable tone of voice, saying thank you (showing gratitude), listening to our teacher, maintaining personal space, encouraging others, taking turns and sharing. These are all big social skills that help set our little ones up for success at school, in the playground and in life! Dancer manners are what allows us to have fun and freedom, while staying grounded within a framework of socially acceptable behaviours.
4. Building knowledge and sharing ideas. Children are continuously learning about the world around them as they grow. It’s amazing to see how they link concepts together, how they draw conclusions and how they think through the unknown. Dance class fosters an environment for developing confidence in sharing ideas which is key to learning how to work through problems with others. Learning how to compare and contrast concepts like big and small, slow and fast, sharp and smooth. Developing an understanding of how a hop (1 foot) is different than a jump (2 feet). How does a hop turn into a skip? Is this a happy song or a sad song? How do we show others we’re happy? If someone is sad how can we show them we care? Oh wow! Even as I write this I can come up with so many examples of how we share ideas to help solve problems in dance class. It’s in almost everything we do! And it’s not only through looking at movement, but also through looking at music and emotional expression! Hmm…this could probably be a whole other blog post on its’ own.
5. Asking for help. The first time I had to leave my little guy at daycare I was so nervous. Would they know what he wanted? If he was cold, hot, hungry, thirsty, tiered, bored; would he be able to get the help he needed? Now granted at that time he was only just 1 year old, so verbal skills were only just developing. But all kids, no matter their age, often have a hard time asking for help when they need it. Part of growing up is learning to recognize when help is needed, then knowing how to ask for it, AND having the confidence to ask for it. Learning how to ask an adult other than mom or dad for help is hard for some kids. It’s super common in young children for them to use frustration and anger when they need something. The benefit to being in a social learning environment at a young age is the educator can help kids develop those skills. They can encourage little ones to share their frustrations, encourage them to share their feelings when they appear dis-engaged, and help them work through challenges when mom/dad aren’t there. “She’s on my spot!” “It’s MY turn to go first” “I want the pink one” “I can’t do it” These are 100% common expressions in our classes with little ones. However, these are also all excellent learning opportunities. Learning how to work through these feelings will help set kids up for success in school.
These 5 things are just a small piece of what is learned in dance class. Add in the physical and emotional benefits and these all add up to 1 beneficial class for our little ones. Who knew that leaping, twirling and grooving would be so beneficial in setting our kids up for social success!
About the Author: Ms. Melissa is Owner & Director at Flexpointe Studios Inc. A dance educator with 18years of teaching experience. She’s also a Registered Nurse, coffee consumer, hiking fanatic, and mom to one very active toddler. Her dance classes are full of energy, creative ideas, and at times are a little silly too.