So your thinking about introducing your child to the whimsical world of dance. But how do you know when they are ready to start?
While age is one consideration it should not be the primary means of determining when a child is ready. Generally children as young as 2 can start introductory dance/ movement and music lessons with a carer. Once they are 5 - 7 years of age they will generally comence more structured and style specific dance classes.
Maturity and personality:
Is the child able to listen, follow basic instructions, have patience and to open to trying new things? Then they should thrive in dance classes. If they are easily upset by directions, stubborn or attached to carer they may not be ready. However it is always worth a trial and you may be surprised.
Attention Span and Ability to Focus:
A child's ability to engage in lessons and maintain attention and focus on a task for a small period of time should be considered. If your child is easily distracted this might be a sign they are not ready. But an inability to maintain attention on a particular task for an extended period of time is perfectly normal for the children's stage of development. However dance classes and educators are very skilled in developing and structuring age appropriate lessons to engage children so it might be worth attending a trial lesson to assess first.
Does your child have basic social skills? Are they able to engage, interact, communicate and collaborate with others? Are they considerate of other children. ie. able to share? Then they should be perfectly okay in dance classes. For some students starting dance classes is the perfect activity to promote the development of social skills so it might still be worth considering.
General signs your child is ready to start dance classes:
Moving to music from the TV and radio etc.
Enjoys listening to music.
Loves to sing along to the TV or radio etc.
Asking questions about dancing.
Enjoys playing dress ups etc.
'Twirls' or 'tip toes' around the house.
General signs your child may not be ready to start dancing:
Inability to separate from carer for a short period of time.
Not easily encourage to move or does not self initiate movement.
Currently toilet training.
Difficulty communicating in first language (* please note this does not refer to English as a second language).
Still wants a bottle.
Things to consider when your child is upset at dancing or does not want to attend class:
Have they just woken up from a nap?
Starting too late in the dance season when friendships and class community has already been developed.
Are they hungry or dehydrated? Have they had a nourishing snack/ meal and drink prior to class.
Does not have the correct uniform or equipment.
These are simply signs your child has had an 'off day' not that they are not ready to start dancing.
Be patient, persistent and encouraging. Like all of us we need to time to adjust to a new environment and to learn new ideas. Finally dance is an art form that while we strive for perfection there is always room to grow, learn and develop.