Integrating Creative Movement For Your Preschooler
Have you ever really watched a child move? Slow deliberate slides give way to sudden bursts of energy. Often times, their legs move so swiftly, they seem to skim the ground. Yet these same legs can drag as if the weight of a thousand bags of sand were harnessed to their ankles.
Most parents of preschoolers notice the joy that movement brings into their child's life. And once this joy is noted, parents might start thinking about dance class. For many little ones, prancing about a stage in sequined outfits and smooth pink slippers is a rite of passage.
But what do these classes offer preschoolers? How do you find one? And are they even necessary? With a little advice from parents and experts, you can determine the best way to integrate creative movement into your child's life.
The Importance of Movement
To understand the positive aspects of movement, all anyone has to do is watch the smile that graces the face of a child spinning and hopping to the beat. There is a sense of pride and self-accomplishment that comes with mastering the movements. But there are other, more subtle, benefits involved.
"Dance teaches preschoolers to interact with others, follow directions, learn new vocabulary, increase vestibular development, help with balance, coordination, and agility, gain rhythmic skills and much more," says Ann Green Gilbert, a Seattle, Wash. dance instructor and author of Creative Dance for All Ages.
>Parents that want their child to benefit from the positive lessons of dance and movement have several alternatives at their disposal, and formal dance class is only one option.
Dancing at Home
A child's first introduction to the world of dance will come from what he sees at home. Gilbert says that parents can establish a life-long love of dance in their children by dancing around the house to a wide variety of music.
"At least once a day, we are spinning around the living room," says Dee Groves, of Scranton, Penn. "If the song's fast, we fly around the house. If it's slow, we try to move very light and soft. The kids love it."
Dancing in Class
Many parents, together with their children, decide that formal dance class might be fun. Cities around the world have creative dance classes designed specifically for preschoolers. While the availability of classes in any given area is generally high, parents should observe classes and teachers before signing up.
"The most important thing is to have a teacher that understands correct alignment, child development and appropriate class management techniques," says Gilbert. "The teacher should be positive and inspiring while helping the dancers to develop their technical and creative skills."
Sometimes, the class isn't what a child had in mind, and there is quite a bit of resistance when it comes to attending those prepaid classes. Dawn Nowakoski, a seasoned dance class mom in Indianapolis, Ind., has found a solution that appeases both parties. "Unfortunately, we pay for class whether they are there or not, and it's not cheap," she says. "So I tell my children they must go and finish the month. And at that point if they want to drop, they can."
Dance in the Theater
These classes aren't the only place outside of the home to come in contact with dance. The theater offers children another door into the world of creative movement.
"Research suggests that early introduction of creative dramatics in young children adds significantly to their cognitive, social, and emotional development," says Steve Barberio, Producing Director of Stages Theatre Company, in Hopkins, Minn.
The first step of introducing theater to a preschool aged child is to attend productions. Parents should check with local theater companies to see if a youth theater or child appropriate show is on the schedule. It is important to make certain that the show is age appropriate. "If a young person is frightened by the darkness or is exposed to subject matter too advanced, he or she may reject the experience and diminish the outing for other family members or others in the audience," says Barberio.
Margherita Cappelli, an actress in a local theater company, in Providence, R.I., firmly believes in exposing young children to theater. "I have always taken my 5-year-old son with me to the theater," she says. "He has sat through auditions, rehearsals and set building."
Cappelli finds that this early exposure to the theater has not only made her child an excellent audience member, but it also has had a positive influence on how her child views movies and television. "When a friend of his was afraid to sit through the latest Star Wars film my son told him, 'They're just acting!'" she says.
Eventually, Cappelli's son might want to try performing, and that's just fine with her -- although she also would be fine with a decision not to get on stage. What it really boils down to is the enjoyment. While they flit around the house, twirl their way through dance class, or devour a theatrical performance, a child is learning to use a very important instrument: the human body.