The re-opening for the year of our dance studios recently has prompted me to reflect on my own experiences as both a dance educator and a mum of three growing children. I, along with each and every parent who walks through our doors have one thing in common; we all want the best for our kids.

I’m not talking about the best of the best here, I’m talking about providing positive experiences that help shape them into happy, healthy, well-adjusted adults.

Dancing starts with children’s joy

Most mums and dads call us when their child displays a love of music and dance. Whilst we know every child is unique, we also know that every young child in some shape or form displays a positive response to music. They innately move and express emotions well before the development of verbal language.

Children move because it feels joyful, wonderful and they quickly learn that it elicits a positive response from those close them. Family members smile, encourage and applaud.

For every parent who walks through my studio doors, many of them come with varied expectations of their children.

Through my many years of observation and mentoring, I’ve come to appreciate and identify some very worthwhile strategies to help both the beginner dance student, and their parents and carers settle in and enjoy their journey.

Here’s 5 some top tips for making the transition to a dance class environment smooth for dancers and their parents:-

Before you invest in the right gear, make sure it’s the right place for your child.

Check with your studio the uniform requirements, most dance teachers are comfortable with children experiencing the class first before you go and fork out hard earned dollars on uniforms.

In saying that, it’s really important for some children to feel part of the crowd, so weigh this up. If you think it will be critical for your dancer then it could just be worth purchasing the uniform straight away.

Stage your own dress rehearsal for getting to the studio

Sometimes we all need a little dress rehearsal of new things to help us step out with confidence! Drive past the studio, or arrange a time to drop in prior to the class beginning. This can be particularly crucial for toddlers and preschoolers. Seeing the space and meeting the teacher can ease those first day nerves. At our studio we love to sprinkle a little magic on our young visitors, they chose their fairy wings, check out the sticker collection and have that all important twirl in front of the mirror.

Be confident parents as you get to know this environment

The Dance studio is welcoming you the parent, just as much as your children as new additions to our dance community. Parents who enter our studio with confidence generally have children that follow suit. Try and leave your apprehension, if you have any, behind you. We are delighted to see you, to be teaching your child new skills and celebrating their joy of dance. And if there’s things you want to know, or feel worried about, the teachers and staff will guide you with compassion and enthusiasm in the right direction. We respect that this may be a new environment for you, and your child, and we want you to feel welcomed and relaxed.

Not every dancer is ready for the spotlight in the early days

Leave your expectations at the door. Your child may be the embodiment of a fairy ballerina or a hip hop dude at home but this confidence may not translate immediately into the studio environment. Remember you are their world, they feel safe and supported with you.

Walking into a strange room meeting strangers can be a daunting thing for some children. If your child wants to watch we are totally fine with that. We often hear stories of children recounting the entire class at home and yet have not danced a step with us! Next week they come back prepared and often ready to join the dancing parade!

Give them a bit of your own razzle, dazzle

A special note for our Tiny Tots (under 3yrs). At this stage Mum & Dad (or Grandma/Grandpa) still play a central role. Whilst your child may be asserting their independence in many ways they still see themselves as an extension of you. Your encouragement and participation in the class environment are crucial. So get those wings on, let your hair down and enjoy. And there’s some   side-benefits here of stress relief from your busy day!

Trust us, we’re Ok with the ups and downs of dance dramas

In all my years as a Dance teacher, there is not much we have not seen before. Aside from my extensive teacher training and a BA in Disability Studies my three children have given me incredible insight- they are only little for a short while. We cannot expect children to behave like little adults, our role as educators is to assist in shaping positive behaviors, but there will be many bumps along the way.

So if your child is the one who “chucks a wobbly” because they didn’t get the pink wand, pushes other kids away to get to the stickers first, or wants to go off to the side and dance to their own beat, DO NOT worry!

It is nothing we haven’t seen before; we will help gently guide them through these times. It takes a village to raise a child and a good local dance school can become an integral part of that village.

PSD is a dynamic little dance studio and peninsula business with successful community and business connections. Learn more about us at www.peninsuladance.com.au

A celebration of a boutique dance school’s family friendly community. Miss Melanie shares her passion, skill and knowledge in nurturing young dancers as they express themselves through the joy of dance. Offering tips, how-to’s, a dance teachers reflections and connections with the on-line dance community. Peninsula School of Dance is located on Australia’s Mornington Peninsula.

Melanie Gard is a respected Licentiate with Cecchetti Ballet, an affiliate of the Australian Teachers of Dance and the Director of the Peninsula School of Dance. www.peninsuladance.com.au

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