“Dance like nobody's watching” so the saying goes. Anybody aged over 30 who has been forced to dance in public, while sober, will be familiar with this proverb. Children, however, simply do not care who is watching as they hit the dance floor. Switch on the stereo and you'll see your baby bust out moves to rival Darcey Bussell, Ginger Rogers and Beyoncé – despite having only just learned to walk.
To us Brits, dancing is synonymous with awkward shuffling at school discos and dad dancing at weddings. Our scepticism is hardly surprising, given our history of maypoles and Morris dancing. Spain has feisty flamenco, Cuba has sexy Salsa...and we have knee-high socks and handkerchiefs.
Thank your dancing stars, then, for International Dance Day. Putting a swing in everyone’s step, it’s a great way to get your little one moving and having fun too!
why is dancing good for children?
Social skills: Signing your child up to dance classes could greatly improve their social and communication skills. Learning to perform in front of an audience will benefit your child in school assemblies and university presentations. If your child is shy and struggles to make friends, dance classes could bring them out of their shell.
Fitness: Dancing is associated with all sorts of health benefits: from strengthening bones to improving posture. The repetitive movements improve muscle tone, flexibility and overall cardiovascular health. Dancing also improves balance and hand-to-eye coordination, both useful skills when playing a sport or learning to ride a bike.
Self-expression: Young children often struggle to communicate verbally. Dancing allows them to express themselves physically, while also helping to lift their spirits and release stress. As children master new moves, they grow in self-confidence and learn to develop a positive relationship with their body.
Great outdoors: Children today are surrounded by screens – from the playroom to the classroom. Introducing your child to dance at an early age means that they are more likely to adopt an active lifestyle and show an interest in other sports. Dancing is also a great way to get rid of any excess energy.
Teamwork: Working together as a team prepares children for school, university, work and beyond. Dance classes teach children to listen, concentrate and support one another as they learn new steps and routines. Children will become more disciplined and learn to ask for help when struggling.
when will my baby begin to dance?
Between the ages of 0-10 months, your baby will begin to bounce, kick their feet and move their core back and forth in time to the music. Once they are walking confidently, usually around 14 months, they will bend their knees and bop to the beat. By the time they have reached 24 months, they will be turning in circles, bending their bodies, flapping their arms and becoming spatially aware. Your child will be ready to learn basic ballet, tap and jazz movements from the age of three, making this the ideal time to sign them up for dance classes.
how can I encourage my children to dance?
Research shows that babies find musical rhythm more engaging than speech. This explains why babies bop and clap to the beat before they can talk. You’ll find plenty of local groups to introduce your baby to music, rhythm and movement. The easiest – and cheapest - place to get started is at home. So, dig out your leg warmers and get ready to dance.
Make some room: Babies tend to bump into surfaces as they bop. Creating a designated dance area in your main room or playroom allows them to bust moves safely. Remember to cover or remove any breakable or sharp-edged objects, such as coffee tables and vases.
Get rhythm: Nursery rhymes are an ideal way to introduce your child to the basics of rhythm. Teach your little one to sing along to such classics as Humpty Dumpty and Three Blind Mice. Ask them to clap the beat and copy the actions to Incy Wincy Spider and Wheels on the Bus.
Mirror mirror: Children prefer a playful approach to learning. Mirror games – in which a child copies their parent’s movements, like a reflection – are an ideal way to introduce children to the basics of dance, while also improving their concentration skills and hand-to-eye coordination.
Movie night: Draw the curtains, snuggle up and switch on your favourite dance film (we're thinking Singin’ in the Rain, not Dirty Dancing!). Watching carefully choreographed routines will ignite your child's imagination and introduce them to other art forms, such as acting and singing.
Children today have never been busier, thanks to homework, after-school clubs and screen time. Dancing teaches them to log off, bend their bodies, stretch their minds – and have a blast! So, whether your child signs up for a class or struts around the living room, make sure they turn up the music and dance like nobody's watching!
what is international dance day?
Founded in 1982 by the International Theatre Institute and UNESCO, this worldwide event celebrates the mental, physical and social benefits of dance. It takes place on April 29th to coincide with the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre, an early pioneer of the modern ballet movement. Each year, a well-known personality from the industry is invited to pen a message celebrating the power of dance, which is then translated and circulated globally. The public are also invited to take part in a range of specially organised events: from productions and workshops to flash mobs and festivals.