7 Ways to Assess Tiny Dancer Readiness (As Well as Your Own!)

You are dying to sign your tiny dancer up for dance class, but how do you know if your little one is ready to go or if you should wait a bit longer? We ask several questions when we’re trying to assess dancer readiness. Here they are:

  • Is your dancer expressing interest in dance class? Maybe they are begging you to dance, or they talk about being a ballerina all the time. 
  • Does your child watch television or movies and follow along with the movement? This is another way your dancer is expressing interest, but it also demonstrates an ability to pick up choreography and follow directions. 
  • Can your child follow three simple instructions in a row?  For example, “Put your bag on the green line, find a colored star on the floor, and sit criss-cross-applesauce.” Participating in dance class requires a certain level of cognitive and physical development, and the ability to follow a series of instructions indicates a developmental milestone has been met.
  • Can your child spend at least 10 minutes at a time doing an activity? This demonstrates an attention span that’s ready to absorb some dance. Does your child play with their cars or splash around at the water table for at least 10 minutes at a time, or is their attention span such that they constantly switch activities from one minute to the next? 
  • Can your dancer put on/take off their own shoes?  Don’t worry, we’re going to help your dancer with their shoe changes, but an ability to put on/take off their own shoes demonstrates a level of physical coordination that can indicate dance readiness.
  • Does your child use language to express themself? It’s pretty important that your dancer is able to communicate their needs and wants to their teacher. If your dancer uses words that are easily understood outside of your own family, then this can indicate dance readiness. 
  • Is your child comfortable without you? If your child spends time with grandparents, a babysitter, or in a daycare, then the answer here is yes. For many of our Twinkle students, dance class is their first adventure without mom or dad. It’s normal for a child to be clingy or even cry for several weeks before deciding dance class is a blast, but if your dancer is wrecked absolutely every time you leave without making any progress from week to week, then it might mean waiting for a few months and trying again. 

 These are the seven indicators we use to help assess whether or not a tiny dancer is ready for dance class. However, if your dancer didn’t ace them, it’s possible they’re still ready for dance- we’re looking for a majority here.

Keep in mind that dance is a family activity, especially at the beginning. Once you’ve determined your dancer is ready for class, you must decide if YOU are ready. While your dancer doesn’t need a perfect score to join dance, everything on the following “parent readiness checklist” is non-negotiable, so make sure you can check each box below with 100% certainty. If not, consider waiting a little longer until you’re ready too; we want your dancer (and you!) to have the best possible experience in dance! 

√ You are happy to bring them and commit time and finances to the cause. 

√ You will encourage your dancer with music and movement in your home. 

√ You are able to help your dancer get the right dress-code approved gear and get them ready every week, hairstyle and all. 

√ You will make the time to park, take your dancer to the bathroom, help them into their first pair of shoes and calmly arrive 5 minutes EARLY to class. (Not 10, not 40, not 3 minutes late. Five minutes early is where the real magic happens.)

√ You will read all communication and stay informed with the school by joining and checking the app as well as reading one email per week (sent on Mondays)

√ You will trust the curriculum and you promise not to ask for a more advanced class placement for your child. We are experts, and we’ll get your dancer advancing, we cross our hearts.

√ You are happy to KISS AND GO. You are comfortable enough to walk away from the window so you do not distract your dancer, other dancers, or the teachers by waving and filming from outside.

We are so excited to be a part of your dance journey, whenever that may be!

Originally Published by Elevate Dance Online. Edited and shared with permission.

More Than Just Great Dancing

Why dance?

Sometimes it’s hard to put into words the magnitude of what we do when step into the studio. When we dance, we throw a party for our soul. As dance teachers, we know we are changing lives in every class, and we think our parents intuitively know it too when they sign their kids up for dance.

When you find the right fit in a studio, you get it. You begin to understand that dance is so much more than pointing your toes. By engaging in dance in a positive and nurturing way, we’re building beautiful human beings, not just beautiful dancers.

Yes, technique is very important. The athletic and artistic benefits of dance cannot and should not be ignored. But, it’s more than just great dancing. Dance enhances intelligence. It also develops resilience, creativity and teamwork among other important life skills.

Your dance studio is a lighthouse in your dancer’s life; a bright beacon in this dark, crazy world. Your dance school is a community of growth and learning, where children are celebrated and dancers are invited to become the best version of themselves.This is why we dance.

Originally puclished by Elevate Dance Online. Edited and shared with permission.

Why Can’t I Watch Class?

Centre Stage Dance Studio is a “kiss and go” studio. This can be hard for some of our youngest dancers’ parents to understand, but we feel very strongly that our children should be given a learning environment free from spectators.

Class time is about exploration, mistake-making and growth. It is not a performance, and therefore needs no audience. While certainly you are the most well-behaved parent on Earth, some folks are absolutely not. When parents are in the room, they unintentionally create a slew of distractions, such as texting, tending to younger siblings, whispering to one another, or giving a misbehaving child “the eye.” 

While well-meaning, it is actually a huge step in the wrong direction for our classes when parents interrupt the room to help with changing shoes. We totally get it- you’re just trying to help, and you don’t want to see us “waste” 5 minutes changing shoes. But, we are experts in our craft, and there is actually magic that happens during the shoe transition part of class. Did you know it’s actually an opportunity for our kids to reach some benchmarks and milestones in their coordination and independence? Did you know that’s the part of class where some students step in as leaders and help those who need it? Did you know during the shoe change is when some kids share whatever’s on their heart with us?

Who knows what goes on in all those brilliant little minds while you’re watching, but we bet it goes something like:

Why does her mommy stay and mine goes? I want my Mommy too! 

Oh I see my mommy over there I will run and give her a quick hug. 

My mommy is here but she’s looking at her phone. I have an idea! I will really act up so she pays attention to me. 

Why does my mommy keep making those movements at me while I do this dance?

My mommy isn’t here today. There’s nobody clapping and watching me do this. I guess I’ll stop. 

You see, when parents stick around, it creates two distinct groups of kids; those kids whose parents stay, and those who don’t. This creates a whole bunch of different behaviors that we don’t normally have to handle when ALL parents simply kiss and go. So what if you’re on board with the kiss-and-go policy, but you’re still not ready to be separated from your little for 45 minutes? Here are some tips to make it easier on you, momma:

  1. Arrive early enough that you are both calm and not rushing. Take your child to the bathroom, help her find a cubby, set up their stuff just right. Spend a couple minutes together in the room, dance it out for a sec. 
  2. With a bright smile, wave and say “See you soon! Have fun!”
  3. THEN GO. No more hugs, no tearful slow-motion waves. Rip the band-aid off and book it. We promise to keep your child safe and comfort him if he’s upset. 
  4. If you are really uncertain if your child is going to go for this, then talk to the teacher about your concerns up front. Let her know how long you are comfortable with your child crying before you want to be called. (We’ve never had to make that call, by the way.)
  5. And lastly, all of our Twinkle classes have a live stream option! Just ask the instructor how you can access the Zoom Link so you can watch class from outide of the studio.

We promise, it gets better every week. This is why we suggest you give it 6 weeks for your little dancer to adjust. Check in with your child’s teacher after class. If after 6 weeks it’s still a struggle, then it’s possible your dancer isn’t ready yet.  We will be honest with you and help you if the decision to dance now needs reassessing. We are in this together. You and your child are in great hands. It takes a village, and we are your people. Now kiss that beautiful baby and go!  

Posted originally on Elevate Dance Online. Edited and shared with permission.