By Rachael Carnes
Every person can learn from dancing. Not everyone will grow up to perform dramatic leaps in a corps de ballet or to shuffle off to Buffalo with the Rockettes, but every child deserves the opportunity to dance. For babies and toddlers, creative movement offers a range of experiences that facilitate natural, easy play and proper development of alignment, neurological coordination and a fundamental exploration of baseline concepts that are the building blocks for future learning. For preschoolers, children about 2 1/2 to four, movement play in a creative dance setting can help to provide an essential educational experience. Through movement, songs, games and rhymes, children not only flex their muscles as they gain strength and endurance, but they challenge themselves emotionally and cognitively as well.
Creative dance for small children approaches many ways of learning. Inherently kinesthetic, a solid creative dance class should be appealing to both boys and girls, offering ample opportunity to hop, bound, run, dive, leap, jump, turn, kick, and stretch. Kids, of course, love to move. As an educational model, dance uses rhythm, honing children's aural skills, and giving them a chance to approach conceptual ideas through their bodies. Creative dance also relies on linguistic play like rhymes and games that involve the use of fun new language and vocabulary. Academically speaking, in a ten-week session of creative dance for preschoolers, your child can and should be exposed to most of the basic academic bases they'll climb to in their elementary education. But they'll tackle these new ideas not through tests and standards, but through fun, playful and engaging activities.
When children dance together, something amazing happens. Creative dance is a tremendous learning modality for the individual, but what's thrilling to see as a teacher and parent is the way children begin to embrace new ideas that foster community building and social connections. Under the care of a dedicated teacher, even the tiniest dancers can look at and appreciate each other's choreographic efforts, applaud each other's determination and zeal and work together to solve problems. While they're just having a great time singing and dancing and being silly, they're also addressing important meta-cognitive learning needs. Simply put, these small dancers can begin to see the differences in the way they think and feel compared to other people, to accept and celebrate these differences, and to have the necessary vocabulary to sort out their experiences. This level of objectivity about other people is something that will serve any child well as he or she encounters the larger classes and variety of experiences that loom in early educational experiences. The creative dance method offers children and their caregivers tools for learning for a lifetime.
As with any enriching educational activity, consistency is key. You and your child can play at the pool once or twice over the course of a few months, and have a great time. But if your goal is to have your child become safe and comfortable in the water, you're probably going to want to take regular lessons. That's why it's recommended that children be involved in a regular creative dance class, so they can get to know the teacher and his/her classmates, so they have the chance to build on the conceptual vocabulary that has been worked with in previous weeks and so they can gain a greater understanding of the material. But most importantly, consistency and the repetition and affirmation it affords will provide your child with a wider launch pad for their own creativity both in and out of class.
Here are a few of the benefits of Creative Dance for preschoolers:
- Increased body awareness, kinesthetic comfort and ease
- Improved alignment, flexibility and neurological patterning
- Emotional and social growth and development
- Greater self-esteem and autonomy
- Linguistic and aural (listening) skills enhanced
- Beginning understanding of academics such as math, reading, spelling and science
- Approaches 'classroom skills' necessary for school experiences, such as taking turns, following directions, listening, sharing and communicating needs and feelings
- Develops an early creative spark in individuals and groups
For more information on the benefits of dance and other art forms on early childhood education, please refer to this website's links to other organizations dedicated to improving children's learning experiences.© 2003-2008 Rachael Carnes