For many families a preschool dance class will be the first experience their child has in any type of class. This will be a new and exciting experience! You and your child may feel a bit nervous as well. If this is your first day bringing your child to a dance class make sure you are relaxed. If you are, you will help your child be more relaxed as well. Talk about the class in a fun way to get your child excited! To make your transition easier I will explain what you may expect during a preschool ballet class in order for you to fell more prepared.
At the Beginning of Class
Make sure you are prepared to let your child go into the room all by him or herself. I think this is a very difficult thing for a parent. From my experience, sometimes parents are more nervous about letting their child go into a class by themselves than the child is.
Let your child feel independent by going into class all by themselves. Preschoolers like to feel they can do something all by themselves. I know that this is difficult. You are handing your child off to someone you don’t know and will have a lot of questions going through your mind. Will you like the teacher? Will your child like the teacher. Is the teacher good? Will my child listen? Will they be too shy?
Try your best to trust the teacher and give them the benefit of the doubt. If you or your child does not like them you can always try someone else the next time. On the positive side you and your child will most likely really like the teacher. Your child hopefully will have a great time and learn quite a bit!
If your teacher has a lot of experience trust their teaching methods. I don’t always correct every little thing with my students. If a child is not listening I will try my best to think of fun ways to get their attention but I understand that it might take a few weeks for a child to understand how to behave in a class. They will figure it out little by little each week. I know if I constantly correct a student on their listening ears, class will drag and it won’t be fun for anyone. Classes can easily go on a downward spiral that way. The same can happen when teaching steps. Preschoolers should learn through fun and creativity and not through drilling steps. Trust that your teacher has a plan and that by the end of your session the children will be listening and have learned many fun steps and dances! Therefore don’t feel that you have to tell your child to listen or point their toes during class. Unless your child is a big distraction let the teacher teach. If you have a concern definitely speak with your teacher after class.
Can I Watch the Class?
Whether parents can stay to watch a dance class will depend on where you are taking class. Keep in mind that children do behave better in a class where there are little distractions. If you stay in the class there is a better chance that your child will leave the class often to ask you for any number of things. Once one child does this other children will follow and then the teacher needs to work that much harder to get the class to listen.
If your teacher lets the parents watch in the dance room please remind your child to stay in the class and listen. Also do not feel that you have to remind your child to listen or point their toes etc while they are with the teacher as I have mentioned above. Sit quietly and allow the teacher to do their job. If you have a younger sibling with you make sure they have something quiet to do or wait outside the room. Don’t let little sister or brother wander through the class no matter how cute they are!
Some dance studios have a one way mirror or window so parents can watch class without being in the same room with the students. This is an ideal situation. However not all studios have this luxury. In my Wish Upon a Ballet classes we teach most of our classes in community programs. Therefore our space options are very limited. If we can, we will leave the door to the dance room open so that parents can view the class. If it does become too distracting however we will have to close the door. All of our classes do end with a performance. This way, parents can see what we have been working on all session. We don’t want to shut parents out at all. We just know that children listen best when they can focus on their teacher and we want to teach the best class we can to your little ones!
Do I Need to Stay for the Class?
Whether or not you need to stay for the class will be up to each instructor. For my classes parents are free to run a quick errand during class if their child has used the bathroom and they remember to be back right when the class is over. Why not use this time for yourself if you would like! Take a break and let the teacher take over for 45 minutes!
What will my Child Learn?
Preschoolers can learn to identify the very basic ballet steps. However they will not be able to correctly execute them until they have studied for a long time. They will probably learn 1st position maybe 2nd position. They might also learn plié and relevé. It is great if they learn a few basic steps however I hope as a teacher they also learn how to express themselves better using their bodies. I hope they learn what they are capable of and to try new things! They should also learn how to be in a class to prepare them for school! Things such as sitting quietly when the teacher is talking and raising their hands when they want to speak. These are all very important aspects of a class. Don’t worry too much about what specifically they are learning however. There is plenty of time for that. At this age what we really want to give them is the freedom of expression and the love of movement!
If Your Child is Shy
If you have a shy child try your best to not get frustrated or worry. I have seen this too many times. I am a parent so I know how it feels to have your child not jump right into something the way we think they should. Remember this may be a brand new experience for your child and it may be scary. They don’t know who the other kids are and who the teacher is. If you know your child is shy prepare them for class by being excited and don’t discuss the fact that they are always shy. Just expect that it will be fine. If you dwell on the negative so will your child.
If your child loves to dance and loves ballet in particular it shouldn’t take very long for them to join the class. I have had students who are shy for a moment and then when they see how fun class is they quickly warm up. On the other hand, I once had a student who took 3 months before they could jump into class without Mom. In that case Mom was great. She was very patient and not upset with her daughter at all. She sat in the class every week and slowly moved her way out of the room week by week until she could wait in the waiting room with the other parents.
If your child is shy be understanding and work with your child and your teacher. Try different things every week until you find something that works. Maybe dance with your child for a little and then tell them that you will sit by the wall and watch. Maybe the teacher has some fun stuffed animals that the students could dance with. Maybe your child has a favorite stuffed animal that could sit and watch them dance. If you can tell however, that your child doesn’t seem to be into the class don’t push it. Maybe they just need more time. We don’t want a dance class to become a negative experience. We want dance to be fun!
If Your Child Doesn’t Listen
Most children in a preschool dance class need a few classes to understand what to do. Some children see space and just feel a great need to run around in that space. Some children hear music and it just takes over their bodies and they can’t help to dance to the beat of their own drum so to speak. Remember preschoolers need to be taught how to behave in a class. It might take time. Be patient and trust that the teacher knows what to do.
Preschoolers are learning that they are independent. Therefore they may not listen to just explore what that is like. Or they may want to know what happens when they test you or the teacher. They also can become distracted very easily or can become emotional when something doesn’t go their way. If you have a good teacher hopefully they can remedy the situation quickly so class can move on.
If you feel that your child’s listening is an issue talk to the teacher about it after class. They should have some good tips for you. If you feel that your child is disruptive to the point where the teacher cannot teach their class go ahead and take the child out of the room and talk to them for a minute. Then lead them back into the room to try again. Remember your child is probably excited and just needs practice in how to listen. Remind your child before and after class to listen to the teacher. Remember, however, they are little and everything is okay. They will catch on eventually.
Sometimes the case is the responsibility of the teacher. If you have a young or inexperienced teacher you may need to find someone who knows how to handle preschool children in a more structured way.
Is My Child Ready For Class?
When my daughter was born I could not wait to put her in one of my ballet classes! My dream was to have my little darling dance with me side by side. I felt that when she was 2 she was ready and she did a great job. At 2 she was not up to the abilities of the 3-5 year olds but she listened and tried her best and that was great! I don’t usually recommend 2 year olds starting a ballet class unless it is a “Mommy and Me” type class where the parents are participating. But if a child is able to listen without the help of their parent then it is fine. If you would like your 2 year old to start a ballet class that is not a mommy and me class you may have to call around to see who is willing to take a child that young.
Now on to my son. When my son turned 3 I started him in one of my tap and jazz classes. He was very excited and loved the class however he was not ready at all! He spent much of the class running around and licking his way across the mirrors!!! Let’s just say we took a break after a few classes. I tried him in class again when he was closer to 4 and he did a much better job.
What about your child? In my book there are only two rules to determine if your child is ready for ballet class. The first rule in attending a preschool dance class is your child should be potty trained. At this age sometimes potty accidents can happen but if your child is potty trained and you have taken them to the bathroom right before class they should be fine. The second rule is your child should be able to listen to another adult besides yourself. If their attention span can last for 45 minutes (give or take a few distractions which is completely normal) and they can separate from you that is great! That is basically it.
If they are not ready that is not a big deal. Some children take longer to jump into a class without their parent. Don’t worry about it. These days we are in so much of a hurry to educate our children. They will find their way when they are ready. If we push something too much we will be in danger of spoiling something that could be a wonderful experience for our children in the future.
Communicate With the Teacher
Always feel you can communicate any concerns you have about your child or the class with your teacher. A good teacher will be willing to talk with you about your concerns. They should be able to put you at ease about your child’s behavior or explain any concerns you have about their teaching or curriculum. Or if something can’t be answered right away they will work with you to figure out any situation and be open to trial and error. Hopefully you will not need to have any issues and you and your child will simply have a blast!
If Your Child Did Not Have a Good Ballet Experience
What if your child did not like their ballet class? This does happen. The only reason I am bringing this up is because not all students are going to connect with all teachers. If your child is more carefree they probably will not have fun in a strict ballet school. You will need to find a program that is more creative. If your child has more of a calm mannerism they might want more structure. If they did not have fun in their dance class, try a new school. I have heard many times how a students was not happy with one teacher or program but excelled with another. Don’t think that because one didn’t work out that dance is not for them. It just may take some time to find the right place.
Expect Your Child to Have Fun!
I hope you now know more about what to expect on that first day of class. I have explained the concerns or worries that a parent might have on the first day of a preschool dance class. This is just in case they come up. As a parent I know how caught up we can get worrying if our children are okay. Children come in all temperaments and grow and develop at different rates. Trust that they are right on track with who they are. If they are ready great, if not, try again next time. They grow so fast it could be a completely different experience the next time.
Really what you should expect is that your child will have fun, learn a lot and have a better sense of what they are capable of. The age of being a preschooler and learning and growing is such a wonderful time!