How to Prepare Your Child for Their First Ballet Class
Your child is now signed up for ballet class! You are both very excited! Now what? What do they need to wear? Is there anything special required? Are they (and you) ready for that big day? Find all answers for you here!
What Clothes Should My Child Wear to Ballet Class?
What should your child wear to a ballet class? This will all depend on where they are taking classes and what your teacher prefers. I will go through the various types of schools to help you better understand what your child should wear to class.
I teach my classes in community programs and we do not require any special dancewear except for shoes. For ballet, I suggest girls wear a leotard and tights but any comfortable clothing they can stretch and leap in is fine. I know little girls like to wear ballet clothes anyway. It makes them feel like real ballerinas! If their clothes are light a flowing they will feel light and flowing too. There are plenty of places that sell leotards, tights and skirts such as dancewear stores, department stores and online where you can purchase these items. We even allow our students to wear princess or fairy costumes if they are not too cumbersome.
There are many ballet schools that do require specific dance attire. Some schools will tell you exactly what color tights and leotards to purchase. Some will allow skirts and some will not. Some may even want a specific brand of dancewear. The purpose of leotards and tights are for the teacher to see exactly what the students’ bodies are doing. Ballet is all about placement and the movements are specific. If the teacher cannot see what a student’s body is doing they will not be able to correct them to help the dancer improve.
What your child should wear most often will be communicated to you before the first day of class. Studios know what they prefer and parents want to be prepared. Your local dancewear stores can also be a great resource for you when purchasing dance clothes for your little dancer.
In a ballet class your child will need ballet shoes. Ballet shoes are a soft shoe with either a leather or canvas upper and a suede bottom. The bottom of the shoe may be a full sole or a split sole. A split sole just means that the sole has the suede bottom only on the ball of the foot and the heel. Ballet shoes will come in pink, white or black. In my program I do not require a special color or brand of shoe. The only thing I ask is if the child does not wear bedroom slippers that look like ballet shoes. These shoes usually do not fit very well. They slip and slide and children can’t dance as well as they would be able to in real shoes. All Wish Upon a Ballet instructors will have appropriate ballet shoes for purchase on the first day of class to make the buying process easier for our parents!
A studio will probably ask that you purchase a specific brand and color for their program. There are a couple of reasons for this. They will want everyone to match in the end of the year recital and they have probably found a brand that they believe is best for what they are teaching. Most studios will also sell the brand of shoe they require right at the studio to make it easier for parents.
I have noticed lately that stores such as Target and Payless now sell their own ballet shoes. For a recreational program such as mine those shoes are okay. For a studio you will probably be asked to purchase a genuine dance brand such as Capezio, Bloch or Dancing Fair. Why is this? Although the shoes from a department store may look like the real thing the quality of the shoe is not quite as good. The leather is not going to stretch to your child’s foot and the feel won’t be as comfortable. If you know your child is going to be dancing at least a full year I would invest the couple extra dollars to buy a higher quality shoe.
What to Bring?
What should you bring for your child to a ballet class? Besides the clothes and shoes you really don’t need many other items. If it is cold, bring a sweater that your child can wear over their leotard. I would make sure your child also has water and maybe a snack. Of course the snack will have to wait until after class to be eaten. Your child’s teacher may let the students have a water bottle however they should know that they can’t just run and take a drink whenever they want. They need to wait until the teacher gives everyone a water break. Classes for preschoolers are not that long. Most teachers, including myself, ask children to wait until after the class is over for drinks. I always make an exception for children that have a cold. If your child has a cold I will allow them to bring in a water bottle and get a drink as needed. On that note if a child does have a cold, tissues and hand sanitizer would be a good idea to bring to class as well.
What about their “blankie”? If your child has a blanket or stuffed animal that they cannot live without, try your best to have them leave it with you. Extra toys are distracting to a dance class. Other children may become more interested in your child’s toy than what the teacher is trying to teach.
If your child cannot separate from a toy I usually ask the child if their toy can wait in the front of the classroom when we are dancing and be our audience! That usually gets everyone excited! If they can’t live without it for one second then that is okay. I would rather have them dance with the class and with their toy than not dance at all. I think most preschool ballet teachers would agree however you will have to check with your teacher to see if toys are allowed for special situations.
How to Prepare Your Child Emotionally
You know your child the best. Therefore you will probably be able to guess before class if your child will be a bit nervous or not on the first day of class. Maybe you have the type of child like my daughter who runs into anything ready to have fun without a kiss goodbye for Mom! Or you have a child that needs to be by your side for a bit and check things out before they jump in. Whatever your situation my first bit of advice is not to mention any negative emotions to your child before class. If you know your child will be shy, don’t dwell on that. Talk positively about the class and have the expectation that your child will see the class is fun and jump right in.
Another tip is being on time for class helps children transition better. I know from personal experience that getting little ones out the door is a big challenge. However some children are less likely to go into a class when it has already begun. If you need to plan extra time to get your child to class on time it is a good idea.
Really the only thing you need to do to prepare your child for a preschool ballet class is to have fun! This is not the American Ballet Theatre. Pre Ballet should be something that you and your child can enjoy together. It is a place for them to explore and learn. It is a place to pretend and be creative. It is a place to jump around and to have fun!