She loves to twirl and skip. You hardly have to encourage her to express herself. He loves to perform. He wants you to always “look!” at his awesome dance moves. These are the qualities that make them a dancer, and you want to foster that love deeper. Often times though, between busyness of schedules, balancing free time and work time, we miss opportunities to help encourage our little dancers to practice. Whether you enrolled them in dance just to try it out, or you know that this is going to be a lifelong passion they will want to pursue, practice makes children feel confident and successful. Don’t we feel the same, even as adults?
However, simply adding the word “practice” to the activity can turn it into a chore. Children can suddenly become reluctant to drill their technique or run their choreography when it becomes “practice”. If this is something you experience, try a few of the following tips for a fresh approach to practice without calling it that.
- Ask your child’s teacher for a list of the technique and definitions they are learning in class. Your teacher will be happy to type something up to have at home. If you familiarize yourself with this terminology, it sends the message that you care about what your child cares about. It also gives you some tools to encourage practice. This leads into the next tip.
- Ask “Show me!” or “Teach me!” instead of “it’s time to practice”. When you know the terminology of technique your child is learning in class, you can take that information and ask them to show you what those moves are. While you are preparing dinner in the kitchen, ask them to come in and show you what a “plie” is, or what a “shuffle step” is. Set aside a few minutes and ask your little performer to teach you how to do a “releve” or a “jazz square”. Teaching solidifies learning in our brains. If we can effectively communicate and demonstrate a concept to someone else, it helps us understand all the better. This applies to children in the same way it applies to adults.
- Set up a performance for them in the living room or kitchen. Push the couch or kitchen table out of the way if you need to. Set up chairs for you, other family members, or even their toys to be the audience. Ask their teacher for the name of the song they are learning choreography to, and play that song for them. Or, use a song from class that they use for warm ups and ask them to perform whatever they’d like that they have learned in class. Applaud and give positive feedback. “You smiled really well the whole time! I could tell you were having fun!”. “Your toes were so pointed when you were dancing. Your hard work is paying off!”. Sometimes dancers love to dance, but are terrified of being on stage in front of everyone. Giving them space to practice to perform for people who are there solely to watch them will help them overcome this fear in a safe setting at home.
Patience of course is paramount. Give these a try, but don’t give it up after just one try if they don’t seem to go for it.
Share any feedback with us if you try these tips out!