You've signed up your little one for dance class! Now what? If this is your child's first away from home or structured activity, you may not know what to expect or what is "normal" for a child's first day of class.
As teachers, we are also very excited to welcome your little one to our dance program. We look forward to seeing all the beautiful little dancers dressed in their dance clothes and ready to move!
Right from the start, it is completely normal for young dancers to feel timid or shy as they come into the studio for the first time. Some children run right in; others need time to adjust to the new environment. Everything to them is new and separation anxiety is one of the most common concerns on the first day.
You may overcome this by explaining to your child before they arrive that mommy (or daddy or caregiver) will be waiting for them after class and will want to hear all about it and want to see what they have learned.
If you feel your child needs you in the room with them, speak with the owner, director, or teacher before your class to learn the studio's guidelines on parents in the classroom. Most dance classes are designed as teacher/child classes. Many studios’ policy is that all parents need to be in the lobby or parking lot when class is in session. Teachers also may need to keep the door to the studio closed during class, to avoid any wandering dancers. At IDC, we will work with you and your child to achieve success in bringing happy dancers into the classroom without their grownup. This is a gradual process for some young children. Having a conversation about your child's needs is essential. In our experience, most of the time our little dancers come into the room right away and never look back. Sometimes our little dancers aren’t ready for a teacher/child class. As parents and educators, we won’t know until we try. Please remember that it sometimes takes a few weeks for the child to warm up to the idea, even if they LOVE to dance. It is Ok for a child to observe class for a few weeks or participate in only a few of the activities. As they make friends and become comfortable with the grown-ups teaching the class, participation will increase. Don't be surprised if your child re-enacts their dance class at home - even if they observed!
How Can I Best Prepare My Dancer for Class
Dress for class
Dressing the part helps with participation. When wearing a leotard and tights with ballet shoes or a leotard with bare feet will help children feel part of the class. They may not want to participate because they are not wearing their "princess" dress in class and see the other children in skirted leotards.
·Arrive 5-10 minutes early, especially if your child hasn't met their teacher or seen the studio yet. If the teacher is in another class, they will greet you as soon as possible. Arriving early helps your child settle into their new environment and maybe peek into a class before their class begins.
Talk about it at home!
The more you talk about it the better. Ask your child what they hope to do in class. Explain that there is a teacher who will help them with dancing in class and there may also be times for them to dance however they want! We should also be talking to them about classroom behavior (e.g. listening to their teacher, taking turns with other dancers, etc.). One of the biggest things our young dancers learn isn't even dance-related. We teach our young dancers basic social and classroom skills to help prepare them for preschool and kindergarten.
Come to class on a consistent basis!
·Consistency is key at a young age. The more they can keep their weekly schedule, the better they will do in class.
Be on time for class!
After your first visit, continue to arrive a few minutes early. We realize that sometimes things happen that may cause delays in getting to class, however, being on time is HUGE! Having them be there from the time the teacher calls them in, takes roll, and gets class started helps in setting their expectations and behaviors for class. When a dancer is late, they lose those first moments of preparation which can impact their entire class and their behavior.
Final consideration: My dancer wanders off during class, and isn't always paying attention. Is this normal? How should I handle it?
This is why we offer structured classes that move from activity to activity. Changing activities throughout classes help to keep our young dancers engaged. However, it is completely normal for them to become distracted, or wander during portions of class.
There are many things that can alter how our dancers participate. Lack of sleep, hunger, injury, etc. Everything has an impact. Our teachers will work to ensure our dancers stay as engaged as possible. Parents should refrain from entering the classroom, this is just another distraction, not only to them but also to the entire class.
Relax and leave your dancer to have fun and learn with us knowing that we are totally dedicated to the safety of our students and a quality dance experience! Celebrate your child's reward sticker or stamp. Encourage your dancer to share what they learned. Let them know how proud of them you are! Most of all, enjoy this time while they are still little!