Introducing Your Child to the Arts: Making Art Through Movement (page 2)

— National Endowment for the Arts
Updated on Mar 14, 2011

Learn About a Program and its Instructors Before Enrolling Your Child

Ask the following questions about teachers and classes before enrolling your child:

  • Can I observe the first class?
  • Is the school/studio giving the young children’s classes to the inexperienced teachers, or do they understand the expertise and knowledge necessary for teaching young children well? Is the  teacher trained and qualified?
  • Does the teacher seem aware of the physical, emotional, and social developmental needs of the students? Are each student’s abilities and goals being supported?
  • Does the teacher seem enthusiastic about the class? Is the class imaginative and varied in its approach to the material?
  • Does the teacher have a good understanding of human anatomy and proper alignment and use of the body? Does the teacher effectively communicate his or her knowledge?
  • Are the students grouped according to age, ability, and social development? Are class size and duration appropriate for the age group?
  • Does the class provide satisfaction and enjoyment? Does the teacher give time for movement exploration? Is required attire appropriate and comfortable?

Visit Facilities as Part of Your Evaluation of Programs

A good studio environment for classes offers the following:

  • Space that is clean, ventilated, well-lit, and free of obstructions.
  • A floor that is resilient and well maintained. A suspended wood floor is best to avoid physical stress, but certain treatments over cement and tile can accommodate dance that does not include a great deal of landing from jumps. Floor space should be adequate for the class size and the age of the participants (ideally, 100 square feet per student).
  • Adequate space for changing clothes.
  • Access to drinking water and restrooms.

Formal instruction in specific dance forms is rarely appropriate before age seven or eight. Pointe work (ballet dance on “toe”) should not begin before there is well-developed body coordination, adequate strength, proper skeletal alignment, and working body placement. Special attention must be given to the development of the feet, legs, and back. Few children should start pointe work before age 12, following a year-long preparation-forpointe class.

The Following Class Size and Duration are Suggested 

Age Class Size Duration
2–5 7–12 30–45 minutes
6–8 15 45–60 minutes
9–12 15-20 60–90 minutes

The Benefits of Dance


Dance increases flexibility, improves circulation, tones the body, and develops muscles. It also improves body alignment, balance, and coordination.


Through dance, children learn spatial concepts, sequencing, patterning, and an awareness of their own body.


Dance is expressive and helps children explore their feelings. Greater physical ability builds self-confidence.


Dance is a communal experience and engenders sensitivity, understanding, appreciation, and consideration for others.


Dance fosters an interest in other cultures. Studying dance forms that originate in other worlds, students gain historical understanding of other peoples.


Dance awakens a sense of beauty, lending new meaning to movement and form.


Books That Encourage Dance

Sleepytime Rhyme, by Remy Charlip (ages 2-4)
The Adventures of Klig and Gop, by Ann Hutchinson Guest (ages 5-8)
(Series of 8 books teaching Dance Motif Writing)
Where the Wild Things Are
, by Maurice Sendak (ages 3-7)

Books That Teach Children About Dance or the Body

Let’s Dance by George Ancona (ages 2-8)
dance! By Elisha Cooper (ages 4-10)
A Moving Experience by Teresa Benzwie (ages 2-12)


Sing, Dance and Sign by Gaia (ages 4-8)
The Primary Movers Move Russia by Primary Movers (ages 5-adult)
Dance for our Children by University of Calgary (ages 5-adult)


Contrast and Continuum: Music for Creative Dance by Eric Chappelle, 4 Volumes (ages 2-10)
Primary Movers by Primary Movers (ages 3-8)

Web Sites

National Dance Association (NDA) (included on American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Web site)

The goal of the National Dance Association is to promote quality dance programs in the areas of health, physical education, and recreation by increasing knowledge, improving skills, and encouraging sound professional practices in dance education.

National Dance Education Organization (NDEO)

The National Dance Education Organization (NDEO) advances dance education centered in the arts. NDEO is dedicated to promoting standards of excellence in dance education through the development of quality education in the art of dance through professional development, service, and leadership.

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