When preschool children discover a true passion for the art of dance, you know as an instructor you’re doing something right. Teaching dance classes for preschool-aged children can be rewarding and fun but teaching this age group takes some thought and planning to make each lesson a success.
Welcoming Your New Students
At this tender, young age, new students may need a little extra attention to make them feel comfortable fitting in. The transition to class for new preschool students is important. Students arrive with a mix of emotions. Sure, they’re excited, but some may be shy and a bit nervous. As a dance instructor, you can do a lot to ease them into feeling ready to start tapping their toes:
- Smile! First impressions matter. It goes without saying that these tiny dancers-to-be need to see an energetic and friendly face. They also want to know more about who you are as quickly as possible. So go ahead and tell them your story! Hearing about how you got into dance and how you became a teacher will help them see that, yes, even you had to start somewhere.
- Talk a bit about classroom rules. Teaching things like how to follow instructions, listen, stand in a line, and take turns are super important. It will give your students the tools to better learn actual ballet later.
- Explain the routine for entering the room. Your dancers should follow a routine where they enter the studio and find their own special spot. Place markers are fantastic as they give dancers a feeling of security and help to keep the class organized and running smoothly.
- Explain the goals of the class without making it sound intimidating. When talking about goals, be sure to include words that resonate with this age group: games, music, friends, fun. Keep the technical verbiage of dance to a minimum at first, so they don’t feel overwhelmed.
- Who’s who. Preschoolers are curious about their new dance friends. Make a game out of learning everyone’s first names, so everyone feels less like a stranger in their new class.
Your Dance Lesson Plan
Teaching little ones is a great practice in patience. Have a plan, and then plan for anything. Some days will go exactly by the book. Some days will not. And that’s ok. While it’s important to be able to go with the flow when needed, you should establish a basic schedule so your preschoolers know what to expect from each class.
- Start with a warm-up. When it comes to what to teach preschoolers in dance class, the warm-up phase is key. Engage them right from the first moment of the class. Have a fun playlist to get them going.
- Move into simple ballet steps. There is no need to launch into lengthy explanations of how to do a step. Simply start your playlist and have the children follow you. As the weeks progress, you can start to define each technique a little at a time.
- End the dance activity on a high note! Whew! They made it through the first class. Ending it with a fun dance activity or game will likely have them looking forward to the next lesson.
- Cool down and recenter. After all this activity, be sure to provide time for your class to cool down and relax. Have them find their spot in the studio, play a more relaxing song from your playlist and gently guide them through relaxing stretches.
Dance Activities and Game Ideas for Preschoolers
As much as preschoolers need structure in your class, be sure to have engaging and fun activities on hand. It doesn’t have to be complicated. You can try:
- Storytime dancing. Play music for well-known nursery rhymes and dance along! Think nursery rhymes like ‘I’m a Little Teapot’.
- Movement exploration. Choose actions, animals, or emotions and ask your preschoolers what that looks like through movement.
Move like a monkey.
Jump in puddles.
Be a tree swaying in the wind.
- Creative dancing. Let your class explore the art of self-expression. Play small bytes of different music genres. Ask them to move their body to the way the music makes them feel.
- Dance with props. Preschoolers love to move their bodies and use their imagination with props! Props can include anything from tambourines, to ribbons, to costumes. Light scarves are a prop favorite. Ask them to grab their favorite color scarf and give some creative instruction:
Hold one corner and wiggle your scarf
Scrunch it into a ball
Hold your scarf by two corners and make it flap like washing on the clothesline
Make it flap like a flag on a flagpole
Make it fly like a kite
Teaching preschoolers is so rewarding. Learning through play is a wonderful concept that really works. It gets your students engaged in learning when they don’t even know they’re learning!