Updated: May 30
Staying active is essential for physical and mental wellbeing. This is just as important for kids as it is for us adults. Incorporating healthy movement from early childhood supports physical, mental and emotional development and instills good habits in children.
Toddlers to preschoolers (i.e. children aged 1 to 5 years) are required to have at least three hours of physical activity a day. Physical activity should include a variety of movement such as running, kicking a ball, skipping, dancing, jumping, swimming and ideally, these activities must be spread throughout the day.
In our role as caregivers, we aim to provide our children optimal opportunity for healthy movement. However, apartment living combined with the heat and humidity for much of the year in Hong Kong means our kids are spending less time than ideal in the outdoors. This may lead to children not getting as much physical activity as recommended.
So, why not consider introducing your little loves to some dance classes. Dance classes provide kids an opportunity for healthy movement and expression while offering a host of other benefits.
Dance helps children develop gross motor skills
Educational dance programmes (i.e. structured dance classes) helps children develop their balance, gross motor skills and fine motor skills. Dancing often includes a variety of movements while incorporating almost all the muscles of the body. This diversity in movement supports development of lesser used muscles and bones while leading to increased coordination, balance and spatial awareness. Structured dance classes have also been evidenced to support children with learning differences, including helping with the motor development of those with Down’s Syndrome.
Studies have shown that children maintain these skills only for a limited time once structured dance classes are stopped. This suggests ongoing incorporation of dance as part of the child’s extracurricular programme to ensure benefits are sustained.
Dance helps children develop confidence for self-expression
Dancing involves an appreciation for non-verbal, spatial and musical skills while requiring the dancer to express their feelings through movement. This helps children become more aware of themselves and their expressions while also encouraging creativity and imagination. Such self-expression is evidenced to help children develop emotional maturity, self-confidence and self-esteem.
Dance helps children develop social awareness and empathy:
Dance classes for children are often undertaken in a group setting. This provides children a forum to develop their interpersonal skills such as team work and cooperation in a fun, expressive environment. In a group dance class, there are ample opportunities to learn and imitate from both the teacher and peers while also offering the child the opportunity to lead. Thus, educational dance classes help children develop social awareness. It enables children develop a greater appreciation for his or her actions in the context of a group.
Dance confers cognitive benefits to children
Undertaking an educational dance class helps children develop their linguistic abilities through taking instructions, discussing movements and evaluating a dance sequence. It also requires a child to focus and pay attention, thereby supporting children improve their attention span.
Dance and music have been evidenced to improve cognitive functions of the brain that support language and speech. Studies have shown that dance confers physical, cognitive, psycho-social and emotional benefits particularly to children on the autism spectrum.
Dancing helps children develop mental dexterity and builds perseverance and motivation:
Learning a new skill such as dance requires a child to engage his or her faculties that may not have been exercised previously. This encourages a child to ‘flex’ their mental muscle to grasp and learn new concepts- i.e. in the case of dance- new routines and movements, while trying to recall, repeat and rehearse them. This leads to perseverance and self-motivation while instilling a sense of competence and confidence with practice and accomplishment.