It’s tempting to think of dance as a talent, or a natural gift that some children can do and others can’t. But dance is something all children can enjoy, regardless of their ability. It can also feed into and cement many aspects of learning and development.
For one thing, dance isn’t just about moving to music. For the very young it’s about learning to move in new and interesting ways. Rhythm is a separate aspect of dance, and young children don’t have the co-ordination for it (hence all that jumping up and down on the spot at the birthday party). With the under 5s, dance is less about rhythm than creative movement. Can you move like a snake? An elephant? A penguin? Moving like animals is a great way to introduce children to dance. Imagining themselves to be a prowling cat or a prancing pony encourages them to think creatively about movement.
Emotions can also be expressed through dance. Can you move in an angry way? A happy way? A bored way? Experiencing these movements with their whole bodies makes children better able to describe them later on in writing – and in real life.
You can use dance to cement learning in other areas, too. For example, moving in zig-zags, round and round or back and forth are ways to internalise the basic movements associated with handwriting. Children can better understand shapes by trying to make their bodies into squares, circles and triangles.