In this article, I will deal with how to teach ballet to children under the age of five as well as the joys of teaching ballet to children.
The views in this article are my views only, and I would love to have some other teachers of ballet commenting below on what they do in their classes.
I particularly enjoy teaching younger children to dance, although it does have its own challenges.
Teaching Ballet To Children Under Five Using Stories
When teaching ballet to under-fives, I try to use stories and relate them to the steps that we are learning. I have done this in two ways in the past.
1. Teach separate steps each with its own story.
2. Makeup one long story and theme that carries its way all through the entire class.
Both work well, although I find if given a choice, the children more than often want choice number 2. Who doesn’t love a visit to the Zoo or a Magic Castle?
If you prefer using version 1, then you could take a step like plies (knee bends) for instance and relate it to something the children will understand. If they were doing parallel plies you could tell them their heels are stuck to the floor with magic glue and the only way to break the spell is to bend with nice straight backs and knees directly over the toes 6 times.
If they do plies with their feet turned out, you could say that they must open the window and close the window. You could then have them stand opposite a friend and let them tell you what they see through their friends ‘window.’
If teaching jumps, you could all be rabbits or jumping beans. If teaching them to point their toes, use terms like good feet, princess feet, etc.
Children relate far better when they use their imagination for movement, rather than giving them steps to do which have no meaning for them. It is also good for their developing brains and creativity to use imaginative suggestions when teaching the basic dance steps.
If using the number 2 method, you will have to do some homework. Thanks to the internet, you can get some great ideas and stories off of the world wide web.
I also make use of children’s storybooks and the latest children’s TV programs or movies for more inspiration.
For instance, Frozen, the movie, was a huge hit for children worldwide, and I don’t know any child who hasn’t seen it yet. Now you can take that story and some of the lovely music that comes with it to do a class based on that story.
Other great stories to use are classics like Goldilocks, Little Red Riding hood, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. All you need to do is decide which steps to teach, and see where you can fit them into your story.
The wonderful thing about using stories is that you can add to them and elaborate on them each time, giving different outcomes and endings. That way the children can’t get bored.
When teaching ballet to children, you could also use everyday events to make up a story. For instance, you could visit the park. I would pack a picnic basket using my special fingers. Then I would skip, run or catch a taxi to the park.
Once at the park, you could sit on the slide and show your good toes. You could also roll about on the grass. You could turn on the merry go round or swing (sway) on a swing. You could smell the roses, or fly like a butterfly or bee from flower to flower. The ideas are endless. Once you are done with your park adventure, you could catch a train home, or you could simply wake up in your bed like it was all a dream.
Incorporating props is another great way to keep the children interested in the story. Use hola hoops as boats, or to jump into, or even to run around without ‘falling into the hole.’
Use Props To Keep Things Interesting
Bean bags, scarves, baskets (Little Red Riding Hood or picnic) and stuffed toys can also be used to relate to something within the story.
Jmkcoz 24pcs Square Juggling Silk Dance Scarves Magic Tricks Performance Props Accessories Movement Scarves 24 by 24 Inches 6 Colors
They can be purchased online by clicking on the link above or on the picture.
Yes4All Balance Pods Hedgehog with Hand Pump – Sensory Stepping Stone for Children, Kids – Hedgehog Balance Pods/Balancing Pods (Set of 6)
These balance pods make an exciting and useful addition to dance class.
Balance and coordination are improved as children have to step on the stepping stones without falling off.
They have a non-slip surface for tiny feet.
Sequin Silver Star Wand – Bulk Pack of 24 Pieces With Rhinestones, Magic Fairy Wand Cake & Cupcake Toppers for Girls Dress-Up, Party Decoration, Princess Birthday Parties, and Small Favors
Aneco 14 Pieces Dance Ribbons Streamers Rhythmic Gymnastics Ribbon Wands for Kids Artistic Dancing, Baton Twirling, 14 Colors
Having ribbons on sticks is a hit with any ballet class as you can do so much with them.
This set on the left is an inexpensive addition to your baby class kit.
This is how I like to do my tiny tots ballet classes and according to me how to go about teaching ballet to children, especially the ones of 5 years and younger. I find this method works very well with most children. You can keep them engaged and concentrating for with this method, and if you can keep their attention for a full half-hour you know you have done a great job.
Last but not least, do not expect perfection. Let each child express themselves in their own way. At the age of four, they do not have to have perfect turnout or beautifully stretched feet all the time. At this age, it’s more about discovering what the body can do and relating it to music.
Ballet class at this age should be a fun learning experience where they can explore the different elements of dance without being too technical.
There is nothing more rewarding for me than a happy group of children who can’t wait for their next ballet lesson.