Teachers and parents encourage children to sing and draw, but the importance of dance is often overlooked. Introducing dance to children starting at a young age supports creativity, socialization, cognitive connections and physical coordination.
Because dance expressions are unlimited, preschoolers find great joy in letting loose and moving their bodies to music freestyle. As children mature, more structured and age appropriate lessons can be presented. Math, dance and other disciplines can be integrated into a lesson plan as an alternative to traditional single subject teaching methods.
Understanding the Importance of Dance
Toddlers love listening to music and spontaneously moving to rhythms. Tapping a child’s natural fascination with dance stimulates neurological growth. Through kinesthetic learning, children in dance class learn to imitate, follow directions, remember steps, understand patterns and associate movement with emotional expression.
Children who don’t like to play competitive sports may still enjoy dance, which helps them improve coordination, balance, fitness, strength, endurance and self-image. Dance can be modified and adapted for students with developmental or physical disabilities to encourage socialization and artistic expression.
Exploring Dance as Art
Including dance in the school curricula contributes to a well-rounded education. Teachers can help students recognize the importance of dance as an art form by explaining how every culture uses dance to express culturally situated feelings, beliefs, experiences and worldviews. Dance innately stirs a child’s imagination.
Like other forms of art, dance is created, performed, experienced and critiqued. Studying, practicing and observing dance in society helps children understand art as a medium for telling stories through movement in time and space. Dancing can also be physically demanding. Older students may enjoy debating the question of whether dancing is an art or a sport, or possibly both, since professional dancers train like athletes.
Integrating Math and Dance
Known as arts integration, innovative teachers can use dance to explain mathematical and scientific concepts that many students find too abstract to grasp. For instance, watching ballet or performing basic ballet moves teaches children about shapes, patterns, angles and rotational symmetry. Programs such as Math Dance offer resources and workshops that integrate dance and math.
An integrated approach deepens students’ understanding of math fundamentals, which provides a foundation for advanced math study. The importance of dance in childhood education is also evident in the many lesson plans available online that use dance activities to teach ideas as diverse as chemical bonding, plate tectonics and astronomy.
Appreciating Dance in Society
Children learn to appreciate art and culture when exposed to the unique dance forms enjoyed in countries around the world. Folk dances like the Irish jig can be observed in videos and then attempted by students as part of a lesson on Irish history, for instance. Many societies celebrate special occasions through traditional dances.
Dancing brings people together and preserves rich cultural traditions. For instance, children attending a pow wow gain an appreciation of other cultures and see firsthand the role of dance in society. By including dance in childhood education, students discover that learning is fun, interactive and interesting.
- NDEO: Standards for Dance in Early Childhood
- Harvard University: Dance That Adapts to Disabilities
- NDEO: Philosophy Underlying Early Childhood Standards
- PBS Illinois Edition: Math + Arts
- Think 360 Arts for Learning: Integrated Arts Lesson Bank
- Washington Post: Teachers Are Using Theater and Dance to Teach Math — and It’s Working