What to teach 3-year-olds in dance class
One of the questions I am asked most frequently is what to teach 3-year-olds in dance class. As the Preschool years are such a time of rapid development, when you are planning your Preschool Dance classes each age group needs careful attention. 3-year-olds can be a particular challenge as they are often just coming out of Mommy and Me dance classes. The 3-4 age group is the first time dancers are coming into the room on their own and you need to make sure they feel safe and are engaged and stimulated in order to create a fantastic learning environment for your tiny dancers. When it comes to what to teach 3-year-olds in dance class, here are some tips. These are based on the widely used Preschool Ballet Blueprint, a downloadable Preschool dance curriculum that provides a solid foundation for providing quality Preschool Dance instruction.
- Entering the room routine – this may sound obvious but if you don’t have a clear plan for how your dancers are going to enter the room, disaster will strike before you have even danced a step. At this young age, separating from caregivers can be nerve-wracking, so establishing a predictable routine is key for setting the tone for a wonderful dance class. Your dancers should start to follow a routine where they enter the studio and find their own special spot. Place markers like these are fantastic as they give dancers a feeling of security and help to keep the class organized and running smoothly. Mats are also a great option and last for years. These are great and come in a variety of patterns.
2. A warm-up and articulation – when it comes to what to teach 3-year-olds in dance class, the warm-up phase is key. Engaging your tiny dancers right from the first moment of the class is super important. A playlist is a great help as you can set it going and proceed straight through around 5 songs. It is a great idea to start with some familiar nursery rhymes. If a student is feeling a little overwhelmed or nervous, hearing something familiar can really help them out. This phase can also include some simple articulation such as happy toes, sad toes, simple hand movements, and gentle stretches.
3. Simple ballet steps – Next jump straight into some simple ballet steps. There is no need to teach the exercise or 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 refine technique a little at a time.
Steps to include
- Retiré/Passé balance
- Relevé with pitter patter turns
4. Locomotion – Once the simple ballet section is over you can start on locomotion or across the room steps. Once again it is very useful to use place markers that the children move between in a variety of ways. Locomotion steps for 3-year-olds should include
- Walks on demi point (fairy runs)
- Pony gallops
- Sideways gallops holding hands with a partner
- Skips (these will be a work in progress over the year)
5. Creative movement/game – the final phase should be some sort of creative movement or game. Here is a good collection of activity songs that are perfect for this age group.
The Preschool Ballet Blueprint, a dance curriculum especially for Preschoolers has detailed instructions on all of the above Phases, as well as a choreographed syllabus that is pedagogically sound and developed over years of successful Preschool Dance instruction. You can find out more about it here.
Other considerations when thinking about what to teach 3-year-olds in dance are Props and extra activities.
Props for 3-year-old dance class
Potential props for 3-year-old dance class are
- Fairy wings
- Bean Bags
- Pom Poms
You can read more about Props for Preschool Dance here
Creative Movement activities for 3-year-old dance class
When it comes to what to teach in 3-year-old dance class there are THREE very important pieces of advice.
- Follow a predictable class plan. Whilst it may be tempting to use different music each week and throw in a variety of activities, Preschool Dance classes succeed and fail on predictability. It is vital to get the mix right. Until you feel that your class is very settled it really helps to follow exactly the same class plan. Once the children feel that they know what is expected of them and start to get excited for what is coming next, your class will start to run very smoothly.
- Plan B Even though we are aiming for predictability, even the best-laid plans can fall apart in an instant when it comes to Preschool Dance class. Even if your class runs relatively smoothly, sometimes things just go more quickly than you think and there really is little more terrifying than staring down a group of 3-year-old dancers and having no idea what to do with them. Build your list of extra activities. When things aren’t going so well, a quick change of activity or suddenly bringing out the Pom Poms can be just the circuit breaker you need.
- Add variety as you would spices. When thinking about what to teach 3-year-olds in dance class, whilst routine and predictability are key, everyone appreciates a little spice now and again. Whilst you don’t want to be adding in new songs and themes week after week, once you have your class settled and confident it is tremendous fun to add in some unexpected activities. You can find a range of mini seasonal class plans that you can sprinkle on your standard weekly classes here.
Lastly, the most important piece of advice on what to teach 3-year-olds in dance class is to teach them with a sense of FUN and enjoyment. As a Preschool Dance teacher, you are part dance instructor and part children’s entertainer. You are aiming to not only introduce basic dance technique but also to foster a love of dance that will hopefully last a lifetime. Above all else, keep the element of fun forefront in your mind when designing your classes. Use games, funny saying, and imaginative play to introduce your tiny dancer to a fulfilled dance adventure.