From the moment I found out I was having a little girl, I dreamed of the moment she would start taking “baby dance.” I imagined tiny little girls, twirling around in their tutus and clumsily falling on their toddler tushies. The thought just filled me with glee. The cuteness was my main motivation.
I took dance myself as a little girl but stopped when I hit kindergarten. I’m not graceful or dainty, and I know it’s very unlikely my daughter grows up to be a professional ballerina. I was just hoping for a weekly dose of cuteness, a little socialization for my stay-at-home daughter, and some cute dance pictures at the end of the year. However, toddler dance class ended up giving my daughter and me much more than that…
On the first day of class, I dressed my daughter in her purple leotard, pink ballet tights, and the cutest pair of tiny pink ballet shoes anyone has ever seen. I excitedly drove her to the studio, just knowing she would absolutely love it. I thought a room full of other two-year-old girls would excite her. It did not. She sat on the floor or on the hip of the poor, overwhelmed instructor during the first class. “That’s okay,” I thought, “at least she didn’t cry.” That was about to change.
The next week, I optimistically took her to class, knowing things would be different this time. They were, but not in a good way. She started crying the moment I walked out of the room (mothers at this studio were asked to wait outside while security-type cameras broadcast the dance class in the lobby).
I thought she would stop crying. She didn’t. I had to go back in the room that week, and she sat on my lap for the rest of class. This was almost it for us, but we stuck it out and I’m so glad we did. She still can’t pirouette across the stage, but that first year of dance class taught her so much.
For the first month of class, my daughter cried until I went into the classroom. I did my best to get her to participate, but she really didn’t do much. On the fifth or sixth week of class, things changed. I waited in the lobby and listened for her crying, but it never happened. She followed the teacher and the other little girls and even participated a little. She had gained enough self-confidence to stay in class without me!
As the weeks went by, she engaged more and more with the other little girls. She looked forward to dance class and to the sticker she received at the end of each class. I feel sure doing an activity without a parent gave her a sense of independence that will serve her well when she goes to school.
Listening and Following Directions
My daughter has stayed at home with my husband and me since she was born. She is our only child, and neither of us comes from a family with a lot of children. I don’t think we noticed that she wasn’t really listening to us, nor did we know other toddlers listened to their parents.
Many times in dance, a few of the girls would do what the teacher said while the others giggled and chased each other around the room. Sometimes my daughter did what the teacher said, but others she was a chaser or chasee. Then one day, the teacher only gave stickers to the girls who listened. My daughter did not receive a sticker.
We went home that day and talked to her about listening. My husband and I gave her simple tasks to do all week and rewarded her when she complied. Before the next class, I told her she needed to listen to her teacher and follow instructions. She never left class without her sticker again.
We had always planned to keep my daughter at home for her first few years, but the pandemic meant we were not leaving the house or seeing many other people at all. My daughter occasionally saw other relatives when they visited our house, but that was the extent of her socialization.
When infection numbers went down and my husband and I were able to get vaccinated, we slowly got back into the world. We noticed my daughter would not interact with other kids when we took her to the park or other public places.
The weekly routine of dance and seeing the same kids on a regular basis helped her social skills. After a few months of class, she would giggle and play with the other girls. She’s now very social and will start her first day of preschool next week (I’m not crying – you are!). Dance class turned out to be a great way to work on her social skills.
Tomorrow we’ll begin our second year of dance. My daughter will be able to participate in the recital this year, and I am looking forward to all the cute pictures. She may not want to be a dancer when she gets older, but she enjoys it now and it’s been great for her development.