Teaching dance is hard enough.
Add a room full of 1-year-olds running in circles it becomes even harder.
Add their grown-ups and you have yourself a big puzzle to solve.
Last time, I offered you tools for teaching successful toddler (accompanied by adult) classes. Below I will give you tools to keep the parents and guardians happy so that you can be confident with adult eyes looking at you.
Add Grown-Up To Your Vocabulary
As good as “Mommy and me” sounds, it’s not the truth anymore, at least not in my experience. On a typical day I see Dad’s doing point and flex, babysitters performing the hokey pokey, and grandpas transforming into a tiger. I got used to saying “grown-up” very quickly. Saying parent can turn off even the most enthusiastic adult participant.
Wear Your Director’s Hat
Never have you had so many assistants in one room! Use them to your advantage and your students will get the most out of your class.
Directing grown-ups can be uncomfortable, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. When I first started out it felt like I was in college giving a presentation to my peers. I was so nervous. Then I realized that they are coming to my class for their child to learn, socialize, and the adults were looking to me as the “expert.” This put me at ease.
From then on I made a vow to create a class just as fun for the adults as it was for their children.
If you are are wishy-washy in your expectations, adults will enter the space and immediately migrate to the sides of the room. It’s your job to make sure that the adults know what is expected of them in every class.
Example: “Grown-ups, at the beginning of class, please accompany your dancer to a spot in the circle. Sit behind them and help them stay focused.”
Example: “Grown-ups, this dance goes in a circle. Let’s start going to left first.”
Some adults will need more prompting than others, and that is OK. Clear expectations will make sure your dance class doesn’t turn into social hour or nap time and will diminish your chances of getting really frustrated.
I look at it as a teachable moment. Teach adults what is appropriate for dance class along with their child. They will not come to the first day reading your mind, even though you would like them to!
And Baby Makes Three
Many young students have even younger siblings. I allow them to come but require that they are worn in a carrier like a Bjorn so they are not a distraction to the other students.
Similarly, I try to check on my pregnant moms when possible. Partner with their child or assure them that it is totally fine that they stay standing when the dance requires getting up and down from the floor five times.
Help Adults Encourage Independence
It’s important to help the adults encourage independence in their dancer.
After all, if children are not in school yet, dance is the place where they learn skills like waiting their turn, sharing, and keeping their hands to their own bodies.
I occasionally see adults doing skills for their children without letting them try it for themselves. I think it’s out of habit, but I believe it’s my job to help the adults encourage their children to do it themselves. Even if they struggle, they should still be encouraged to try.
In this case, cheer for the adult as much as the child when the child has independently performed the skill.
Create A Class That YOU Want To Teach
If you show up on a Monday morning to teach and are lacking energy, you better believe your class will drag. Both the dancers and their adults will feed off your energy.
If you enjoy teaching it, most likely the adults in the room will have a good time too. My favorite part of these classes is showing the grown-ups that it’s OK to be silly. Assure them that laughing and channeling their inner child is the way to go. The good news is the happiness will trickle home and what’s better than that?
Do have tips for leading adults through toddler dance class? Share them in the comments!
A passionate advocate for early childhood dance education, Maria Hanley Blakemore specializes in teaching ages 0 months to 6 years. She left NYC, where she designed and implemented programs at Manhattan’s Jewish Community Center, Dancewave Center and The Mark Morris Dance Group, to teach dancers in the greater Cleveland area. Maria holds a Master’s degree in dance education from New York University (2007) and a Bachelor’s degree in dance performance from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania (2005). Maria authors the blog Maria’s Movers (www.mariasmovers.com) where she shares creative ideas and strategies for teaching young dancers. Maria served on the Dance/NYC Junior Committee for 2 years and presented at the 2012 Dance USA Conference. She also presents at the Dance Teacher Summit in New York City. Read Maria’s posts.