Cassandra Rei of Laidlaw Hall examines the importance of music and dance in the learning development of children
As little bodies bounce around with bursting energy, it is hard to maintain composure when it has them hanging from trees and climbing furniture whilst leaving parents physically and mentally worn out. Directing some of that enthusiasm towards music and dance creates a positive outlet for extra energy. From making music with metal pots and pans or a sing-along in the car, through to dancing around the living room, music and dance seem to take on a natural and spontaneous form in a child’s life.
Parents, grandparents and those involved in education can see many benefits in bringing the joy and fun of dance and music into the lives of young children. Jo Jingles, who run classes for children from as young as 3 months, are enthusiastic in the belief that music will help develop the skills needed when starting school for the first time. They believe that exposing your child to music can make a big difference in terms of how your child copes in a new school environment.
Nursery teachers understand the significance of music in the classroom. By singing songs repeatedly with your child, you can help them develop their listening skills, learn new vocabulary and pick up basic speech patterns. Rhymes like ‘Hickory, Dickory, Dock’ raise phonological awareness, which is essential when learning to read and write later on.
The popularity of television and computer games has left today’s children with a more sedentary lifestyle leading to postural problems and an increase in childhood obesity. Children receive a countless number of physical benefits from dance. Simple dance routines develop co-ordination through movements that encourage the use of both sides of the body and the brain. Additionally, dance routines help children develop their memory skills by developing the ability to recall a sequence of steps in a particular order. Dance is also an excellent approach to developing a child’s spatial awareness. Getting your child to move around, through, under, over and into spaces while negotiating objects is one of the best ways to develop it.
Dance Principal Zoe Dawson, from South London Dance Studios, highlights a number of transferable skills that children learn through attending dance classes: self-discipline, persistence, resourcefulness, flexibility of the mind and the ability to think quickly under pressure. Additionally, she explains that when children attend a dance class they also develop their socials skills as they are expected to cooperate with a partner or in a group, take turns and show respect to fellow dancers and teachers.
Music has the ability to change the way we think, feel and behave, while dancing produces endorphins that create a positive feeling of energy. Dance professional and teacher from Dance Art, Lena Shalnev, suggests that children be offered plenty of opportunities to move their bodies, increasing blood and oxygen flow to the brain and allowing them to be more conducive for learning.
Music and dance nurtures a child’s creativity and allows them to express their emotions. This is particularly important when they don’t always have the vocabulary to express themselves. The ideal music and dance class for your child will ultimately promote a love for music and dance while most importantly, building your child’s confidence.
So, as you have read, there are very many physical, academic and social reasons for encouraging dance and music in the life of young children. Above all, it is fun!
Cassandra Rei is part of the teaching team at Laidlaw Hall (laidlawhall.co.uk; 020 8487 9517). She has also represented South Africa in the World Freestyle Dance Championships. Laidlaw Hall is a division of Laidlaw Education, which provides day time education for children with specialist requirements