Toddler Ballet Class - “No Mom’s Allowed”

After watching her dance around your home dressed up as a ballerina, you've signed your toddler up for ballet. Upon arriving at the studio door for the first class you are stopped dead in your tracks. The policy is "No moms allowed". As a mother, I feel the emotions. As the instructor I can explain. It’s important for any teacher to have order in the classroom so productive learning can take place. Order exists when rules are clearly set and communicated. When rules are followed the teacher is at liberty to create a fun environment to learn, full of praise and affirmation as the students reach the learning objectives.

The rules in a toddler ballet class reflect the rules in many classrooms. 1. Raise your hand to speak. 2. Wait for the music to stop before raising your hand unless it’s an emergency. 3. Use the restroom before the start of class. 4. Do not run. 5. Keep you hands to yourself. These rules are designed to limit interruptions and create a safe, friendly environment. As any parent knows, no child will perfectly keep the rules. Most often, calling their name, making eye contact or dancing alongside a distracted child will regain their attention. However, if a child knowingly and repeatedly breaks a rule, especially if it puts their own or another child’s safety at risk, a time out is given. Time outs are age appropriate in length. That’s only fair especially when they have come to class to dance.

Teaching dance to a toddler is similar to their play environment at home. We look for the shapes our bodies make as we move to the music. For example, in plié our legs are in the shape of a diamond. While we balance in relevé we sing "I'm a Little Teapot" and when we get to the lyrics "we all fall down" we fall down. As we lift our legs behind us in arabesque we pretend to balance a crown on our heads as not to lean forward and drop the crown on the floor. Soon the day arrives when they show off being able to stay in relevé at the end of the song and how they can keep their crown on their head when doing an arabesque. Through fun imagery and positive feedback they have accomplished the learning objectives.

There are toddlers who are not hindered by the rules or opposed to having fun but struggle with being away from their parent or guardian. For some ballet is their first class setting. Therefore, this hindrance, if it exists at all, is the first week of class and usually resolves within the first month when the parents or guardians come together with the teacher to encourage and reassure the child. Each child is an individual and how this anxiety is handled varies. Sometimes it’s as simple as assuring the child their parent or guardian is right around the corner in the waiting room or showing them the sticker they will receive when class is over. Other times, the stuffed animal they are clinging to is invited into class. The goal is to show them the classroom is safe and fun so learning can happen.

Even though you are not in the studio on a weekly basis, you will still witness all your toddler is learning. First of all, he or she will be perfecting their new moves around your house and you’ll begin hearing the French terminology to their dancing. Secondly, parent watch weeks happen a few times throughout the season. Thirdly, we end the season with a theater performance. By attending parent watch weeks, you’ve helped prepare your child to be in front of an audience at the theater. Along with this performance talent comes a good foundation in physical movement and social skills to help your toddler thrive in future physical activities, social outings and classrooms.