How to Teach Toddlers How to Dance

by Dan Harkins
They may not be that coordinated yet, but learning dance will help them become that way.

They may not be that coordinated yet, but learning dance will help them become that way.

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In the toddler years, before self-consciousness lays claim to your child's creative instincts, music is known to evoke a pure, ecstatic joy -- regardless of inexperience. It is now when you should introduce the basics of dance to give children a baseline of coordination and rhythm. Get them moving to the right beat when they're little and they'll have the confidence to bust out some original moves in no time.

Items you will need

  • CDs for children
Step 1

Play music your toddler has already expressed an interest in. Perhaps you've seen her bobbing her head to a certain song or she gets excited when a certain genre of music is playing. The more your toddler enjoys the music, the more apt she'll be to get moving to it.

Step 2

Dance with your child, showing him that almost anything goes when it comes to the movements he can employ. Keep the beat in the music by marching in place or stepping from side to side. This will make your toddler want to emulate your rhythmic pattern.

Step 3

Let your toddler lead you around the house, or vice versa, in a game of musical follow the leader. The person in the front gets to choose what hand movements the person in the back has to follow.

Step 4

Introduce hand claps, foot taps and various other dance moves to keep your toddler interested.

Step 5

Play a song for which you know hand movements, such as "Itsy Bitsy Spider" or "Two Little Blackbirds." This will reinforce the idea that the whole body can be used for dance.

Step 6

Alternate fast and slow songs, and change the way you dance to each dramatically. For instance, get on your knees, assume a dancing pose with your toddler, and rock back and forth with your toddler to a slow dance. Then, when the fast song comes on, get up and shake that slow song out.

Step 7

Clap with your toddler to each beat in several songs that exhibit different time signatures. Children's songs are often written with four beats per measure, but grownups know that this is just one type of time signature that can be danced to.

Step 8

Teach basic dance movements, one at a time, after your toddler has developed confidence with keeping time. Enrolling in a dance class together or buying an instructional video will keep your child from feeling overwhelmed in a crowd.

Tips & Warnings

  • Once the basics are mastered, your toddler is ready to learn several basic dance steps to start broadening her repertoire. Teacher and author Susan Kramer offers suggestions for dances your toddler will enjoy (see Resources).

About the Author

Dan Harkins has been a full-time journalist since 1997. Prior to working in the alternative press, he served as a staff writer and editor for daily publications such as the "St. Petersburg Times" and "Elyria Chronicle-Telegram." Harkins holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of South Florida.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images