Throughout history, dance has served as a means of communicating and bonding, celebrating, healing, as well as a form of creative self-expression. It’s also an amazing activity that supports positive physical and mental health.
Recently, Canada initiated its Sharing Dance programs under Canada’s National Ballet School, citing that 90% of children do not meet physical activity guidelines; and one out of three children and youth are overweight or obese.
The initiative promotes dance for all ages, as benefits are not dependent on age. Starting children off in dance early, however, kicks off good habits that can last a lifetime, while introducing them to the best possible way to channel their boundless energy.
So, let’s look at the reasons why we should get kids up and dancing.
Dance for health
Kids have so much energy! Next time your class is feeling drained and needing release, consider doing the mash potato, moonwalk, or hokey pokey…
Some of the physical benefits include improved aerobic power, muscular endurance, strength, flexibility and balance – all of which contribute to lower risk of illness and injury. As if that’s not enough to get moving, Psychology Today reported that dancing improves brain functionality.
According to Livestrong, “Dancing is an aerobic form of exercise. For children who are overweight, it can potentially help them to lose weight and improve their eating habits.”
What’s more, dancing in a social setting can release endorphins – the chemical in the brain that reduces stress and pain – resulting in a feeling of wellbeing similar to what is known as a “runner’s high.” When there are learned steps and routines, dancers also benefit from cognitive development.
Dance to be happy
Dance offers all the benefits of a hardcore workout, minus the stress. Nancy Van Keuls, MD, a Cleveland Clinic pediatrician and certified Zumba instructor believes dance can be much more effective for kids who shy away from competitive activities such as organized sports.
“In dance, they’ll never strike out, miss a basket or finish last,” Van Keuls explained. “They can do their own thing. They can become comfortable and confident with their own body. It’s a healthy form of self-expression.”
Turn up the music and keep the following in mind:
- Find The Beat: It’s good for the heart! For maximum benefit, do at least 30 minutes of dance most days.
- Step Into Fitness: You don’t have to be sporty to reap benefits – just keep moving.
- Stretch Your Brain: Focusing on dance steps while paying attention to rhythm is smart work for the brain.
- Kick Up Your Grades: Concentrate better and score higher on academic skills tests – especially reading and math.
- Shake Off Stress: Try NOT to smile while shaking a tail feather. Dancing just feels good … and helps to fight feelings of depression and anxiety.
- Take a Breather: Dancing can make for a better night’s sleep – and better attention and performance during waking hours.
- Spin Some Fun: Dancing is a great uniting force, so grab a partner! Age doesn’t matter… anyone over the age of two should be handed a dance card.
Dance for your SELF
We all know what happens when a baby hears music or see a child’s reflexive physical reaction to music. Studies show infants are predisposed to move to music. Children feel an inclination to dance, so turn up the music.
“If you put music on, young children move to the music — its universal,” Daniel Mollner, a facilitator of weekly “ecstatic dance” events in Santa Cruz, Calif. said. “It’s natural.”
As a dancer himself, he realized that critique can be a deterrent, especially for youngsters. His advice: Dance for yourself and find “a freestyle movement where you can move your inner rhythm.”
Keep it casual and fun! Find a good beat and welcome a new sort of recess.
As kids explore movement and various postures, they begin to get a better sense of their bodies. Becoming more comfortable in their skin helps to improve confidence and self-esteem.
“This can be particularly beneficial for children who are physically or mentally impaired or those who are attempting to deal with significant emotional problems,” Livestrong reported.
Learning is Where We Play: