How to ready a young child for ballet class

Is this the first day of your child’s kids ballet class? Are you somehow as nervous as your youngster? Fret not! Here is a guide to help you get prepared for your child’s first step into the world of ballet.

Things to Bring to Ballet Class

Wonder what to pack into your child’s ballet bag? The most important items would be her dancing clothes and shoes. Some additional items you can consider tossing into the bag are a sweatshirt or jacket if your child is susceptible to colder temperatures. Jackets can be easily worn over your child’s leotards and will not hinder her movement. Take care to add in a full bottle of water for your child to drink after a hard session of dancing. You can also whip up some snacks for your child to enjoy after the class.

For toddlers who have a favourite soft toy or pillow that they cannot part with, you can probably make an exception to bring it along. Nonetheless, do make it clear to them to leave their prized possession in the bag during dance sessions to avoid any unwanted tussles with other students.

Preparation Before the Class

Before showing up to class, it is important that you prepare your child mentally and emotionally. Your kid needs to bring a positive mindset! This is vital to learning about new things. Before you get here, attempt to start a conversation with them about the class. Let them know how thrilled you are about their achievements. That will help them to gain confidence and be able to articulate their emotions back to you as well. Tell them to enjoy their classes to decrease any pressure that they may have.

Proper Attire

For young children, the requirements for ballet attire are usually not that strict. Essentially, they can wear tutus, princess costumes, simple leotards and tights paired with a sturdy pair of ballet flats. The general guideline here is to wear clothes that are form fitting and light for easier dancing and also aid instructor observations.

Shopping for Ballet Attire

It is not necessary for you to purchase branded ballet gear for your child. This is because young children grow out of their clothes and footwear in a matter of months. Opt for generic brands that carry acceptable quality ballet clothes and shoes, so long as your child is comfortable in them. Once your child’s growth is more stable and they have advanced to higher levels, you can proceed to buy higher quality ballet gear that can last and can withstand hours of use.

It is certainly an exciting event to journey with your child into the world of ballet. Just be sure to follow the list above to ensure that your child can get the best experience ever when attending ballet for kids.

Choosing the proper time for a young ballet dancer to start training with pointe shoes is a controversial topic because it was thought that starting pointe ballet training too early would damage the growth plates in a child’s feet. However, there has been no study to date showing that dancing on pointe when growth plates are still open leads to growth failure.

The question shouldn’t be “at what age can my child start dancing on pointe?” but rather “is my child ready to begin ballet dancing on pointe?”

Traditionally, it was thought that children should be 12 years of age or older before advancing to pointe ballet. Some dance teachers will go as far as to request that their students obtain X-rays of their feet to see if the growth plates are closed before allowing them to start pointe training.

Determining if your child’s ready for ballet pointe

Children vary greatly in terms of their musculoskeletal maturity, motor skill development and mental maturity. Not all twelve year olds are ready to dance on pointe while some ten year olds are ready. The decision to allow your child to begin pointe ballet work should be based on several factors including physical capability and mental maturity rather than by age or number of years of training, although many dancers require 4-5 years of training to achieve the technical requirements to begin pointe training.

Work closely with the dance teacher

A good ballet teacher will know when your child is ready to begin training on pointe. There are several functional tests that a dance teacher can have your child perform to assess her/his readiness to go on pointe. Only after a dancer has demonstrated mastery of proper skills and technique, alignment, balance, control, strength and flexibility will a dance teacher recommend that the student advance to pointe ballet work.

Starting pointe ballet training before these elements are acquired can lead to injuries because of weakness in the foot and ankle and overall lack of coordination. Furthermore, attaining mental maturity is also very important, as a ballet dancer will need to show that they can learn and perform the choreography, as well as be able to handle corrections.

So there is not a simple answer to a straight forward question! Many factors need to be considered. A young ballet dancer may begin on pointe shoes when they are mentally mature and can demonstrate proficiency in their technical abilities.

Read more articles on sports safety.

About Children’s Hospital Colorado

We see more, treat more and heal more children than any hospital in our seven-state region. Learn about our mission and more, or search for opportunities to join our team.

We’re a nonprofit that is supported by donors

When you give to Children’s Colorado, you’re helping us to reimagine children’s health through patient care, education, research and advocacy.

How to ready a young child for ballet class

How to ready a young child for ballet class

How to ready a young child for ballet class

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Youtube
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram

Patient ratings and reviews are not available

Children’s Hospital Colorado partners with NRC Health to gather star ratings and reviews from patients, residents and family survey data. This provider either practices in a department or specialty that we currently do not survey, or does not have at least 10 ratings in the last 12 months. Learn more about patient ratings and reviews.

Provider affiliation

Children’s Hospital Colorado providers

Children’s Hospital Colorado providers are faculty members of the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Our specialists are nationally ranked and globally recognized for delivering the best possible care in pediatrics.

Community providers

Some healthcare professionals listed on our website have medical privileges to practice at Children’s Hospital Colorado, but they are community providers. They schedule and bill separately for their services, and are not employees of the Hospital.

There are many wonderful ballet steps for kids that they can do during class and at home for practice.

When dealing with ballet positions for kids, one has to be careful to choose exercises that are appropriate for the age and strength of the child. Doing exercises before the child is ready for it could cause more harm than good.

Here are a few tips and rules to keep in mind when working with little bodies and planning your ballet steps for kids.

Ballet Steps For Kids

1st Position:

How to ready a young child for ballet class

1st Position

When teaching the 1st Position, make sure the child is not forcing her turnout. Lots of kids love to try and be real ballerina’s and stand with their feet turned out at 180 degrees. Well, most of the general population just doesn’t have and never will have that amount of turnout in the hips. We have to train children to work with what they have without damaging their bodies. Make sure that the child’s knees are lined up over her toes in 1st position.

Demi Plies:

Demi plie is a good ballet step to give a child, provided it is done correctly. Ensure that when the child bends, the knees are going over the toes and that the bend doesn’t go so low that the heels lift off the floor. The child must feel the insides of her thighs parting as she goes down.

The back must be held erect throughout, as normally with children the tail bone often pops out as they bend.

Princess Toes and Frog Toes:

Kids enjoy this exercise and it teaches them how to use their feet. If they do it properly with a tall back, they will also feel a nice stretch up the backs of their legs. Let them sit on the floor with straight backs and their legs straight out in front of them. When they point their toes they make ‘princess’s toes’ and then they can make ‘frog toes’ by flexing their feet. It may help to let them sit with their backs against a wall.

Check that when the child points her feet that they are straight, or you could be encouraging a sickled foot. If possible the heels and toes should be touching. However, if the child can’t manage to get her legs together, then let her glue her knees together and make sure her feet are parallel to each other.

Skipping:

Skipping is a great ballet step to teach children. Normally children under the age of three will battle with skips, but by the age of 5, most children will have grasped how to do them. Try to encourage the children to lift their knees high so that the side of the big toe touches the side of the supporting leg on each skip. Skips should have a light quality and be well lifted and jumped in ballet.

Marching:

Marching should perhaps be taught just before skipping, as the feet are in the same place on the side of the knee. This will also teach the children to lift their legs nice and high in preparation for skips. Now would be a great time to add some musical instruments like drums or tambourines.

Children can maybe have turns to play for each other, matching the beating of the drum with her friend’s feet hitting the floor. Marches in half time is also a great exercise to teach the children to balance.

Walking:

Walks are great ballet steps for kids. You can have lots of fun with walks. They could be fast, slow, high, or low. A simple way to teach children transference of weight, as it is something that they can all do naturally.

Running on “Tippy Toes”

Teaching a child to run on the balls of her feet is one of the first things she should learn in ballet class. Running on the toes strengthens the feet and teaches the dancer to run gracefully. The children should be encouraged to lift up their bodies as they run and grow tall, so they are light on their toes.

Jumps:

Jumps should be taught parallel, in 1st position and in 2nd for little ones and beginners. A great way to teach the children to push off the floor with their feet is to sit them with their feet flat against a wall. Let them bend their knees and get them to push off the wall while simultaneously stretching their legs and feet as they leave the wall and slide away from it along the floor, using their hands for support so they don’t fall over.

Jumps are a very important part of dance training, as they strengthen the legs, feet, and bones. Make sure the children bend well when coming out of a jump, and aim to land with their toes touching the floor first then the heels. Try to enforce the landing with the heels touching all the way down at a young age, otherwise, they will battle to do it later on.

Pony Gallops:

Pony gallops are great fun for kids. It is also a great exercise for rhythm. Teach them to clap two claps in quick succession and pause. Now the feet do what the hands are doing, jump land. It is like skipping with a skipping rope, and once they have the step you can encourage them to lift their knees high up in front of them while they “jump over the fences.”

Most important, when teaching these ballet steps for kids, keep the class moving and fun, especially with the little ones, as they lose concentration very easily.

So, your child shows the potential to be the next best dancer. They respond well to music and rhythm and you dream of them attending Moscow State Academy or The Royal Ballet in London. You want to encourage their poise and posture, but how? Discover 7 ways you can do ballet with your child.

Perfect the Simple Stretches

Children are usually incredibly supple. Since flexibility starts to fade as we grow, it is vital to teach your child how to stretch their body, safely, at an early age.

Toe Touches: Toe touches are a simple stretch that gently stretches the hamstrings. Demonstrate sitting on the floor and reaching for your toes. It is vital to encourage straight knees to prevent injury. Try not to act too surprised when your little one folds in half!
Straddle Splits: This stretch is practiced by sitting straight up, with the legs opened wide apart. It is a pose that offers excellent benefits for the body by opening the inner thigh muscles, strengthening the core and the gluteus muscles. Demonstrate reaching to the right then the left and then the centre. Encourage your child to maintain straight knees.
Leg Extensions: Achieving the dancer desired leg extension requires two things: strength and flexibility. It is not uncommon for dancers to get frustrated with poor leg extensions, so encouraging them from an early age to get into practice is a great start. Show your child how to lay on one side and hold one leg up in the air. Encourage them to maintain straight knees and pointed toes. Always ensure when they complete an exercise on one leg, that they switch over and do the other!

Encourage the Basic Ballet Positions

The five basic positions of ballet are the core element of the dance. Your child may have mastered first and second, but how are they with third, fourth and fifth? Grab a chair, your little one with need this now!
First Position: Encourage your child to have their heels together and their toes
turned out.
Second Position: A good way to perfect the second position is to start in first, then encourage them to slide the feet apart. Ensure they maintain the same rotation and turn out.
Third Position: Third can be perfected from second position. Slide one foot towards the other so the heel of the front foot makes contact with the arch of the back foot.
Fourth Position: Similar to third but encourage them to slide their forward foot
further away. The feet should be around one foot in distance.
Fifth Position: Now, fifth position is a little more demanding. It is a similar to position to fourth, however both feet make contact. Once they’re in contact, orientate the toes of the front foot to try and make contact with the heel of the other foot!

How to ready a young child for ballet class

Take a Parent and Child Class

Most dance schools will offer a Parent and Tots style class. These are usually aimed at children aged 3-5. Young children are likely to experience upset and anxiety when separated from their parents so these classes encourage a healthy transition into the dance educational setting. These classes offer the first steps into dance and core classroom behaviour. The classes will provide valuable skills that are essential for dance including listening, taking instructions, turn-taking, following direction and sequential order. The basic dance activities will also explore their gross motor development skills and build upon their rhythm and timings.

How to ready a young child for ballet class

Educate in the Prevention and Managing of Injury

The physical demands placed on the bodies in dance can make dancers susceptible to injury. Teach and encourage the importance of preventing injuries whilst they are still young. After all, prevention is better than sitting on the chair watching everybody else dance whilst they recuperate!

Encourage children to be mindful of the following:

How to ready a young child for ballet class

Relax and Rejuvenate

Here’s one we can all appreciate. Your child is working hard stretching and building upon their skills. But, don’t forget the importance of relaxation. Regular massages and physiotherapy are recommended to prevent and manage injury.

Share the Passion

Nothing is better than sharing a passion with your child. There is a real bond and connection when you have a common interest. Why not take an adult only class and brush up on your barre work? Perhaps you took ballet when you were younger and lost the spark, or maybe you’re a first timer. As long as you’re having fun, it doesn’t matter! The special bond you will gain, the quality time together at the dance school and the understanding you will share between one another is priceless. Speaking of prices, if you’re lucky, your dance school may even offer family discounts which might just save you a little on the monthly tuition fees!

How to ready a young child for ballet class

Encourage Ballet in the Home

So, you’re little one is in love with dance and every waking moment they seem to be filled with energy. Music and rhythm is instilled in them and they just want to move! Embrace it. Encourage your child to practice at home. Praise them.

  • Allow a Dance Space: Move the furniture aside temporarily and allow your child to practice their routines. Use the chairs or the radiators as a barre.
  • Praise them: Praise your children for working hard and practicing. Ensure they know you are proud of their dedication.
  • Watch Ballet Movies : Ballet requires a lot of focus and commitment so encourage the fun side too. For the younger children, why not watch Barbie of Swan Lake together or The Nutcracker . Have a movie night and marvel at the ballet moves.
  • Recognise the Steps : Educate your child on the importance of patience, practice and how perfection takes time. Ensure they understand that even professional ballet dancers have had to work hard to develop their talent.
  • Offer Constructive Feedback: Observe your child practicing at home. Offer constructive feedback. Do not pounce on every mistake, however you can offer guidance and correct their technique, if you feel comfortable to do so. You can ask your child’s teacher for advice and guidance. Ensure you show enthusiasm and praise them profusely for trying their best.

How to ready a young child for ballet class

Ballet can be incredibly rewarding and offers so many benefits. However, remember that your child will decide for themselves if it is an activity they want to continue to pursue. Encourage your child, however ensure you do not pressure them into continuing something they do not enjoy.

How to ready a young child for ballet class

When you are searching for a ballet class for your young child between the ages of 3 and 7 years old, you will find that many studios offer opportunities to learn ballet through a ballet creative movement class or a combination ballet and tap class. All of these classes introduce dance in a way that helps develop motor skills, coordination and rhythm in fun combinations developed for younger children. Choosing between a combination ballet and tap dance class or a ballet class often depends on your child’s individual interests and the classes available in your area.

Ballet Classes for Young Children

Ballet classes for younger children tend to be called creative movement, and introduce the basic ballet positions and steps, in a way that will engage a small child’s imagination and attention. Children learn to recognize and follow rhythm and music tempo. The teachers will often use imaginative play concepts during stretching and ballet exercises. For example, children may pretend to be different animals while performing a combination of ballet steps. Props like masks or puppets may also be used for an exercise.

The main advantage of an all ballet class is the fact that your child will be learning ballet fundamentals for the entire class, which is often 45 to 60 minutes of dance. A child taking an entire class devoted to ballet will progress in ballet faster than one taking a combination ballet and tap class, which splits the time between two forms of dance.

Combination Ballet and Tap Classes for Young Children

Combination ballet and tap dance classes for young children are quite popular in dance studios because many young children respond well to tap dance. The pretty tap shoes, loud tapping, and lively music often easily engages the attention of young children first learning dance. Tap also provides a valuable lesson in learning rhythm, and works well with ballet in developing coordination and motor skills.

Combination ballet and tap dance classes also use imaginative play to teach ballet and tap steps. Instructors teach dance combinations in a fun manner that may involve pretending or play. Tumbling and some basic gymnastic concepts like cartwheels may also be a part of a combination dance class.

The classes are usually evenly split between ballet and tap. A 60-minute class will have 30 minutes of ballet and 30 minutes of tap. It is worth noting that some studios that offer combination classes focus more on tap, and only offer tap recitals in combination ballet and tap classes. A combination class can provide a good dance foundation for the future study of either ballet or tap.

Choosing Between a Ballet Class or Combination Dance Class

When you are selecting a dance class for your child, you want to find the studio and class that best meets your child’s needs. Consider the following when choosing between a ballet class or combination ballet and tap class for your young child:

  • Class size: Younger children learn best in smaller dance classes where they can get individual attention and correction from teachers. If your child’s class is larger than 12 students, there should be two dance instructors in the class to give each child enough guidance to learn dance steps well. Classes with more than 20 students are not recommended.
  • Curriculum: The dance class can be creative movement, fun, and still introduce dance fundamentals. Observe a class or two to see what the teachers are teaching. This will also allow you to see how your child responds to the class. Make sure a combination class teaches both ballet and tap equally.
  • Goals: If you want your child to primarily learn ballet, you may want to start them with a ballet creative movement class rather than a combination class. If you are mostly interested in your child taking tap in the future, the combination class is the best introduction to tap dance.
  • Studio: Are you willing to travel around until you find the right dance studio? The closest studio to your house may not always be the best fit. Shop around until you find the dance studio that provides the atmosphere and classes that best meet your child’s needs.

A child can learn the fundamental concepts of dance well from either a combination ballet and tap class or an all ballet class, if it is taught well. Ultimately, it is your child’s interest in dance that will determine if a combination dance class or an all ballet class is best.

Forcing too much turnout in young children is not only unsafe, it is also unnecessary. Their bodies allow for a gradual progression with a projected 90º turnout achieved by the age of 7 or 8. As they get older, teachers must explain how to externally rotate from the hip to allow for the increase of flexibility and strength over time. Teachers should never force a child’s turnout, rather, it should occur naturally. What is good and safe for our pre-ballet students when it comes to turnout, and what can we expect when they begin to point their feet to the front? This graphic shows the maximum amount of turnout to allow with each age group. Not all children should use the amount shown. Less is recommended for any child who is not strong enough to hold the entire leg turned out this far. Turnout must not occur at ankles or knees, but only at the hip joint .

The Test: Have the child stand in first position and bend the knees. Do the knees come vertically over the centers of the feet? Is the hip girdle centered vertically above the centers of the feet?

If not, less turnout must be used, perhaps even parallel feet, until the child’s leg and hip muscles mature and strengthen to where they can hold the correct alignment. Forcing the correct position will not help. The child must be able to do it correctly on their own muscle power, repeatedly, without help, once the correct “demi plié” position is shown and explained.

How to ready a young child for ballet class

Many parents wonder what possible benefits could result from sending their 3 year old to a ballet class. They wonder, “How much could she possibly learn at this age?” Actually, besides learning the basics of technique, dancers learn much more than that; young dancers learn discipline, social etiquette, and basic coordination, to name just a few.

The discipline that it takes to apply and follow specific instructions is a relatively new skill for a toddler. When in ballet class for children this young, there is usually time for creative movement and play, but not until after disciplined activities have been completed. This teaches children that learning sometimes comes before play time, and that they must listen to their instructor in order to get to run around. This alone is extremely beneficial as young children enter pre-school and day care programs along with other children.

All group dance classes encourage proper social etiquette including taking turns, waiting in line, holding hands, and stretching as a group. As simple as these things seem, if your child hasn’t attended school yet, these lessons can be really helpful in terms of learning good listening habits. Children will also make friends and find joy in sharing fun moments with these new friends.

While your dancer may not execute their ballet technique perfectly, the point is that they are learning! Many children who take ballet class at a young age continue to take class in subsequent years and the younger anyone starts an activity the easier it is to acquire new skills quickly. Learning ballet at a young age allows young children to develop skills related to balance, coordination, and musicality.
Enroll your child today in an educational and fun ballet class!

For many men, the idea of having to get their sweet baby girl ready for a ballet lesson is daunting to say the least. Soccer practice? No problem. Piano lessons, how hard can that be? But, ballets with its tutus, uptight hair-dos, dress codes, and, let’s face it, posse of stage-moms in training-downright intimidating.

For many men, the idea of having to get their sweet baby girl ready for a ballet lesson is daunting to say the least. Soccer practice? No problem. Piano lessons, how hard can that be? But, ballets with its tutus, uptight hair-dos, dress codes, and, let’s face it, posse of stage-moms in training—downright intimidating.

WHAT TO WEAR
Ballet schools run the gamut with respect to dress code. On the more liberal end, the brass tacks requirements are tights, leotard and ballet slippers. Stricter schools will post a dress code that requires a specific color of leotard, tights and slippers. Usually these schools will have a website that lists their dress-code requirements. It is common that different classes will wear different colors of leotard, so it is important to find out which class your child is attending. Some school even specify a style number and brand of leotard. In these cases, you will generally have to go to a dancewear store to find the right thing. Don’t be afraid to ask the sales clerk to help you. The sizes do not necessarily correspond to your child’s street clothes/ shoe size. When in doubt, go with simple style without any attached skirts or decorations.

If the school does not specify, buy leather ballet slippers with a full leather bottom. The shoes should be tight (but not too tight) as they will stretch with use. There is no shame in leaving the finer point of fitting to the teacher on the first day (just arrive early if this is your plan). If you want to fit the shoes, have your daughter stand while wearing her shoes. Pull the elastic strings until there are no gaps and a snug fit. The fit shouldn’t be painful or cut-off blood-flow. Once you have the desired fit, you will knot the strings and snip the excess. Leave about an inch of string and then tuck this excess into the shoe. Most schools use pink slippers for girls, boys often use black.

There are several types of tights as well. Most schools will not specify anything other than color. Some tights have feet; others stop at the ankle (footless) and a third type (referred to as “transition tights”) has a hole in the bottom of the foot. These tights can be worn as full tights or around the child’s ankle. If your child already has gear, and you are just buying an emergency replacement pair of tights, most big-box stores and department stores will carry pink tights that will do the job in a pinch.

If you have a son taking ballet classes, the dress code is fairly consistent. Usually a white t-shirt, black ballet slippers and either black shorts or black tights. Check the school’s website for specifics.

BALLET BUN
Even the most motivated of ballet moms is intimidated by the dreaded “classical ballet bun.” While this hair style is intended to elongate the dancer line while keeping the dancer’s hair out of her face, what it does in practice is cause tears and screaming fits in the morning before class. Again, the amount of stress induced by doing your child’s hair is directly proportional to the strictness of the school’s dress code.

Before I continue, if your child’s hair is chin length or shorter, do not attempt the ballet bun. It simply isn’t going to happen. Pull the top portion of you child’s hair off of her face with a barrette or headband.

If your school is on the more liberal end of the spectrum and your daughter’s hair isn’t too long, you can get by with a cheater-bun. Comb your daughter’s hair into a tight ponytail in the middle of her head. Wrap the ponytail elastic around her hair, keeping it tight against her head. When the elastic seems like it will only wrap one more time around, pull the hair through but leave the tail end stuck in the elastic. You will have a loop of hair sticking out but the “tail” of the ponytail will remain in the elastic. This is not a true bun, but will get you through the lesson.

If you child’s hair is too long for the cheater bun or the school has a more strict dress code, you will have to attempt the ballet bun. Click here for step by step instructions on how to make a true ballet bun.

WHAT ELSE TO BRING
Ballet slippers can only be worn inside the dance studio, so your child will have to arrive in street shoes and change at the school. For safety reasons, many schools will not let students attend class without shoes so it’s a good idea to get a bag in which to keep your child’s dance gear. Your child should arrive to class with warm-up gear or street clothes over their dance clothes. Other items to consider bringing: a bottle of water and non-messy snack like pretzels for after the class; extra bobby-pins and hairspray.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Make sure you take your daughter to the bathroom before class. It is difficult for young children to manage getting their leotard and tights off by themselves. It is also very disruptive for a child to leave for a potty break in the middle of class. Many schools will not let parents watch the lesson, so bring something to keep you entertained while your child dances. Finally, have fun—they don’t stay little for long.

Jeanine Womble is an attorney and mother of an aspiring ballerina and a 3 foot tall cyclone of toddler-hood. She is also a step-parent to three now adult step-children. She lives in the Washington, DC metro area but yearns for the mild summers and dropped r’s of her childhood in New England.

Richard “RJ” Jaramillo, is the Founder of SingleDad.com,
a website and social media resource dedicated to single parenting and specifically for the newly divorced, re-married, widowed and single Father with children.
RJ is self employed, entrepreneur living in San Diego and a father of three children. The mission of SingleDad is to help the community of Single Parents
“Make Life Happen…Again!”