Have you considered dance to help develop fine and gross motor skills, proprioception and confidence? Whether your child loves to move or jam out, dance could be their calling! Dance can have multiple benefits for helping a child learn more about their body and their vast sensory preferences.
During this pandemic, we have seen so many restrictions and limited opportunities for exercise and extracurricular activities. Dance is a wonderful form of self-expression, exercise and creativity. Many children love to move to music, and it makes them happy.
Dance offers repetitive movement opportunities:
Kiddos may be known to trip, fall or stumble often. A dance class provides consistent opportunities for repetitive movements to help them find their rhythm and coordination. For example, a four-step dance may be practiced over and over again until a child builds up muscle memory. The muscle memory helps the body go naturally to these movements while improving their coordination.
Dance provides body awareness opportunities:
Dance helps children develop a sense of body awareness, and it helps with confidence and social skills. Some children with sensory processing difficulties or other similar challenges may not understand where their bodies are in space or how to coordinate their fine motor control muscles. Through dance, children become aware of the space around them and are given the opportunity to practice using their fine and gross motor control skills.
They may not be aware of what their body is doing or how much force they’re using. They may not be aware of when their arms are swinging throughout air or how hard they kick at something. Dance training can focus on certain limbs. They can learn how to control their arms better, how they can move their legs to different angles and how subtle moves can make a big difference.
Dance enables creativity:
Dance allows for creative expression for individuality and provides exercise and healthy living. It can help those who struggle with language by presenting an opportunity to communicate without words. Dance allows room for creative thinking and the acceptance of varied concepts, and it stimulates intellect. Dance is not just a physical activity, it is also a form of creative expression. Some children have difficulty expressing themselves or understanding emotions. Dance gives children a chance to break out of their shells and express their emotions in a non-threatening and non-judgmental environment. Often during dance class children are required to dance or work in groups or pairs, they often give small demonstrations or performances in front of parents and their community, even in the dance class they are performing in front of each other. These activities also help children with special needs to gain confidence. When children are engaged with the world around them, they are more prepared to interact with it, learn from it and contribute to it. For children with sensory processing difficulties, autism and other socio-emotional or physical difficulties, enjoyable activities can be challenging to find. Children with different sensory preferences might have symptoms including poor attention, difficulty interacting with peers, limited body awareness or trouble being in social situations that might be over stimulating. Participating and expressing themselves through dance can help children overcome these difficulties.
Hartshorn, K., Olds, L., Field, T., Delage, J., Cullen, C., & Escalona, A. (2001). Creative 278 movement therapy benefits children with autism. Early Child Development and Care, 279 166(1), 1-5. doi: 10.1080/0300443011660101.
Scharoun, S. M., Reinders, N. J., Bryden, P. J., & Fletcher, P. C. (2014). Dance/Movement 310 therapy as an intervention for children with autism spectrum disorders. American Journal 311 of Dance Therapy, 36(2), 209-228. doi: 10.1007/s10465-014-9179-0.
By: Jen Johnson, MS, OTR/L