If you teach PARENT AND TOT CLASSES, you know they can be challenging. However, they have the potential to be the most rewarding classes at your studio. YOU have the opportunity to encourage the bond between participants while, at the same time, teaching the parents about your program, how their child develops, and why the art form is so important for their child’s physical and mental health. How cool is that?!?!
In my early years of teaching Parent and Tot classes, I focused on the children. I wanted them to have fun and be happy in hopes that their parents would see how awesome dance was and would sign them up for future classes. However, I noticed the parents would not participate. They would rather sit and bark orders at their toddler (“Go dance!”), chat with their bestie who was also in the class, or even talk on their cell phone while the class was in session. Ummm…. Who does that?!?! I knew I needed to change my approach.
Here are some tips that surfaced once I made these changes. I hope you find them helpful in your classes too!
1. Set Clear Expectations- Don’t assume parents know the rules and etiquette of a dance class. Before every single class, go over your expectations. “Good morning, everyone! We are going to have so much fun together today. Grown-ups, make sure your cell phones are silenced, please keep chit chat between your child and other grown-ups to a minimum, and remember…if you are having fun, your child will also have fun. Let’s dance!”
2. Instruct the Parents- Forget about the kiddos! The children will participate because their grown-ups are participating. I PROMISE! If a child sees that their mom and dad are doing what I ask them to do, the child will follow. If the child sees that their mom or dad is having a blast, the child will join in on the fun. When giving directions, instruct the parents first. “Alright grown-ups, everyone on your feet” or “time to go across the floor, grown-ups, please go have a seat by the wall.” Most parents probably never grew up dancing, so they don’t know what to do. Your verbal cues will help guide them and make them more comfortable in class. It will also give them no choice but to do what you ask when you address them directly. :)
3. Praise the Parents- I know it sounds silly, but grown-ups need to be praised for a job well done just like their child needs praise. Call them out and let them know they’re doing a great job. “I see Rebecca playing peek a boo with her little one. Let’s all play peek a boo.” Or, as you’re moving through the class tell them “that’s so creative, good job!” or a simple “great energy!”. I’ve never met a parent who didn’t appreciate the positive feedback. I mean, we are asking them to step out of their comfort zone and act like a two-year-old, let’s build their confidence so they continue that play at home!
More tips for a successful Parent/Tot class:
· Create a home base out of mats for the class to come back to between activities. By creating this visual, dancers and grown-ups know exactly where I want them to be in the room without ever giving a detailed verbal cue.
· Create an age appropriate curriculum that focuses on early childhood physical development, rather than proper dance technique.