Creative movement and dance are interchangeable terms and both refer to the same practice of using movement, music, time, and space in a creative manner. At Boston Mobile Dance Studio, we often talk about moving creatively and how dance is beneficial for everyone and anyone. It is especially children that benefit from the practice, as movement is the root form of self-expression and children are born with it. Which is what makes creative movement so important in all phases of child development.
Research and science have shown us how creative movement is beneficial in all areas of development. We now know for sure that dance helps youth learn and develop a number of skills which are crucial for healthy child development.
Besides the experience I have in the field of teaching creative movement to children, I thought I’d dig a bit further to explain how beneficial and even inevitable creative movement is for youth.
Along with dance, comes music.
The human brain is wired to respond to sound and music in a number of ways. In fact, science shows that music ticks off more parts of the brain than any other function or activity. Depending on the tones, vibrations, and frequencies, music can induce positive and negative emotions. So music also plays a very important role in child development.
Dance has been misunderstood for centuries, and often looked at as a “just for fun” activity with no real educational purpose. I feel it is necessary to explain that it’s on the contrary, in the most simple yet detailed way. Hopefully, parents will then understand that dance for youth is not just about “having fun” (although the fun part is the best), but it is crucial in all development stages.
I’m going to take you through the ages and stages of child development, and show you where creative movement and dance comes in and which role it plays.
Infants 0 – 2
During infancy, a baby understands the world through sense and action. A baby starts to develop basic skills such as moving their body parts, responding to emotional or physical stimulation, and discovering the space around them. Curiosity and the need for affection are at their peak here. Infants often imitate what they see, this is their way of discovering the world and learning.
At this stage, creative movement comes in as a way of exploring sounds, movements, and emotions. Example: How does a cow moo? How does a bunny jump? Happy face/sad face etc. When it comes to music, infants enjoy smoother and higher tones.
Toddlers 2 – 5
Toddlers have already taken their first steps and have started to independently explore the world. At this stage, toddlers discover freedom and independence. Here, we may see negative emotions starting to occur; resistant and negative reactions, and tantrums. They start to understand the world through mental images and language. They learn to speak and their intellect comes into play.
During this stage, creative movement comes in as a way of:
- physical and emotional release,
- learning independence and self-confidence skills,
- gaining physical balance and coordination,
- and above all the use of their innate creativity.
Tweens 6 – 12
At this age, parents already know their child’s individuality. This is why parents should focus more on empowering and encouraging their children’s innate originality, rather than trying to make them go in the direction they believe is best for them.
During this period, parents often start to question their prior parenting tactics as children start to show different and opposing opinions due to their expanded surroundings and relationships. Different situations within their relationships with others may affect children in ways parents didn’t realize before. A child’s reaction, such as stress, anger, rebellion, or reduced self-esteem, will depend not only on their own personality but also on a parent’s parenting style.
As parents, it is our duty to teach our children about the different results and consequences of individual choices. Children need to be supported in being themselves rather than directed in being perfect and without failure. I’m a firm believer that we can teach this to kids from the youngest ages. Rather than threatening or punishing, I prefer to explain that they always have a choice, but depending on the choice, certain consequences will occur.
But let’s consider where creative movement and dance comes in at this stage.
At this point, children will start to display different reactions or personality traits that were not so obvious before. For example, an introvert child will show more difficulty with blending in or lower self-confidence. Dance comes in as a great way to help these kids overcome obstacles that this may be causing. Respectively, children who take regular dance classes demonstrate higher self-confidence and self-esteem.
Obesity problems also may manifest, and dance, especially hip-hop dance for youth are a great way to overcome this. Hip-hop dance is great for kids because it consists of vigorous and energetic movements which are the equal to the advised amount of daily physical activity for children.
As this is a time of primary schooling, some children may demonstrate lower focus and concentration levels. Dance is a great way to help children learn to be more concentrated because during a dance class they will learn dance steps and choreography followed by rhythm and music, which is a great way to help them learn to stay focused.
Teens 12 – 18
Adolescence is by far the most challenging stage for youth and parents alike. It is usually followed by moodiness, passive-aggressive behavior, changes in self-confidence, and self-consciousness. Teens often experience pressure caused by school, peers and the huge desire of independence. These things can cause them to experience stress and mood changes.
During this time, teens discover and hone their talents and skills. So proper support and encouragement are crucial at this point.
Research shows that positive encouragement through adequate extracurricular activities is one of the best ways to ease this challenging period. This is where creative movement comes in. Dance is often an activity taken by adults for de-stressing and socializing. Dance provides emotional and stress release, this is crucial for youth during this period.
During dance classes and dance events, adolescents expand their social circles. A dance class is a great environment for helping youth overcome their fears, find new friendships, find their own authenticity and talents.