How Ballet Can Improve Your Kid's Health
My mom was six years old when she was diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed Ritalin. To which my Grandmother politely said, no thank you and promptly enrolled my mom in classical ballet. And so it was for the next 12 years. My mother found a structure and outlet in ballet that empowered her to thrive medication free, well into early adulthood. I am not saying you should choose ballet in lieu of your doctor's suggestions, but I am pointing out one of the many benefits of ballet when it comes to your kid’s health.
My story is slightly different. My mom enrolled me in ballet at age three in a studio where she taught. I hated it. My ballet story ends there, yet here I am now as an adult, and I spend a minimum of 4 hours every week at our dance studio, Russian Ballet Orlando for my girls. And I love it. LOVE. It. My oldest confidently declared at three years old that she wanted to do ballet. Truthfully, I was disappointed.
I was rooting for soccer or another team sport to help instill sportsmanship and team working skills. Alas, visions of tights & tutus danced across her mind, and we followed suit. That was four years ago, and now we've got not one, but both of our girls enrolled, and we couldn't be happier. Not only do our girls love it. There are impressive health benefits as well.
1. Social Skills & Community
Both of our girls started ballet at three, and they were not yet in school. RBO has provided the perfect backdrop for them to develop social skills and build relationships within a community. The average ballet school has a turnover rate of 2-3 years. At RBO the average is five years! Our family has made some lasting friendships, and the studio feels like a home away from home. And while ballet is not technically a team sport, they are indeed learning teamwork and comradery.
2. Promotes an Active Lifestyle
It's not unheard of in today's society for a child to have as little as 10 -15 minutes for recess during the school day - if they have recess at all. Then factor in the screen time and increased parental supervision it's no wonder that 1 in 5 school aged kids has obesity. We are seeing kids with adult disorders and diseases, and a sedentary lifestyle is partially to blame. Unlike adults, kids don't make up for their sedentary lives at the gym three times a week. Ideally, they get their exercise through play, in short bursts of activity.
Being intentional about making sure your kids are getting enough active playtime should be a top priority for today's families. The younger we instill physically active habits in our kids' lives, the better. From the ages of 6-12, the bodies of children are very impressionable. The brain is undergoing rapid development making more connections (synapses) than at any other time in life. The body is also taking note of what is healthy.
For example, kiddos who are still overweight at age 12 are at 75% higher risk of becoming obese adults (Dr. Sears' LEAN Kids, p9). After 12 years of being overweight, the body perceives the extra weight as normal - making if very difficult to lose weight as an adult. You know how some heavier adults will complain that no matter what they do they can't lose weight. Or that this is just how they are - they've always been heavy. It's true for these individuals, especially if they were overweight kids; which is why it's imperative to teach these lifestyle skills early.
Ballet provides an outlet for children to learn physical skills such as stamina, flexibility, agility, and build muscle tone. What I love about Russian Ballet Orlando is that the kids learn a classical style of ballet, in a systematic and structured manner. There is excellent attention to detail and conditioning the body - all the while keeping the kids engaged and having fun.
3. Improves Focus & Attention
The study of danced based movement in correlation to brain activity is relatively new; however, there is new research supporting that dance interacts with and changes the brain for the better. The cognitive skills needed to combine movement with music and performance helps to develop focus and attention, as well as self awareness and overall consciousness.
We've recently discovered that there is a strong link between a child's ability to keep rhythm and time to their language and literacy skills. In short, the better a child can keep rhythm and time the better they can learn in these critical areas. But some folks are naturally better at keeping a rhythm, right?! What about the rest of us?? Don't worry! The study also shows that as with most things a little bit of regular practice goes a long way!
Can you guess where your little one can practice great rhythm and timing skills? Yep. I knew you'd get it. Ballet. Indeed, any dance form will do the trick, as will learning music, but ballet provides the perfect introductory foundation all other types of dance. And interestingly enough, in the studies mentioned above, dance changes the brain positively in ways that even learning music falls short.
Ready to give it a shot? Well if you're in the Central Florida area, you're in luck! Russian Ballet Orlando offers free first time classes, in addition to free classes a couple of Sundays a month (but they fill up fast!). Be sure to tell Katerina, Owner & Creative Director, that Meagan sent you. You see, one of the very best things about this family owned and operated business is that before you know it, you're a part of the family, too.