The early-age development of social-emotional abilities represents an essential part of a child’s development. The capacity to easily express his/her emotions in front of others shows mental maturity, and learning this through movement and dance offers a secure path of freedom for toddlers. Artistic and athletic activities bring together children from a variety of backgrounds, with different personalities; creating a new environment for a child, one that he is not used to living in, helps him to adapt and to create new ways of communicating his emotions, feelings and thoughts in the heart of the community. Surfing this new environment through creativity, children learn to build their self-esteem and harmonious relationships.

In what follows, we will talk about dance as an artistic and creative activity that contributes to the social-emotional development of children, ensuring a greater learning capacity and assimilation of academic concepts.

Can dance help a child to develop in a social-emotional way?

If it is a group activity, the child will learn about the importance of teamwork. Furthermore, the process helps him to learn how to be patient, to listen to his body, and accept his own vulnerability: it’s okay not to succeed at the first try and you must feel confident enough in order to ask for help, either from the teacher or from a peer.

Social benefits. Dance improves sensibility, understanding, appreciation and consideration of others, both of similarities and differences between the child and others. Dance can broaden a child’s horizons by meeting with other people and helping him to connect better with those he might meet later in life.

Emotional benefits. Dance helps to build self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-image in a stimulating environment. Dance assists in handling emotions, providing an artistic way of expressing what the child feels and deals with.

Why is dance important for the harmonious development of children?

From a physical perspective, dance improves blood flow, which not only brings more oxygen to the brain, but also a significant amount of nutrients. Physical activity has a positive effect on some of the systems in the body: motor, cardiovascular, respiratory, hormonal, immunologic, and nervous systems. In addition, physical activity boosts the level of neurohormonal secretion (substances produced by  hypothalamic neurons and carried by blood or cerebrospinal fluid), which has a significant impact upon the neurons excitability forming synapses. Children who dedicate at least one hour per day to intense physical activity like dancing show better cognitive function. Yet, as the researchers point out, in spite of these undeniable benefits, only about a third of the children are involved regularly in sports or other physical activities.  

The pyramid of learning or how we bodily decode the information from the world we are living in

As human beings, we learn progressively. In other words, as babies and toddlers, our development starts with sensory and physical abilities which we control, one by one, step by step. The seven senses represent our cornerstones and even before we are born these senses are working and integrating with each other. As we grow up, we become capable of doing more and more things, but if our foundations for learning are not well placed, our development could be patchy.

The pyramid of learning, invented by Williams & Shellenberger suggests that learning is progressive (starting from the base of the pyramid and going up) and that the sensory integration of a child plays an important role in his development. This scheme demonstrates the manner in which our bodies “organize” the contributions from the world we are living in, explaining the way in which all children’s abilities and senses are interconnected. The foundation of the pyramid relies on the central nervous system of the child, which has a high connection with his sensory system.

Proper motor-sensory development is based on registering and processing sensory information in the tactile, vestibular, proprioception, olfactory, visual, auditory and gustatory systems. This includes postural security, awareness of the two sides of the body, motor planning, the body scheme, reflex maturity and the ability to screen information from senses and understand it.

Secondly, it sustains perceptual motor development, including hand-eye coordination, eye control, postural adaptation, auditory language skills, visual-spatial perception and the attention centers.

These are the fundamental bases necessary to help children to reach the top of the pyramid by means of daily activities, specific behaviour and academic learning. Therefore, creative dance that includes motricity movements, balance, coordination, spatial orientation, and movement games through which kids can learn to cooperate efficiently, improve their ability to concentrate, and to place themselves in space and to communicate non-verbally, supports them in addressing a variety of sensory systems, thus helping with the emotional adjustment of those systems.

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