Toddlers' Development Through Dancing

Children develop and learn through movement. Dance is an excellent way to encourage gross motor skill development and emotional expression 1. In fact, toddlers have a natural sense of rhythm and love to dance -- you will likely find your child automatically bops along to a catchy tune. Often the only encouragement a child needs to dance is a little music, so put on some child-friendly tunes and start moving and grooving with your toddler today.

Physical Development

Dancing is a great way for your child to exercise and burn off some of that abundant toddler energy. At the same time, she will also be developing large muscle skills, improving coordination, improving gross motor skills, developing eye-hand coordination. You can further encourage this development by teaching your toddler specific dance moves 1. Skipping, hopping, jumping, balancing on one leg or simply bouncing to the music, all help develop important movement skills and major muscle groups.

Expression of Emotion

Dance is a creative art form that allows your child to freely express thoughts and emotions that he may not be able to communicate verbally. Your child may not be able to tell you why he feels sad, angry or happy, but through dance, he may find a release of negative -- or expression of positive -- emotions in a healthy way. While it may appear your toddler is simply having fun, he is actually exploring his imagination, fantasies and thoughts while dancing. The National Dance Education Organization explains that dance promotes psychological health and maturity through a physical release of emotion and the development of self-awareness.

Cognitive Development

Dancing also promotes cognitive development through movement. When presented with an abstract movement idea, your toddler must think through the motion in order to create a movement response. This type of kinesthetic learning -- or learning through physical activity -- enhances cognitive learning skills and may enhance her ability to solve abstract problems in the classroom some day. When presenting a movement idea for your child to mimic, be sure to keep it simple and age-appropriate to avoid frustrating her. Try making simple dance movements to her favorite nursery rhymes like "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and gradually build the complexity from there.


Dance promotes social interaction and cooperation with others. Young toddlers may simply be interacting with you at home, but older toddlers who are enrolled in dance classes must learn to interact with classmates and their teachers. Young dancers learn to exchange ideas through movement, and how to participate in a group dynamic where they must interact respectfully with others.