Your child loves Irish dancing. They are skipping down the isles of the grocery store, tapping their feet under their school desks, you even had to tell them to stop dancing in the shower once. But how do you encourage practice without zapping the fun out? How do you support them if you are not a dancer yourself? Here are 10 ways you can become connected to their practice while still keeping it fun.
10) Put on a Show. If your child is like me, they love to perform and put on a show! Have them practice their steps in the other room and invite you in when they are ready. When I was a little girl I would even make tickets and sit up my stuffed animals to fill the audience, it was always a sold-out show!
9) Become your Dancer's Student. Let your dancer be the expert and teach you! Follow their lead and ask lots of questions. I guarantee you will both be laughing in stitches before the first lesson is over!
8) Music. Are you growing tired of that same reel playing over and over? Chances are your child is too! There are lots of great recordings out there that will inspire your dancer to put their shoes on and dance. Consider recordings from Anton & Sully or Stephen Carolan. Their music is fun and puts a modern twist on traditional Irish dance music.
7) Track Progress. Lots of dancers track their progress by recording their results from competitions, but there is also value in noting achievements with short-term goals. Take a three second video of your dancer performing a move that they are struggling with, like flutters, or rocks for example. Set a timer and give them ten minutes to practice this move and record it again when they are finished. View the two videos side by side so you can notice the difference. Practice is most effective when focused on small pieces, and you both will definitely improvements even with just ten minutes of work!
6) Counting Games. We play a lot of counting games in class that your dancer is familiar with that you can play at home. One way to play is having your child dance a step and count how many times the foot hits the butt, let's say it is supposed to hit 8 times. Then put on some music and count how many times their foot hits, they won't want to stop playing until they get it all 8 times! You can also break this game down into individual moves. For example, have your dancer do ten slices wearing hard shoes and count how many times they hit a click. You can play a lot of different ways, count how many diamonds between the feet they have while dancing the jig, how many times their toe rises above their knee, how many times their points are crossed, I'm sure they will make up their own ways to play, too! Get out your child's dance journal and record some of these so they can see improvement every time they play this game.
5) Stickers. Buy a pack of colorful dot stickers and put them on the heel of your child's dance shoes. They can look in the mirror and work on turning their feet out by looking for the stickers. Watching the stickers is more fun than just looking for the heels, and not nearly as tedious!
4) The Dollar Game.If your child is struggling with keeping their arms at their sides they will get a lot of benefit out of playing this game. Put a dollar bill between their arm and their hip and have them run through their steps. They will have to keep their arms pressed tightly against their sides to prevent the dollar from slipping out. Tell them if they can make it through all of their steps without losing the dollar they can keep it!
3) Breaking Down Goals. I'm sure your child has big goals with their dancing, but they may not know where to start and how to achieve them. Sit down with a calendar and their dancing journal and start breaking down their goals and making a plan. What are their lifetime goals? Break it down by year, and again by season. This will give a better idea about what their practice schedule should look like. Fill out their practice calendar, set a timer, and buy some cute stickers for the days they reach their goal. Who isn't motivated by cute stickers!? I recommend daily practice; 10 minutes for Beginner, 15 minutes for Advanced Beginner, 40 minutes for Novice, and an hour for Prizewinner and Championship.
2) Set the Stage. It's great to see your child skipping everywhere they go! It's clear that Irish dance is not just an activity for your child, it has become a way of life. However, all that jumping can be hard on the body without the correct surface. Building a dance stage gives your child a designated space where they can practice without getting injured. Many young dancers confess they dislike dancing on their stage because it is in the basement and they are scared to go downstairs alone. Create a dancing space for them that looks fun and is a place they want to spend their time by hanging their medals so they feel inspired and painting the walls their favorite color. If your home does not have the space for a full dance floor, consider purchasing a practice tile from Jubilee. They are lightweight, portable, and you can get a tile for under $40!
1) Practice Sneakers. Not ready to invest in a dancing floor but don't want to see your child injured? Practice sneakers provide a little extra cushion for dancers practicing on hard flooring. The split sole design allows the flexibility for pointing the toe and the material of the sole does not stick to the floor like most sneakers. Ruterford's offers several different kinds of practice sneakers.
No matter how your child practices, it is important to make sure they are enjoying themselves and having fun. Happy practicing!