In the beginning, I had a small mission: to provide a new dance opportunity for kids. I knew that many of my elementary students were gaga about dance but their families could NOT afford dance lessons. This motivated me to research, plan, and launch our school’s first Wildcat Dance Club, which we made free for participants.
Forty kids registered and showed up each week to connect with each other, practice new dance patterns, and get lost in the music. At the end of each practice, they went home with an endorphin rush, and I went home with confidence that what I was doing mattered. My mission had morphed into a huge sense of reward.
If you’re ready to offer those same connections with kids in your area—albeit at a school or fitness facility—here are five tips to successfully manage your own kids dance-fitness club.
1. Establish the Parameters
- Class Duration
- Session Length
Determine what ages you will allow to enroll, how many minutes class will run, how many weeks you’ll run your session, and how many kids you’ll allow to register for that session. If you haven’t yet run a kids dance-fitness class, you may not be able to answer these questions with conviction, so here are my suggestions.
I opened the enrollment for my Dance Club to upper-elementary students (4th and 5th graders) knowing they have longer attention spans and more control over their bodies. I established this club would meet once a week for an hour after school for a 10-week session.
I also capped my enrollment at 40, which is very large with a 1:40 teacher:student ratio. However, considering I’ve been a classroom teacher for 16 years, I was confident that I could manage that many students in our school’s gym. If you’re not trained in managing student behavior (which most of you are not) or your fitness space is smaller than a gymnasium, consider capping your enrollment at 15 or 20. If you want to work with even younger kids, consider lowering your enrollment to 10-15.
In addition, I do advise running your class as a session, so that there is an ending point, rather than offering it indefinitely. This allows you to make changes in your parameters for the next session, should you need to.
2. Maintain Daily Routines and Procedures.
Teach kids (actually, train them) how to enter the space, where to put their things, where to sit, how to ask for help, how to become silent, and any other procedures you need for a smoothly-run class. Organize class to be run the same way every meeting.
My students entered the gym and sat in a specific location. Once I turned off the music and approached the students, they knew to become silent, ready for me to remind them of my expectations and make any announcements. Later during class when I needed to demonstrate some new steps, I used a clap and hand signal to quiet them down.
My class structure was the same each day: warm up song, strength song, stretch song, main dance routine, then concluded with five minutes of a “freestyle” dance-off, which was the kids’ favorite part of the class!
3. Focus On Progress, Not Outcome.
Expect that your kids won’t have good looking squats or start their steps on the 1 count. Trust me: this will bother you far more than it will ever bother them. For many kids, if they are feeling their muscles burn (despite their form) or they finally memorized the steps, they’re feeling successful—which should be our goal!
Watch my tutorial Kids Dance Fitness: “More” and “Better When I’m Dancin’” for examples of this. Kids are all over the place, but they’re still smiling!
4. Keep Music and Moves Clean and Simple.
To prevent copyright infringement issues, choose professionally-mixed fitness songs. However, make sure these songs are not just “clean,” but free from references to alcohol, drugs, and sexual innuendos. That’s right: the songs you use in your group-fitness classes are likely inappropriate for kids dance fitness.
Once you have your music selected, make sure your choreography is basic with repetition, so the kids get a taste of success.
5. Provide a Performance.
Kids, like adults, put forth more effort and energy when they know they will soon perform for an audience. It gives purpose to the hours of practice each week. This can be as simple as a final “Parent Performance” at the end of the session. Just be sure to plan and announce this information early in your session, so kids know that it will be coming. They will focus and work harder from the beginning.
At the start of our 10-week session, I informed the kids that we would be performing in an all-school assembly at the 7-week mark. I also assured them that if they were nervous about this, they would be able to stand in the back row during the performance. Later in our session, I was able to add an optional second performance at our school’s “Fall Fitness Night,” which included a Zumba session.
Keep Things Light & Fun!!!
In summary, however you design and manage your kids dance-fitness club, remember to keep things light and fun. If you have any struggles, make adjustments. And always keep in mind the positive connections you are fostering in our youngest generation!
More Youth Fitness
For more suggestions and reasons to implement youth fitness programs check out these resources, and then head over to the youth fitness section of our fitness education directory. Make sure to check out the choreo exchange for youth fitness class ideas, and add your own!
- Kids Fitness: Put a Disguise on Exercise
- Bringing Group Exercise into Schools: Dance, Strength & Yoga
- Build Your Resume with Kids Group Exercise