When will my toddler waltz? A skills breakdown

Have you spent every day since Baby’s birth dreaming of watching her whirl around a ballroom in perfect waltz time? Yes? Well, you’re in luck, because the end of your waiting is in sight. Not very close sight, as waltzing is definitely a little ways into the distance of Baby’s future, but she’s developing more and more of the skills she’ll need every day. Before you know it, she could be gliding across the floor in 3 4 time!

The toddler waltz: cognitive skills

Ballroom dancing is like anything else – the physical skills are important, but Baby’s path towards mastering the waltz starts in her mind. The box step (the basic step used in the waltz) isn’t called a box step for no reason, which means that Baby’s waltz apprenticeship can’t move forward until she has learned her shapes. How will she be able to visualize the box in the box step if she doesn’t know the difference between a square and a hexagon? Many tots really start to get the hang of different shapes by around the age of 3.

There’s more to it than just knowing her shapes, though. As every dance movie from Strictly Ballroom to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire knows, learning to waltz involves a lot of counting. Luckily, she won’t have to be able to count higher than up to three – she’ll just need to be able to count to three over and over and over again. Unfortunately, counting is probably going to set her dancing timeline back a little. Toddlers can start learning to repeat numbers by rote, “counting” as high as ten by the time they’re 2 years old or so, but most of them don’t start to make the connection about what those numbers mean for a while yet. Many toddlers can start to conceptualize counting, and what numbers actually mean, all the way up to number four by the time they’re around 4 years old.

The toddler waltz: physical skills

Well, Baby probably already has the first physical skill she’ll need – by now, there’s a good chance she took her first steps a little while ago, and she may even be walking like an old pro by now. But is she ready to start taking steps backwards? Whether your little waltzer is leading or following, she’s going to need to be able to take a step backwards at some point, and most toddlers learn to walk backwards some time between 16 and 18 months old. Baby may be there, or she may just be getting close, but she could probably use a little extra practice before she starts trying to set it to music.

Speaking of music, Baby has had the ability to start trying to move to the beat of music pretty much since she was born, and the more she practices dancing, climbing, running around, and other types of active play, the stronger and more coordinated she gets, so she is only getting more and more on-beat as she grows.

Balance is another skill Baby will need in her future as a dancer, and while her balance is growing stronger every day, it’s still in the early stages. She probably won’t be able to stand steadily on one foot until she is about 36 months old.

The toddler waltz: social skills

Finally, Baby can’t waltz on her own. Maybe you’re her ideal partner, but in the long run, she’ll probably do better with someone a little closer to her own height – which means waiting until she’s a little more interested in interactive play with other toddlers.

The toddler waltz: The X-factor

The final mental skill that Baby will need as she begins her quest for basic ballroom is the attention span and interest in formal forms of dancing. Attention span grows as toddlers do, though there’s a wide variety of “normal” attentions spans for tots of all ages, but when it comes to interest, there’s really no telling when or if that will hit.

  • Marcel Zentner, Tuomas Eerola. “Rhythmic Engagement with Music in Infancy.” Proceedings of the National Association of Sciences of the United States of America. 107(13): 5768-5773. February 10 2010. Retrieved May 25 2017. http://www.pnas.org/content/107/13/5768.abstract.
  • “Child Development Tracker: 4 to 5 Years: Mathematics.” PBS Parents. PBS. Retrieved June 7 2017. http://www.pbs.org/parents/childdevelopmenttracker/four/mathematics.html.
  • “Children and Media: Milestones: Age 3.” PBS Parents. PBS. Retrieved June 7 2017. http://www.pbs.org/parents/childrenandmedia/milestones-3.html.
  • “Forms of Play.” Child Development Institute. Child Development Institute, LLC. Retrieved June 7 2017. https://childdevelopmentinfo.com/child-development/play-work-of-children/pl3/#.WTgKBBPyvow. 

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