When will my toddler waltz? A skills breakdown

Have you spent every day since Baby’s birth dreaming of watching him 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 he’s developing more and more of the skills he’ll need every day. Before you know it, he 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 his 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 he has learned his shapes. How will he be able to visualize the box in the box step if he 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 his 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, he won’t have to be able to count higher than up to three – he’ll just need to be able to count to three over and over and over again. Unfortunately, counting is probably going to set his 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 he’ll need – by now, there’s a good chance he took his first steps a little while ago, and he may even be walking like an old pro by now. But is he ready to start taking steps backwards? Whether your little waltzer is leading or following, he’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 he may just be getting close, but he could probably use a little extra practice before he 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 he was born, and the more he practices dancing, climbing, running around, and other types of active play, the stronger and more coordinated he gets, so he is only getting more and more on-beat as he grows.

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

The toddler waltz: social skills

Finally, Baby can’t waltz on his own. Maybe you’re his ideal partner, but in the long run, he’ll probably do better with someone a little closer to his own height – which means waiting until he’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 he begins his 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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