Zumba blends international music with lively dance moves. Preschool children can learn to shake and wiggle, Zumba-style, to hip hop music or their favorite tunes. Dance enhances sensory awareness for preschool children, according to the National Dance Education Organization, and Zumba dance exercises add an element of fun. Whether they join a Zumbatomics class – designed specifically for children – or simply turn on the tunes at home, preschoolers won’t even realize they’re exercising.
Zumba dance doesn’t require prior skills, so any child can give it a try. Preschoolers have lots of energy, but since they have short attention spans, directions should be brief and simple. Even though they won’t be performing elaborate versions of the salsa or the merengue, little ones can learn basic steps that are at the root of these dances. They could march and then take two steps to the right, followed by two steps to the left. They could jump out on both feet, as if doing a jumping jack, and then bring the feet back together. Children can learn to make quarter turns, repeating the sequence.
When children incorporate arm exercise with Zumba dance, the fitness factor increases. Little ones can raise both hands above their heads and wave them in the air, side to side. A variation is to place both arms straight out to the sides and then bend them in, one at a time, right to the beat. Some preschoolers won’t have the coordination to combine arm and leg movements, but they’ll still get an effective cardiovascular workout.
Children as young as 3 or 4 are welcomed into organized Zumbatomics classes. Sessions typically last from 30 to 45 minutes, according to Debbie Lim, co-director of Fitness Motivators in Detroit. Children this age need pauses in the action. “For a Zumbatomic class, we play music and include short, active, repetitive movements that children normally might do on a playground,” explains Lim. Hip shaking isn’t emphasized like it is in an adult setting. Moves for preschoolers are similar to those done in a normal Zumba class, but they’re scaled back to suit children.
Preschoolers reap physical, social and emotional benefits when they participate in Zumba exercises. Children in this age group need at least 60 minutes of structured activity each day, according to the National Association for Sports and Physical Education. Zumba fits into this plan because it gets little ones up and moving. Children increase their range of motion, endurance and strength. The dance steps help to improve coordination. Zumba is intended to be a social experience, and when children exercise together, they learn to work with a group. It boosts confidence and provides an outlet for children to express emotions.
Just because your friend’s child is in love with his Zumba class doesn’t mean your little guy will feel the same way, warns Lim. Don’t force it, or your child will become intimidated by dance. Chances are he’ll be satisfied just to dance around the living room with you. Save the money you would’ve spent on Zumba class, learn some simple steps and teach them to your child, advises Lim. Put on his favorite music and invite family members to join in the fun.
- Debbie Lim; Co-Director, Fitness Motivators, LLC; Detroit, Michigan
- National Dance Education Organization: Standards for Dance in Early Childhood
- Fitness Republic: Zumba Exercise for Kids
- National Association for Sport and Physical Education: Active Start -- A Statement of Physical Activity Guidelines for Children From Birth to Age 5, 2nd Edition
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