Parent and Me classes have grown in popularity. However, Parent and Me can be a very difficult class to teach. Here is a collection of tips that can help you make the most of this unique class genre.
Define “Parent’s” job
When new students enroll for the class, define Parent’s responsibilities for the class. Different studios teach the class different ways; at your studio, is Parent in charge of calming the child or will the instructor (or instructor’s helpers) be responsible for this? Will the class focus on teaching both parent and child or will it focus on the bond between parent and child? Customers can become upset if they do not believe they are receiving what they signed up for. So first and foremost make sure everyone is onboard with what your class is offering.
Start By Pairing Up
Socialization is great for toddlers and parents. Try beginning your class by having each parent and child pair up with another parent and child to have a short conversation. This will give the children a chance to practice interacting with new friends while also giving the parents the chance to become friends.
Keep the Kids Engaged
The biggest challenge in this class is keeping the kids engaged. Though it may feel silly, using bright imagery and make believe will greatly aid in keeping the children focused. Try to come up with clever imagery for every action (for example, when touching your toes tell the students to “reach up, grab the rain from the clouds, and rain down on your grass toes!”). This imagery is great for the parents to hear as they might also begin using the imagery at home with other tasks.
Structure each “segment” of the class into 7 to 10 minute intervals.
An hour or more is a long time for children to focus. Every 10 minutes allow two to five minutes of a “free play” game, like Freeze Dance or Run Away From Parent, Hug Parent. This allows the children to get out all their extra energy and will help them focus when you begin teaching again. It can also be as simple as playing 1 great hip hop song and letting the kids just “free style” bop!
- Minute 1-7: Song: Hands, shoulders knees and toes
- Minute 8-12: Parent and me stretch
- Minutes 13-18: Rhythm Game: Pass out musical instruments pass out and beat to a child’s song
- Minute 18-24: Free time hopping: Hop like a frog- teaching children to hop with Two feet
- Minute 25-29: Dance Off- Playing fantastic hip hop song and getting Parent and child to dance to music. Child will naturally enjoy just bobbing to the music. Get them to have a lot of wiggling!
- Minute: 30-40: Obstacle course: Create obstacle course using mats, hula hoops and purchased “soft squares”. Parents help through the course. Helps with balance and motor skills
- Minute: 41-45: The parachute game: parents in a circle with child, parachute is lifted with parents, children can run under.
- Minute 46-50: Tippy toe dance – Parent helps child to walk on Tippy Toes
- Minutes:51- 55: Dance story book
- Minutes 56-60: Freeze dance: With parent, play music and then stop it, teaching them to listen to music playing.
Have Calm Down Place
Define a space Parent can take a child who needs to calm down (whether they are crying, have to much energy, or just need a break). This space can be just outside the classroom or in a particular corner of the classroom depending on the design of your studio. Defining this space for all the kids is very useful, as it will help to stop the “spread” of crying, misbehaving, or any other disruptive behavior. It also gives the parents a place they can take their child if the child becomes out of control, avoiding the feeling of embarrassment that can occur for a parent when a child is being difficult. This place should not be deemed a “punishment” like a time out, but rather a positive place where the parent and child can go to “refocus.” Giving it a positive connotation will help everyone remain happy.
Having all of the parents and children arrive on time helps to avoid the possible distraction of a late arrival. Encourage them to arrive five minutes early and provide a way for the children to stay entertained as they wait for class to begin. You can play pre class music, lay out toys (such as shakers or beanie babies), or keep them entertained. Parents are more likely to arrive on time if there is fun yet simple pre class entertainment.
Include (Appropriate) Music for the Parents
Having a playlist that mixes music for the children and music for the parents will keep everyone happy. Children are happy to move to any type of music, and adults will really enjoy hearing some of their favorite oldies or current hits.
The parents have come to you for your expertise; be sure you give them ample direction or they most likely become wallflowers watching their little ones dance. Be very specific in your cueing; for example, don’t just say “lets all line up in the back of the room.” Instead try saying, “parents, guide your children to form one line across the back of the room. Stand directly behind your child and help them focus!” Parents are more than willing to help but they need a lot of direction, as most have little to no dance experience.
It could also be a good idea to have ample baby supplies on hand such as diapers, boxed animal crackers, juice, water, as well as a few cute tee shirts, shorts, tops, baby dancewear and slippers.