Exercising Little Bodies and Big Imaginations – The Benefits of Ballet for Young Children

This post was sponsored by Tutu School Raleigh & Cary. Raleigh Moms Blog only partners with sponsors who we feel bring the most value to our readers.

Lara O’Brien as the Sugar Plum Fairy in Carolina Ballet’s Land of Enchantment Nutcracker Tea 2013, Photo Credit: Armes Photography

Lara O’Brien, Carolina Ballet Principal dancer and Tutu School Raleigh & Cary owner, shares the benefits of ballet for young children and why dancing is a fundamental part of every childhood.

My mom signed me up for ballet classes as a child and initially, I wasn’t very interested. Now 30 years later I’m still a ballerina… I can say my mom was on to something (Mom’s always are, aren’t they?) Having danced for Carolina Ballet for the past 18 years, I brought my experience as a ballerina full circle when in 2015 I opened Tutu School Raleigh (followed by Tutu School Cary in 2017) in order to pass on the utter joy and sense of freedom that has been my greatest gift — The magic of moving to music. In 2017 I also became a mom myself to a little boy named Theo and am now thrilled to still be dancing up on stages, and in our enchanting studios, around the Triangle sharing the magic of ballet with the children of our community.

Here are a few tips I’ve learned as a ballerina, dance instructor, and mother when it comes to our little ones and their creativity and development. 

Little bodies love to move.

Pushing boundaries, and testing the limits of their bodies, little ones are often bundles of energy that love to move. Ballet channels that energy positively developing age-appropriate motor skills and naturally leading to greater strength, coordination, flexibility, control, and overall healthy movement habits as little ones grow.

Beginning ballet classes at a young age builds a foundation that not only serves children if they choose to study dance more seriously later in childhood, but also in any other sport or activity they choose to pursue.

Photo Credit: Thang Nguyen

Nurturing imagination

Now, to significantly enhance all that motor skill development, plug in a little magic, whimsy, and creative expression. Imaginations benefit immensely from exposure to classical music, learning great stories, dancing like ladybugs and elephants, and exploring the worlds of swans and sugar plums.

Creative expression is at the heart of ballet as an art form, and as such ballet classes, even for the youngest dancers are best when rooted in that larger context. Dancing is about storytelling and sharing feelings. Movement is the most fundamental form of communication. Children learning to identify and process emotions in their bodies gain an increased understanding and expression of those emotions.

Dancing truly can provide an outlet for a child finding their voice in the world.

Photo Credit: Thang Nguyen

When is my child is ready?

This is a question I get a lot and find that it comes down to the program, the parent’s expectations, and of course the child. At Tutu School, classes begin for dancers as young as 18 months and most of the time we see even our youngest members blossom and thrive, but students ranging from 2-8 years can jeté right in at any time without any previous experience at all!

We don’t expect toddlers to arrive to class with refined social etiquette skills and rather, we focus on engaging them in being exposed to movement, music, and creativity. Each dancer at any age will embrace the experience at their own perfect pace but they will quickly gain comfort in the ritualistic nature of a ballet class.

Photo Credit: Cindy McEnery

Space for their own pace

A well-designed curriculum for dancers under 8 years will create that sense of routine for a child, while still providing creativity, variety, and freshness; similar to a bedtime routine that swaps out a different book each night. Students gain confidence through what is predictable about class and also look forward to what will be new and challenging.

Meanwhile, gaining more experience in a class environment, they build social interactions and begin to practice social skills such as watching, listening, respecting space, and being proud of themselves. As they advance, the foundation of age-appropriate ballet technique continues, however room for creativity should always be present allowing students to not just make progress physically but to continually find joy in dancing.

Photo Credit: Cindy McEnery

What about boys? Yes! Ballet is for boys too.

Who wouldn’t like to blast off like a rocket ship, gallop like a horse, or march like a soldier?

Whether they later find themselves on a sports field or leaping across a stage, the skills boys develop in ballet will serve them well. In addition to coordination and confidence, they also improve their strength, balance, speed, and mental focus – All the reasons why football players often take ballet to improve their game.

Photo Credit: Cindy McEnery

Want to experience the magic for yourself? Sign up for a free trial class! Ballet classes at either location, Tutu School Raleigh (in the downtown neighborhood of Glenwood South) & Tutu School Cary (in the heart of downtown Cary) are held all year long for students 18 months – 8 years. Students can join at any time and cancel at the end of any month – How’s that for flexibility with little ones? 

Photo Credit: Monica Galletto

Tutu School also hosts packaged Ballet Birthday Parties, Summer Camps, Holiday Day Camps, Parents Night Out and many other holiday and craft events throughout the year. We also have two performance recitals each year and ALL students (yes, even toddlers!) are invited to participate.

What’s coming up next at Tutu School?

  • Trick-or-Twirl Halloween costume & craft party for Tutu School members – Oct. 26th
  • Cinderella Mini Day Camp open to the public – Wed. Nov 21st – Drop your child off with us for day to do what you need to to get ready for Thanksgiving!
  • Starry Night Winter Bravo Bash – Dec 8th — Our mid-year recital


Learn more about Tutu School Raleigh & Cary by visiting their website and follow all the fun and ballet magic over on their social pages. See below:

Tutu School – Raleigh

Tutu School – Cary

Are you interested in your little one exploring the world of ballet and dance but have a few more questions before you begin? Post your questions in the comments below.  We’d love to hear from you and answer your questions!

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