My daughter is getting old enough now that she is really wanting to participate in group activities (ughhhhh, now I have to talk to other parents), such as ballet. But, because I am someone who doesn’t always put two and two together, I dropped the ball on a few things and quite frankly, it was embarrassing. I thought I would write down my tips for parents who are going through ballet for the first time because I wish I had known these things myself but let’s be honest, it’s because I didn’t do my research. Sherlock would not be proud.
1. Get a pair of ballet shoes! This is actually a big deal because ballet classes are held in studios (i.e. rooms with mirrors all over the walls and wood floors that they do NOT want you to walk on in your regular shoes that have gone through the mud and snow and rain and dog poop). This is a must and probably the first thing you should do after registering your child for ballet, or any other kind of dance class (but get the right shoes for the right kind of class). I know the first thing everyone thinks of is the pair of ballet shoes with the flat toes that professional ballerinas wear, but that’s not for your beginner. Your newbie needs beginner shoes that are not flat on the toes. They are just ballet slippers that look like ballet flats you would buy for yourself except the bottom isn’t hard, it’s soft. I bought these for my little girl and they have been working great! You might think, “well, my kid can just wear socks for a bit.” No. Just go ahead and get the shoes. Your child will need them and socks usually are not appropriate unless your child’s teacher is willing to cut you some slack, but don’t be that parent. I know money can be tight, but ballet shoes really aren’t expensive, especially compared to shoes for other sports (looking at you, soccer). Of course, if you truly can’t afford them before your child begins class, speak to the teacher and be honest. No one has any right to judge you or your child, but be prepared, you will need to buy more than just shoes before the season is over. My kiddo wore socks during her first practice because I didn’t have any information about what she needed to start class, just the date and time. I was that parent and I was the only one who was unprepared.
2. Most or all of the other children in the class will be wearing a ballet leotard (this one is adorable!) and tights (buy multiples here), if not a skirt with it (I love this one!). Some dance schools have requirements on what children wear during rehearsals so it might be necessary for you to buy some ballet attire. The school we are at now does not require children to wear anything specific, they just need to be able to move freely, but still, everyone wears ballet attire. I have seen the occasional child wear a gymnastics leotard or some boyshorts (like for hip-hop) but really its all dance attire. So if you and your kid are cool with her wearing a Hello Kitty shirt and leggings during practice and her teacher doesn’t mind, go for it. I just wish someone had prepared me for the fact my kid would be the only one.
3. You will have to help your child practice at home. I don’t know why, but I did not put this together until the teacher was telling the girls that they needed to practice at home. My daughter is six so it’s not like I can just send her to her room and she will remember what she needs to practice and how to do things correctly. For us, ballet practice is once a week, so I take my phone and I take notes about words I will need to remember (pro tip: its all in French) and I record her dance routines, mainly focusing on the teacher so that my kiddo can watch and remember how her routine goes. Heaven knows I won’t remember. I found some beginner videos on YouTube and Sadie and I will be practicing to those this week. Next week, I will be asking her teacher for the names of the songs she uses during practice and the name of the song that they will perform during the recital.
4. If your kid is anything like mine, they will want to eat before and after practice. Bring snacks. Lots of them. You’re thinking, “oh it’s just an hour-long practice, she’ll be fine until we get home.” She. Will. Not.
5. Your child will more than likely need a new outfit for their recital, and accessories to go with it. For example, Sadie was a winter fairy in her recital, so we needed to buy a blue leotard, white tights, and blue fairy wings. Apparently, everyone and their dog bought all the blue fairy wings from every store ever, so we had to go old-fashioned and Mamaw made Sadie’s from wires and tulle and glue. Yeah, Mamaw is the best.
6. Buy extra tights!!!! You know you will need them.
7. In a pinch, you can cut the toes off of a sock and roll it up to make a sock bun/ballerina bun. You can find instructions here. You can also buy one here. It’s not required or anything, it’s just hella cute.
8. When it comes to beginning ballet, it isn’t like Dance Moms. Mostly everyone keeps to themselves and the parents just help each other out when it comes to finding blue fairy wings (seriously, there were none and we were pretty much screwed.) So don’t freak out if you are an introvert trying to give your kid a normal life. As for intermediate or advanced ballet classes, I’ll let you know if and when we get there.
9. Your kid might embarrass you. (What else is new?) Now that you are probably out of the grocery store tantrum stage (if you’re not, my condolences), your child has a whole new arena to embarrass you in. My kiddo is not too good at paying attention, so while the teacher was helping the children learn a ballet exercise, my daughter was twirling in the back and kept asking when they would do some leaps. She is behind in her ballet abilities, but I’m fairly sure these other kids have been ballet-ing since they were in the womb so we will just practice at home and work on her attention span. We will get there, and even if we don’t, who cares? Sadie is doing this because she wants to. When/if it stops being fun, we will move on to something else. No biggie.
10. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, do this for fun, do this for your child. If it causes your kiddo too much stress (a little stress is good) or she just simply doesn’t like it, there’s no need to keep going. I am a person who has a hard time being social so putting my daughter in a group activity is difficult for me because I feel like others are judging me and my girl or they expect me to be good at small talk. First of all, they probably aren’t judging you, second, it’s not your problem if they are, third, you can keep to yourself, you don’t have to be social. You do you, let your kid do your kid, and let others be others. When you learn to be at peace with that, you’ll be golden.