A Research Perspective
Discover how movement shapes minds and why you should introduce dance into your teaching arsenal.
Introducing dance and movement to the elementary school environment isn’t just an exercise in fun—it’s backed by a wealth of research that underscores its vital importance in childhood development.
Why Dance? A Deep Dive into Research
Fosters Creativity and Cognitive Development
The importance of kinesthetic movement in early childhood is highlighted by Sadaruddin, Hajerah, Amri, & Mariyani (2022), emphasizing that the development of gross motor movement during this phase affects various areas of development. Kinesthetic intelligence, often referred to as physical intelligence, allows children to employ parts of their body to solve problems (Tanjung & Novitri, 2022). This supports not just the development of motor skills but cognitive development and executive functioning.
Enhances Physical Health and Focus
Braniff (2011) found that integrating activity into the daily routine of a class of fourth graders resulted in enhanced focus, concentration, and overall wellbeing. Similarly, Summerford (2009) elucidated the science behind how movement aids learning, from increasing dopamine production to promoting the process of neurogenesis—where the brain creates new neurons and neural pathways.
Promotes Cognitive Development
Research by Semple & Lee (2014) and Zeng, Ayyub, Sun, Wen, Xiang, & Gao (2017) underscores that physical activity in early childhood doesn’t only aid physical development. It’s also linked to improved language learning, academic achievement, attention, and working memory. Meijer, Königs, Pouwels, Smith, Visscher, Bosker, Hartman, & Oosterlaan (2022) further exemplify how short-term exercise can result in significant cognitive improvements.
Cultural and Emotional Benefits
Dance as movement therapy is utilized worldwide, reflecting its widespread acceptance and recognized benefits across cultures (Capello, 2008). Beyond its therapeutic applications, dance allows children to celebrate their cultural identities. Tortora (2009) even initiated a dance therapy movement in New York City, using dance as a therapeutic tool and a non-verbal communication medium.
Synergy of Dance and Music
Introducing music to the equation magnifies the benefits of dance. A study by Lukács et al. (2022) in Hungary incorporated music interventions in primary schools, with one group also engaging in physical movement. The results? Those in the movement group displayed significant improvements in areas like verbal IQ, reading fluency, and phonemic awareness.
Dance in YOUR Classroom: Backed by Science
Now, with the importance of dance and movement deeply rooted in empirical evidence, introducing it to your classroom isn’t just an option—it’s a necessity for holistic development.
Eager to integrate these findings into your teaching routine? Download the 12 Prompts for Dance and Movement, tailored for kindergarten-aged children. As research and experience show, dance is more than just fun; it’s a catalyst for growth, development, and learning. Let’s embrace the rhythm of research and dance our way to more enriched, fulfilling classroom experiences!
Braniff, C. (2011). Perceptions of an active classroom: Exploration of movement and collaboration with fourth grade students. Networks: An Online Journal for Teacher Research, 13 (1), 1–6.
Faber, R. (2017). Dance and early childhood cognition: The Isadora effect. Arts Education
Policy Review, 118 (3), 172-182. https://doi.org/10.1080/10632913.2016.1245166
Lukács, B., Asztalos, K., Maróti, E., Farnadi, T., Deszpot, G., Szirányi, B., Nemes, L. N., &
Honbolygó, F. (2022). Movement-based music in the classroom: Investigating the effects of music programs incorporating body movement in primary school children. Psychology
of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. https://doi.org/10.1037/aca0000496
Meijer, A., Königs, M., Pouwels, J. L., Smith, J., Visscher, C., Bosker, R. J., Hartman, E., & Oosterlaan, J. (2022). The effect of exercise on cognitive performance in children: A randomized controlled trial.
Sadaruddin, S., Intisari, I., Hajerah, H., Amri, N. A., & Mariyani, M. (2022). Kinesthetic
learning development methods to train fine motors for early childhood. In 1st World
Conference on Social and Humanities Research (W-SHARE 2021) (pp. 229-234). Atlantis
Semple, R. J., & Lee, J. (2014). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for children. In Mindfulness-Based Treatment Approaches (pp. 161-188). Academic Press.
Summerford, C. (2009). Action-packed classrooms, K-5: Using movement to educate and invigorate learners. Corwin Press.
Tanjung, S. H., & Novitri, D. M. (2022). Collaborative game activities to stimulate early childhood visual-spatial and kinesthetic intelligence. STIMULUS: Jurnal Pendidikan Anak Usia Dini, 2 (1), 67-74. https://doi.org/10.53863/sti.v2i1.488
Tortora, S. (2009). Dance/movement psychotherapy in early Childhood Treatment: Suzi tortora. In The art and science of dance/movement therapy (pp. 172-193). Routledge.
Zeng, N., Ayyub, M., Sun, H., Wen, X., Xiang, P., & Gao, Z. (2017). Effects of physical activity on motor skills and cognitive development in early childhood: A systematic review. BioMed Research International, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/2760716