Hi friends! How is the beginning of the year going for you? Mine is easing in and I’m having a blast! Going to start some fall lessons here pretty soon! My fave! 🙂

I was thinking the other day about rules, and how and when to give them to a class. How do you explain the rules? I thought I would share how I do it, in case it’s helpful to anyone who is reading!

I go back and forth about rules. Kids need rules for sure, but in my opinion some rules should just be unspoken! I find that if I bring up a rule like “please don’t play in that side alcove in the back of the room” many of my students never even thought to even go there, but since I brought it up, now they are curious and want to go see the alcove. Know what I mean?

Since I work with such young children, I try to only address things as they come up. Someone is picking up a star and throwing it across the room, that’s when I address what we do with the starts.

Something else that is really helpful for me, is to ask the dancers about the rules instead of laying them out for them. Here are some examples. I omit “no” as much as possible.

1. Me: Are you allowed to touch your friends at school?
Students: “No!”
Me: “Why not?”
Students: “Because we can get hurt or hurt someone else.
Me: It’s the same for dance class. We keep our hand to our own bodies.

2. Me: Do you think it’s a good idea to run in the dance room?
Students: “No!”
Me: Why not?
Students: “you can get hurt!”
Me: That’s right, and there are other places to run like….
Students: “the playground!”

I like to make them come up with the answer! This way they remember it, instead of me just standing up there saying “no running and no touching your friends.” It takes a little more time, but it seems to work!

Really those are the only two rules I address on the first day, and really only for 3 and up. My toddlers I just plow through and address it as it comes. 🙂

So, how do you give the rules, if any? What has working for you, and what hasn’t? Do you wait until a problem arises or do you address everything on the first day? I would love to hear!  🙂


  1. I struggle with this as well – I have some classes that we need to go over the rules at the beginning of EVERY class, others that I never need to discuss rules and some that only need occasional reminders (we are dancers, not monkeys – don’t hang on the barre!).

    When we do need to discuss rules I will ask the kids “what rules do you want to have in your class”? With some guidance, they will come up with all of the general rules I wanted to cover. 🙂

  2. I always start my session with a lesson about space. Here I address the issue of moving safely through space and being aware of other dancers and moving safely. However, this year I have a group of very enthusiastic preschoolers and I actually had a gathering where we talked about some rules. Being respectful means to move safely around others, one person to talk at a time, and have fun. I also am looking for a great way to say, “dance while we are dancing and talk when we are reflecting”. Sometimes a few can be a bit chatty.

  3. Hi Maria,
    I just came across your site, I have recently started up in a rural New Zealand town teaching the local kids dance. I myself danced my whole life, and have been teaching adults for years- but kids.. wow kids were a whole new ball game!
    At first I was way too soft, expecting them to know what was and wasn’t expected of them- the school I learnt to dance at, you would even IMAGINE messing around or speaking out of turn! The rules were unwritten yet we all followed and feared them. Why were my kids so naughty? Was I too young? How could I get control of these preschoolers?!
    I came to your blog miserable thinking I’d made too big a leap in my abilities… but reading through articles like this are helping me so much- week on week I feel my classes becoming more structured. There’s so much you forget from your childhood that is important!

    One question I have is this- what do you do when a child gets a grump on? I have one child in my juniors class who, although is competent and understands everything, is a bit of a leader, and one of the more strongwilled- decides she often doesnt like the way the class is going, and will take herself to sit at the back, leaving the others to ask me why? (and worse, sometimes go join her!)

    I want to spend my attention on the girls that are there, behaving and who want to be there- how do I get her involved without pandering to her?

    Thanks so much for this great resource 🙂

  4. I agree that giving them the idea of a new rule that they might not have thought about can often encourage unneeded curiosity. I find that having students that come back year after year is so nice because they already know the rules. Not the case with the itty bitty’s. I love you thoughts and use very similar techniques. Finding that balance of having fun while learning can be tough. Thanks for sharing!

  5. One thing I do for my creative dance classes on the first day for all of them, returners or newbies, is use the song All Around the Room. We start off very low to the ground and blow ourselves up into the biggest bubble that we can be. Our arms are out and then the music comes on and we dance around the room, freestyle. They have to be aware of where everyone is and not bump into others or they will pop their bubble or their fellow dancer’s bubble. That seems to get them aware and thinking of others in the class, so as we do other activities I can then just refer to bubble space and it reminds them.

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