The fact that dance builds strength, agility, and flexibility is a given, says Maria Suszynski, executive director of Wellspring/Cory Terry & Dancers, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, but it also boosts confidence and problem-solving skills, and teaches kids about teamwork.
Toddlers: Jumpin' Jellybeans
Crank up the music, and let your kid have ants in his pants! Explore every aspect of movement -- hopping, leaping high and low, wiggling fast and slow. Following simple sequences gives toddlers' short-term memory a workout and develops body awareness.
Preschoolers: The Shoebox Game
Your child pretends she's in a shoe store where every kind of shoe -- antigravity boots, ice skates, shoes that have gum on the soles, or winged sandals -- makes her dance in a different way. This stretches a child's imagination and encourages her to see the world from different angles, says Theresa Purcell Cone, Ph.D., assistant professor of health and exercise science at Rowan University, in Glassboro, New Jersey.
School-Age Kids: Human Sculptures
Your child dances around you while you make a shape with your body and freeze. Have her build onto your "sculpture" with her own body, perhaps forming a letter or an animal using creativity to solve "problems," says Dr. Cone. ("How can my arms be a new animal? Oh, I can raise them like butterfly wings!")