Every dance parent remembers those first days of coming to the studio. Everything was new, everything was uncertain, and sometimes it was a little overwhelming. It’s easy sometimes to focus on the cost aspect of running a studio, we’re always trying to get pricing just right so that we can attract more students and balance that with profitability, but if most dance parents think back on the first year of being a dance parent, the cost is a faint memory and the feelings are what remain.
Parents who are bringing their children to your studio for the first time, especially with preschool age children, are entering a whole different world in most cases. This very well may be their first experience with a school setting and is emblematic of reaching the next "stage" of their childhood. There’s a lot of “what ifs” tumbling around in their head and above all they are hoping that this will be a great experience for their little ones.
Here are some of the most important things to focus on so your studio will stand out for parents of preschoolers:
- Welcoming and Safe: You should make sure that all of your prospective families that come into your studio can clearly see and understand that your teachers are not only experienced, but also has a passion for teaching and a love for their dancers. We know that as dance teachers we care deeply about each of our students. Make sure that comes across in your brochures, the atmosphere of your studio, and through your staff.
- Structure: We’ve all seen what happens when classes lack structure. Make sure that your studio has a set curriculum that all teachers use to make sure that when parents are looking through those classroom windows they see their children learning and enjoying, not what can be perceived as chaos.
- Take Time: Make sure that every teacher understands the importance of engaging all of the students in the classroom. It can be difficult to give every child equal time (1 hour isn’t as long as it seems!) but this is where student teachers can be a BIG help. They can help every student feel seen and acknowledged.
- It’s Ok to have “Difficult Days”: Preschoolers are at a stage where they start to feel big emotions, and they feel them deeply. They’re testing boundaries and just starting to become more confident and independent. Parents sometimes can be embarrassed when a child in class “acts out” and think they need to intervene. It’s really helpful to let them know right away that this is expected and they shouldn’t worry. Reassure parents that at a young age, crying is how preschoolers know to communicate. They don't have the vocabulary just yet to say "this is a new experience and I'm scared" - they just know how to cry and that's perfectly ok! Instill confidence by letting them know that if you feel it is necessary you’ll have no problem getting them involved, but otherwise you’ll work through it with their child.
- Joy: This is definitely the most important part. Never forget that we are in the studio together to share our love of dance and to encourage a lifelong love of dance in our students. Parents should see smiling faces both heading into and leaving your classroom. Dance is a place to let go and enjoy; a place where parents can relax and watch their little dancers have fun and progress. It should be your “happy place” too, so make sure you are truly enjoying yourself and the amazing little ones who have been entrusted to your studio!
By focusing on how your studio makes preschool dancers and their families feel, you can be sure those happy families will bring even more little dancers to your door!
Erin Sforza studied dance from childhood through college. She received a BA in both Musical Theatre Performance and History from the University of Tampa, and has utilized aspects of both degrees working in the hospitality industry, as an Event Coordinator for the Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington, and as the PR/Marketing Coordinator and Group Sales Coordinator for the CM Performing Arts Center. She currently manages Public Relations for the Penny Prima® brand and Dance Connection.