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How Dance Helps Your Toddler

For months now, your toddler has responded to music by smiling, swaying, and maybe even clapping her hands. "Kids are naturally attuned to sound and rhythm," says Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Temple University, in Philadelphia. "They paid attention to the melodies of speech and the beat of your heart in utero."

Between the ages of 1 and 2, gross motor skills improve enough that toddlers can start bobbing up and down, with their feet on the floor. This new ability and sensitivity to rhythm accounts for the bouncing motion that your child makes in response to a jazzy tune or even the sound of your own singing voice. Simply listening to music has an effect on brain functioning, which may help bring on more creative ways of thinking -- sure to help later in school. Getting their beat on also helps children improve their coordination and sense of how their bodies fit into their surroundings, all while encouraging greater creative expression.

So crank up the music! Your own moves are the best form of encouragement. Clap your hands, twist and turn, and watch your tiny dancer go!

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