Your child’s first dance lessons are such an exciting time! They mark the beginning of watching them grow and express themselves and maybe looking forward to watching them in their shows and recitals. And one of the most adorable parts of toddler dance lessons is their outfits. Of course, toddler dance attire isn’t just about looking cute. It also serves a purpose that is specific to the dance style your child will be learning. We all know how important it is to get these details right, so read on for our handy guide to dance attire for toddler girls.
Quick jump to:
- What types of dance classes are available for toddlers
- What dance attire for toddlers do I need to buy
- Ballet attire | Jazz dance attire | Tap dance attire | Hip hop dance attire | Irish dancing attire and Ballroom dance attire
Related articles: Best Dance Costumes for Women & Girls in 2021
Why dance classes are good for toddlers
You may hear people saying that a dance class is not the place for toddlers. And it is true that the intensive, competitive, and disciplined dance classes that older children and adults attend would be a difficult environment for a toddler to thrive in. The reality is that a toddler dance class is completely different from an adult or teenager dance class.
The goal of a toddler dance class, whatever genre of dance it is, isn’t to create dancers with perfect technique who can memorize complex routines and perform them impeccably. Of course it isn’t. Anyone who has ever met a toddler knows that that isn’t a realistic goal, and it shouldn’t be something to aim for at that age anyway. The goal of a toddler dance class is to help toddlers learn how to move their bodies to music and have fun doing so.
What your toddler will get out of dance class is:
- improving their balance and coordination
- improving their communication and teamwork skills
- making new friends
- learning how to be creative and express themselves
- improving their listening skills
- giving them an appreciation of music and how it can inspire different emotions
- having lots of fun!
What to look for in a toddler dance class
Most toddler dance classes will incorporate all of these elements but it is always important to do your research before you send them. If you are hoping to inspire a love of dance into your toddler, sending them to a class that they hate might have the opposite effect. The vast majority of toddler dance teachers will be able to balance the needs of toddlers with their teaching methods, and some hallmarks of a great toddler dance teacher include:
- being able to prevent the class from turning into complete chaos
- using imagination games to teach the different moves (e.g. pretending to be different animals, watering plants, etc)
- splitting the class time into very short sections learning different steps to keep the toddlers’ attention
- use of props to keep the toddlers interested
- no harsh speech or discipline
- realistic expectations of what the toddlers’ can do
- learning about each individual child and their personality, abilities, and needs
It is also important to be receptive to your toddler and how they react to class. Every child is different and not all of them are ready for the structure of dance class at the same time, and that’s ok. If your child spends their entire time in class running around aimlessly, doesn’t seem to understand that they should be listening and following the teacher, becomes very distressed, or starts to disrupt the class, it might be better to wait a while. At that age, a developmental leap can happen in just a few months so you may not have to wait that long at all for them to be ready.
And once they are ready, their dance class will probably end up being the highlight of their week!
What types of dance classes are available for toddlers?
More and more dance studios and teachers are realizing the benefits of teaching their style of dance to younger children, so there will likely be a fair amount of choice when it comes to finding a dance class for your toddler. A lot of dance studios offer free trial sessions so you can try your toddler out with different styles to see what appeals to them the most. And be prepared that their interest may wax and wane depending on what sort of mood they’re in, what else is going on in their day-to-day life, and for reasons that are completely unknowable.
The most popular dance styles for toddlers tend to be ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, or modern. But if you’re looking for something a bit different, you could try them with Irish dancing, African dance, or ballroom dancing. Whichever style you choose, the overall class structure will likely look quite similar. Classes usually begin with a warm-up to make sure that the children’s muscles are flexible and ready. Then there will be a series of short exercises teaching different steps or moves, or even short routines. There is sometimes a section that allows the children to improvise.
Dance classes for toddlers usually run between 30 and 45 minutes long and some of them allow for parent participation but others will require parents to be on the sidelines or out of the room. It’s up to you what you think would work best for you and your child. Some children would be distressed if their parent isn’t in the room with them but for other children, their parent being in sight could work as a distraction. Again, this is one of those decisions that are often best made by trying it out and seeing what works.
Some dance classes have a recital a couple of times a year that parents and other family members can attend and these recitals may include the older children from other classes at the school. Recitals are a great opportunity for you to be amazed at how cute your toddler is but they can also help them to feel more comfortable performing in front of an audience. This skill will serve them well all through their life and could even make them more comfortable with public speaking and other stressful situations.
What dance attire for toddlers do I need to buy?
As with any other class that you take your toddler to, it is never a good idea to sink loads of money into the clothing and equipment before they have their first lesson. Toddlers can be so unpredictable and, while they may be ballet dancing all over the house, this doesn’t mean that they are going to fall in love with an actual ballet lesson at first sight. For their first dance lesson, all you really need to do is make sure that they have clothing that is comfortable, safe, and that allows them to move.
- loose fitted tees
- thin socks, sneakers, or bare feet (different dance schools will have different requirements)
- a sweater or cardigan in case it’s cold
Discussing clothing requirements with the dance teacher beforehand is always a good idea. Some dance schools have quite strict clothing requirements whereas others are looser. It is usually not a good idea to send your child in any kind of fancy dress, including princess dresses, as these tend to be quite restrictive, made of non-breathable material, and they could serve as a distraction in class. Some dance studios have rules against wearing outside shoes on the dance floor because they can damage it, but other schools do allow outside shoes.
Once you’re sure that your toddler loves their dance class, then you can start looking into what dance attire to buy them. Or you can just go ahead and grab a couple of things before they start. They’re only little once, so why not?! Things can get a little complicated because different dance styles will usually require different types of dance attire. And some dance schools have regulation dance attire that can be used later on for examinations and grading. Let’s take a closer look!
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Ballet attire for toddler girls
Ballet is one of the oldest forms of dance still performed today and it is the dance style that is most popular for little girls to start with. Ballet is a great introduction to dance because it teaches you how to control your entire body from your fingertips down to your toes and this knowledge can be built on when you introduce different dance styles later on. Ballet requires grace and precision but also strength, flexibility, and a high level of technical skill.
For toddlers, however, ballet class isn’t quite as disciplined as that. Instead, the focus is on the expressive and storytelling elements that are common in ballet. Remember that ballet performances are a narrative and the dancers use their bodies to tell the entire story to the audience without using any words. So in a typical toddler ballet class, you could expect the children to tell little stories that incorporate different types of movements (and sometimes props). Small children have powerful imaginations and ballet class can really tap into that.
When it comes to clothing, the focus is on attire that allows complete freedom of movement and that allows the teacher to be able to clearly see the movements that the children are making. It is a good idea to have a talk with the ballet teacher beforehand because they might have quite specific uniform requirements, including the colors that the clothes need to be.
Ballet leotard for toddler girls
A leotard is a key part of a ballet outfit. Leotards should fit well – not so baggy that they sag but not so tight that they make it uncomfortable for your child to make big movements. Some leotards have long sleeves, some short. Some have tutus attached. If your ballet teacher doesn’t have any specific uniform requirements, then the choice is yours which style you prefer!
Best long-sleeved leotard
This leotard comes in a variety of colors so if your dance school does have color requirements for their uniform, you’ll have a great chance of finding one that works. It’s silky smooth, soft, and stretchy so your daughter will feel comfortable in it for the whole lesson.
Best short-sleeved leotard
This leotard is also soft, smooth, and thick made of a cotton and nylon blend. It features a ballet scoop front and back and is cut for a ballet line in the legs. It also comes in a variety of colors.
Best leotard with an attached skirt
Most toddler ballet classes will require clothing to be not-too-fussy. So you often won’t want to get an outfit that has a lot of sequins or embellishments. This leotard with an attached tutu is simple and elegant, and the tutu is a petal design that won’t get in the way of any dancing.
Ballet tutu for toddler girls
Best lesson pull-on skirt
A detachable skirt is a great option for a toddler ballet class. If it does become a distraction or gets in the way, it can easily be removed. Again, you should often look for a tutu that doesn’t stand out too much as these only tend to be used for performances. For an everyday dance lesson, a simple petal skirt like this one is perfect.
Best fun tutu
Just because the dance class tutu usually has to be fairly reserved, that doesn’t mean your daughter can’t have some fun at home or at parties. And what better than this tutu and hairband set?! They will love showing off all of the moves they learned while feeling like a “real” ballet dancer!
Socks and tights
Some form of ballet socks or tights are important for ballet class, first to keep warm and second to make sure their feet don’t rub in their shoes. It generally doesn’t matter whether you choose socks or tights, and people tend to use either depending on the season.
Ballet socks tend to be made of thin, breathable material, in neutral colors. They have very few embellishments and ballet shoes can fit easily over them. These ballet socks are perfect for toddler ballet lessons.
These are a great option. They come in a two-pack, which is always useful when it comes to toddler tights, and super soft, stretchy, and thick. They come in a variety of neutral colors that will be perfect for most dance schools.
Ballet shoes for toddler girls
You don’t need to worry about spending a fortune on ballet shoes at this stage. It will be a fair few years before you need to be thinking about your daughter dancing en pointe. For children, ballet shoes are really just very soft and supple slippers. They are designed to allow dancers to move their feet almost as if they weren’t wearing any shoes at all, and they have a very soft sole (usually made of leather).
For most ballet classes, the shoes will be in a neutral ballet pink, although some dance schools allow for more fun designs (including glitter!). Most ballet shoes don’t come with a clear left and right. Instead, they will mold with your child’s feet as they dance in them. The soles can be quite slippery which can take some getting used to, and the shoes are very delicate. They should never, ever be worn outside or for playing in and it is best to take them to class in a drawstring bag and take them back off as soon as the lesson is over.
Best neutral ballet practice shoes
These ballet shoes have nearly 20,000 reviews with a 4.7 out of 5 rating and are made by Stelle. They are soft and breathable, with an anti-slip leather sole and use an elastic tie to keep the shoe secured (rather than laces). They are perfect for ballet class and will keep your daughter’s feet comfortable and secure for the entire lesson. They come in ballet pink, pink, and black.
Glittery ballet shoes
If your dance class allows it, these glittery ballet shoes are so beautiful and fun. Your daughter will feel like a real ballet princess wearing these to her lesson! And if your dance class doesn’t allow it, there’s no reason why she can’t wear these at home to practice. They come in gold or pink with a suede sole and elastic tie.
Best ballet hair accessories kit
At some point you may need, or want, to give your daughter the perfect ballet bun. Later on, these will be required if she starts going to examinations or gradings, but they can also be fun to wear to class. This hair accessory set by Magic Bun Maker will help you to create a ballet bun with no stress. And they even have some video tutorials on their page to help you along!
Dance studios can get cold, especially before your child starts moving around. A ballet cardigan can help to keep them warm while still allowing them to move around easily and for their teacher to see how well they’re executing their steps. This cardigan is made of a lovely soft velvet interior and is secured with an easy wraparound tie. It comes in a variety of colors to easily match with the rest of your daughter’s ballet outfit.
Jazz dance attire for toddler girls
Another popular dance style for small children is jazz. Some people call jazz the “modern ballet”. It stems from African vernacular (meaning “developed naturally”) dance that evolved to fit jazz music. If you’ve ever watched a Broadway show, the dancing they will be doing is a form of jazz dance (a variety of types have developed over the years). It is theatrical, energetic, and features lots of leaps, kicks, and body isolations.
Jazz dance is great for small children. It is faster-paced than ballet, so if your little girl has a lot of energy they might get on with this dance style better. It also incorporates a lot of the moves that you would see in sports, so it’s a great chance for children to develop those skills as well. A big part of jazz dancing is improvisation and developing that sort of creativity is so important.
If you want to encourage your daughter to appreciate music, jazz dance can also help with that. Jazz is an incredibly complex musical style and being exposed to that sort of music early on, and be able to listen to it at a deep enough level to be able to dance along, will set your child up to be able to understand music later on.
In terms of clothing, the basic requirements are similar to ballet – form-fitting clothes that allow for full freedom of movement and that allow the dance teacher to see exactly what moves your child is making. As with ballet, different dance schools may have different uniform requirements so it is always a good idea to speak to the dance teacher before going out and buying any clothes.
Jazz leotard for toddler girls
Jazz leotards tend to be black rather than pink but otherwise, their design is the same as for ballet. This leotard is made of a mix of cotton and lycra so it is both soft and stretchy. It has only a single seam running up the side, so it won’t rub, and the leg holes are soft and non-constricting. Comfort and freedom of movement are key when looking for a leotard, and this one definitely fits the bill!
Jazz unitard for toddler girls
Unitards are a common clothing requirement for jazz dance classes. They are like a leotard but with full-length legs and arms. This unitard is from Capezio a great option that is made from nylon and has a zippered back to make it easier to take on and off.
A lot of dance schools give you the option to layer a leotard with dance shorts. These shorts are soft, breathable, and sweat-wicking so you can be sure that your daughter will feel comfortable every lesson.
A pair of leggings is another great layering option for jazz dance class. They can be worn over the top of the leotard and should usually be in black. These leggings come in a two-pack and are super soft and stretchy so they are lovely to move around in.
Socks for jazz dancing
White socks are the standard for jazz dance and they look great up against the black of the rest of the outfit. These plain white cotton socks are perfect. They don’t have any embellishments that will rub against shoes and they come in a multipack so you will always have a pair ready to go.
Jazz shoes for toddler girls
Jazz shoes are designed to be soft with some cushioning under the feet for leaps, and with rubber soles to stop your child from slipping. These jazz shoes from Bloch are specifically designed to be flexible to help with foot movement because the sole is split at the bottom and they are stretch fit to make them easy and comfortable to wear.
Tap dance attire for toddler girls
Tap dancing isn’t seen as often nowadays but it is still a popular form of dance and is one of the most common types offered for children. It involves using metal plates attached to the ball and the heel of shoes to create percussive sounds on the floor. Tap dance stemmed from minstrel shows and the vaudeville scene and was often danced to jazz music.
Tap dancing is great fun for small children. They will love the feedback they get from stomping and tapping their shoes on the floor. It’s high-energy and can help them improve their timing skills. It also helps them to learn how to understand and appreciate music as they learn to pick out the beat.
You will often find classes offered for small children that merge ballet and tap together. The first part of the class will be dedicated to ballet and the second half to tap, with a change of shoes halfway through. This is a great way of keeping the toddlers’ attention and of introducing them to different styles of dance.
As with other forms of dance, your tap dance teacher may have specific uniform requirements so it is always worth checking with them before you go out and buy anything. Generally, however, you can expect the dress code to be similar to jazz. So a leotard and tights or leggings would normally work well. If the class is a ballet/tap hybrid, then your child would simply keep their ballet outfit on and change their shoes over.
Tap dance shoes for toddler girls
Tap dance shoes are really unique because they work both as an instrument and as a dance shoe. They are usually made of leather or canvas and they have a heel (the heel is very small for children’s shoes). To make the tapping sound, metal plates that are usually made from aluminum or metal alloy are screwed into the ball and the heel of the shoe. Some shoes for beginners only have one metal plate attached to the ball of the shoe.
These metal plates can be screwed tightly or loosely and this affects the sound. The looser the plate, the deeper the tap sound. Professional dancers tend to prefer to scew their own plates into their tap shoes, but beginner tap shoes usually have their plates already screwed on. For children, tap shoes are usually in a Mary Jane style with a ribbon bow. More advanced tap dancers often opt for an Oxford-style shoe. Tap shoes are usually black although some schools do ask for them to be tan colored.
Bloch is a trusted name in the dance world and these children’s tap dance shoes will be the perfect addition to your daughter’s dance wardrobe. They have a lovely and soft cashmere inner lining and a resin balance pad on the rubber sole to help prevent slipping. Quite possibly the best thing about these shoes, however, is the fastening system. At first glance, it looks like these are tied with a bow. And we all know how fiddly it can be to keep shoes like that tied on toddlers. In actual fact, the bow on these shoes is just decorative because underneath it is an elastic strap that is snapped on and it is this that fastens the shoe. Some people even take the bow off for normal dance class and save it for recitals.
Hip hop dance attire for toddler girls
Hip hop is a much more recent dance style than the ones covered so far. It began in the 1960s-1970s and it merges classical dance styles such as modern, tap, and swing with elements of African dance. It was designed to be a dance style that is accessible and natural and was often danced in the streets. From the beginning, new dance moves become popular in hip hop dance, such as the cabbage patch, the running man, and the wop. And these moves then become copied and developed further by new dancers. Hip-hop dance evolves and changes all the time, keeping it exciting and fresh.
Hip hop is a great dance style to learn for young children. It is energetic, fun, and gives them lots of opportunities to run, spin, and jump. There is a real emphasis on developing their own personal style and creativity, which is so important for young children who are being introduced to dance. It also gives them an opportunity to learn how to move to different beats in music, which will help to develop their musical skill.
In line with its history, hip hop dance is still much more accessible than other forms of dance when it comes to dance attire. The clothing rules are often much less restrictive and, for many schools, you may not need to buy dance-specific clothing items (although you can do).
Hip hop dance pants
The pants for hip hop are usually baggier than the leggings and tights that you would see in classical dance. Any pair of joggers or sweatpants will usually do the trick but, as always, it is a good idea to check with your dance teacher what sort of pants they prefer the children to wear.
This four-pack of joggers will be perfect for most hip hop toddler dance classes. They are lightweight, soft, and stretchy so will give your daughter all the room they need for dancing and moving around.
You can pair them with any tee or bodysuit, but it is usually a good idea to make sure that the top isn’t too baggy. The dance teacher will still need to be able to monitor the moves that your daughter is making.
Hip hop dance shoes
There are dance-specific hip hop shoes but in most cases, you won’t have to go and buy a pair of shoes from a dance company. When choosing a pair of hip hop shoes, there are some important elements to look for:
- a good grip pattern on the sole
- a sole that isn’t inflexible
- securely fitted
Dance-specific hip hop shoes
Capezio do a dance sneaker that would work perfectly for hip hop class. They come in black or white, and are made of synthetic leather but with a breathable mesh upper. They have foam padding throughout the keep your child’s feet secure and protected (because of this padding they run two sizes smaller than street shoes which is vital to keep in mind when you are buying them!). They also have a split sole which allows for much greater flexibility in the feet and they are non-marking.
General shoes for hip hop dance
But you don’t have to go and spend a lot of money buying hip hop shoes from a dance company. You will see a lot of professional hip hop dancers wearing normal branded sneakers to dance in. This pair of breathable, lightweight, sneakers would be perfect for dancing. They are nicely padded with memory foam, have a secure fastening system, and are non-slip.
Irish dancing attire for toddler girls
Irish dancing is a form of Gaelic or Celtic dance that originated in Ireland, with some influences from traditional French dancing. It can be danced solo or in groups and is characterized by intricate footwork performed with a stiff upper body. It is often danced to traditional Irish music, using instruments such as an Irish Bodhran (a type of drum), an accordion, tin whistles, banjos, and more. Irish dancing was made popular in recent years through Riverdance.
Irish dance competitions are popular and there are lots of opportunities for children to learn Irish dance. Irish dancing can be a lot of fun for children. The music is magical and, like ballet, is often accompanied by storytelling elements. It is high-energy and fun and, if you have any Irish heritage, it can be a wonderful opportunity for your child to connect with that.
As with many dance classes, a lot of Irish dance schools require their students to wear clothes that are form-fitting, especially around the legs. It is important for the teacher to be able to see exactly what movements the children are making so that they can help to correct them.
Dance shorts for Irish dancing
A pair of black shorts is usually a staple for Irish dance classes. This pack of three cotton bike shorts will work perfectly. They are soft, breathable, and lightweight.
T-shirts for Irish dancing
A light, breathable t-shirt is also common for Irish dance class. This is another multipack that will wash well and will allow your daughter to have fun at her dance class without getting too hot and bothered.
Irish dance shoes for toddler girls
For the first lesson or so, children are often allowed to dance in their socks. But after that, a pair of soft-sole Irish dancing shoes will often be a requirement. They can also be known as ghillies, and they are similar in many ways to ballet shoes. They are very soft and flexible and with a leather sole. They differ in the way they lace up. Irish dance shoes tend to lace up from the toes to the ankles.
These Irish dance shoes have a reflective pattern on the outer sole that really makes them sparkle and they have a split sole to help with flexibility. What’s really great about them, however, is the padding inside. They have a gel insole to keep the bottom of the foot cushioned and they also have a neone shock absorber layer in the toe.
Ballroom dance attire for toddler girls
In a ballroom dance class for small children, you can expect your child to learn elements of a range of ballroom dance techniques. This can include the waltz, tango, foxtrot, quickstep, and more. It is a great introduction to ballroom dance where your child will be able to improve their technical skill and also learn how to work together as a team with their dance mates.
Leotard for ballroom dancing
For ballroom dance, girls will often wear a leotard with an attached skirt. This leotard has a beautiful flowing chiffon skirt and is also soft, stretchy, and breathable. It comes in a range of colors that can fit in with many dance schools’ uniform requirements.
Along with the leotard, girls can wear dance socks or tights that are similar to those they would wear for ballet.
Ballroom dance shoes can be so pretty. They are often sparkly and glittery with a small heel. These ballroom dance shoes have a non-slip suede sole and are lightweight and breathable. And your daughter will feel like a princess! These are dance-only shoes so should not be worn outside as this can ruin the sole.
The bottom line
Finding the right dance attire for toddler girls can be overwhelming at first, but once you understand the different requirements for the different dance styles (and why they exist) it can make life a lot easier. And really you don’t need to break the bank to kit your child out in the perfect dance clothes for their lessons. Working with their dance teacher can always be useful as they will know exactly what they want for their class.