By Lesley Mealor / Edited by Samantha Bellerose, B.Ed, Dip.Dance (Performing Arts)
As a dance educator and dancer, I’ve always thought that tap dance is the easiest form of dance to learn at any age. Even if you’re not a tap dancer yourself, you can still help your tap dancing kiddo improve by doing a few simple things at home, in the car, or wherever you happen to feel the need to dance!
To help your dancer improve in tap, you can encourage practicing at home, provide entertainment that focuses on tap, and play tap dance and musicality games.
Just like learning the drums, tap dance is on the louder side, so if you haven’t already, prepare yourself for some noisy practice sessions! Luckily, some of the exercises and ideas here don’t require tap shoes to be beneficial.
Encourage Practicing At Home
Any new skill takes practice, and tap dance is no different! Unlike some other styles of dance, however, tap dance doesn’t necessarily require flexibility or stretching, which is what many people think of when they think about practicing at home. Practicing tap dance involves a ton of repetition, so parents…get ready to invest in earplugs, and a few other things!
Tap Dancing At Home
To best help your child practice tap at home, you will want to purchase a tap board, or create a home studio space with proper flooring for tap. Without one of these options, not only will your child potentially ruin your hardwood floors, but may also injure themselves due to a too-slick surface, or in the case of dancing in a garage, develop shin splints from the concrete.
If you’re in the market for a tap board, you can find some great options here. Or, if you are ready to make the investment into a home studio, you can check out the best flooring options in our article How To Build An At Home Dance Studio – Top Tips To Consider.
Tap Exercises For Rhythm
Even if you’re not a tap dancer yourself, encouragement from a caregiver or a parent can help to motivate a young dancer to continue to work on their tap skills. Developing good internal rhythm is one of the key components to being a good tap dancer, and if your child doesn’t have an innate sense of rhythm, this will be something easy for them to work on at home. For the best tap exercises for developing rhythm, click here!
Tap Exercises For Lower Leg Strength and Flexibility
While tap dance doesn’t require major flexibility like ballet and jazz, tap definitely requires strength and flexibility of the smaller muscles in the legs, like the tibialis anterior (the muscle on the outside of the shin), and the gastrocnemius and the soleus (the muscles that make up the calf). Also, because tap requires loose and flexible ankles, exercises that help increase ankle flexibility are also helpful and can be easily performed at home. For the best tap exercises for promoting lower leg flexibility and strength, click here!
Provide Entertainment That Focuses on Tap Dance
If your child can’t get enough tap dance, I’ve got some great resources for all ages that will entertain as well as educate! Your child’s dance studio may be giving a little tap history in class, but seeking out entertainment that focuses on the history of tap dance is an easy way to keep the fun going after class!
Books About Tap Dance
Reading books about tap dance is a great way to engage your child in thinking and learning about Tap Dance in a non-physical way. There are plenty of great books that include tap dance and we have a great list for you to check out in our article The Best Books About Tap Dance for Every Age here!
Movies About Tap Dance
In many movie musicals from the 1930s and 40s, tap dancing is a feature, so there is no shortage of content from that era which can easily be found on streaming services or television networks like TCM. But in more current content, tap dancing is a little harder to find.
Check out our article The Best Movies That Feature Tap Dance Here!
Play Tap Dance Games
It may be intimidating to think of how you can help your child improve in tap, but these tap dance games make it easy and fun!
Tap Dance Flashcards
These Tap Dance Flash Cards are a great first step towards helping you and your child become more familiar with beginner tap terminology. Geared towards the younger dancers, these cards have illustrations and definitions for 23 basic tap steps.
There are many different games you can play with flashcards and as they explain the steps they will help you help your child!
Tap Dance Poetry
Tap teachers around the world use games in class to help teach steps and choreography. One fun game that can be played at home is called Tap Dance Poetry. This game is best played with dancers who have at least a year or two of tap class under their belt.
The object of the game is to create a poem of sounds with tap steps. Using a haiku format, 5/7/5, have your dancer create a phrase using 5 sounds, then a phrase using 7 sounds, and then another 5 sound phrase.
Create even more interest by making up words to go along with each rhythm phrase, and say it out loud as you do your poem. If your child has a lot of tap vocabulary in their wheelhouse, you can place conditions on this game; for example, only use the balls of your feet to create sounds, or use only your left foot to create sounds. The possibilities are endless!
Nursery Rhyme Game
The Nursery Rhyme Game is always fun, and can be used for beginner through advanced dancers. If you need to brush up on your nursery rhyme knowledge, head here for a quick reminder! This game is the most fun with a few people, allowing for one or two folks to guess the rhyme created by the dancer! Feel free to involve the whole family or friends!
To begin this game, choose a nursery rhyme, like “Hickory Dickory Dock”. Say it a few times in rhythm to get the timing into your body. Then, using tap steps and body percussion (slaps, claps, snaps, and clicks), move in the rhythm of the rhyme. If you’re involving other people, have them guess the nursery rhyme as it’s being performed. I love this game because it allows for tons of creativity!
The Steady Beat game is great for anyone, even non-dancing parents or siblings. The goal is simply to keep a steady beat to a piece of music. You can choose to bounce a ball, throw a bean bag back and forth, create drums with wooden spoons and pots and pans, or use body percussion or actual tap steps.
While this game can also be played without music, I find it to be the most fun and engaging when you use a variety of music. Start with a song with an easy to find downbeat, like “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars. Then, you might transition to something slower like Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”. Make it even more challenging by introducing a piece of classical music without percussion, like Beethoven’s “Fur Elise”.
By playing this simple game with family or friends, you are encouraging listening for a downbeat, and executing a movement steadily on that downbeat, which is one of the primary skills needed not only for tap dancing, but all dancing. And, it may help the person who is always awkwardly trying to clap along at a concert or sporting event to practice finding the beat!
Tap dancing is definitely a skill that requires consistent practice, and with these at home activities, your dancer will likely improve as well as gain a deeper appreciation for tap dancing and its rich history. Happy tapping!