Tiny Toes Ballet, which holds children’s dance classes in Rayleigh, Leigh-on-Sea & Southend, is offering all children free online classes to help support parents and teachers who are homeschooling due to lockdown. Its eight-week course of classes combines drama, dance, cookery and more, and is aimed at children aged seven and under.
The Free Lockdown Programme provides online weekly activities including Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) activities, supported by downloadable educational resources for parents.
Natalie Cawley, who runs the Essex Tiny Toes Ballet franchise, says she is delighted to be able to help keep the nation’s children learning through the lockdown.
‘We teach around 125 pupils aged between six months to seven years in Rayleigh, Leigh-on-Sea and Southend-on-Sea,’ she says. ‘The reason it is important to me to offer classes during a lockdown is because a child’s need for development does not stop and it’s vital that they consistently have the opportunity to learn and grow. We are proud to offer our pupils classes where they are learning about the world around them through the magic of dance, and not only are we offering our adventure-themed ballet classes online but extra online activities like storytime, parties and creative tasks which further stimulate our dancers and helps to provide a sense of routine and normality. One thing I’ve learnt during the pandemic is that we are all in this together and so this is my way of supporting my community and keeping children and their families smiling.
‘The online classes will come with a downloadable activity and a parental letter to explain the purpose of each weekly programme and which EYFS curriculum outcomes the activities will meet.’
Tiny Toes Ballet is the UK’s first pre-school ballet programme to be fully integrated with the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum. It was founded in Swansea in 2011 by Emma Morgan, an experienced primary school and ballet teacher, and has grown to have 14 franchises all over the UK. Children can attend from the age of six months to seven years.
‘Tiny Toes may be a dance class, but it’s not all about demi plies,’ says Emma. ‘We understand that the first years of life are a vital period for early brain development: 90% of a child’s brain development happens before the age of five. Movement is the gateway for all learning during the first five years of life because sensory, motor and social development precede language and logic skills. Children learn by playing and doing. Dance, in particular, integrates kinaesthetic learning with understanding. We’re passionate about the value of our unique programme and wanted to use it to help as many teachers, parents and children as possible during lockdown.
‘We’ve centred the activities around themes that we know children love: Three little pigs, Under the Sea, Down on the Farm and Superheroes, for example. The classes will run for eight weeks and we’re encouraging as many people as possible to get involved.’
It’s not the first time Tiny Toes Ballet has offered free activities during a lockdown. Previous activities have included YouTube activity days and live interactive online adult Ballet Fit classes, craft time, online family dance parties and EYFS weekly activities and videos. The school also worked with Welsh-based ballet company, Ballet Cymru, to deliver a second wave of adult Ballet Fit classes and delivered free online classes for patients at Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital in Cardiff and delivered Facebook live activities titled Dance on Your Doorstep and VE Day Celebrations.
‘It’s been a pleasure to play our part in keeping the nation occupied, entertained and active during this difficult time,’ says Emma. ‘As long as the coronavirus pandemic continues, we’ll keep coming up with new activities to support children’s learning, so keep an eye on our website for more updates.’