Chatzihidiroglou et al. “Dancing Effects on Preschoolers’ Sensorimotor Synchronization, Balance and Movement Reaction Time.” Perceptual and motor skills 125, no. 3 (2018): 463-477.
This study compared an experimental group of preschool children (n=22; mean age=5 years, 8 months) who followed an eight-week dance program with a control group (n=20; mean age=5 years, 5 months) on pre–post measures of sensorimotor synchronization (K-Rhythm Test), balancing on one leg and movement reaction time. Compared with the control participants, the dance group demonstrated significantly better pretest to posttest improvements on sensorimotor synchronization and balance, but not movement reaction time. Considering the impact of sensorimotor synchronization and balance on subsequent child development and performance of daily and sport activities, these results demonstrate the benefits of including dancing in early childhood curricula.
Children who received the dance intervention made greater gains from pretest to posttest than the children in the control group in their rhythm synchronization and balance. Improvement in movement reaction time was comparable in both groups.
Significance of the Findings:
Though similar studies have been done regarding teaching music skills to young children and adult populations, the authors of this study assert that it is the first study to focus on the effects of organized dance activities on rhythmic synchronization in young children. This experimental study finds a causal inference between the dance intervention and improved rhythm and balance and shows the impact of dance education on a child’s physical development.
Before and after the dance intervention or free play (control group), researchers administered three tests to all children to measure their baseline rhythm, balance and movement reaction time. To account for differences between the experimental and control groups, researchers analyzed data from the three tests using one-way ANOVA for repeated measures. The statistical significance was set at p < .05.
Limitations of the Research:
The sample size of this study is small, with a total of 42 students across four preschool classes, and therefore not generalizable. This limitation is mitigated somewhat by the mention of additional pilot validity and reliability studies conducted prior to this one that involved 111 participants. The study would need to be replicated at a larger scale and with participants of greater diversity for its findings to be confirmed.
One assumption that is not addressed in the study design is that there is no analysis of cultural significance of the songs and dances used in the study that may have influenced a child’s engagement. They simply state that the songs used are widely known, which could indicate a cultural bias.
Questions to Guide New Research:
What impact might dance intervention have on other motor skills? Are there implications for student health and fitness in the long term that could be spurred by a dance intervention at an early age or dance interventions over time? What affect might a dance intervention have on younger children’s rhythm, balance and reaction time skills?
The final paragraph mentions that this study may indicate that dance therapy increases synchronous movement and improves social skills of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, suggests additional opportunities for the arts to contribute to an inclusive classroom.