Tips for Tap Teachers | Pre-Tap for Preschoolers

Photo by Robert Rosen

by Thelma Goldberg

Many studio owners offer tap dance to preschoolers. But as someone who has spent a lifetime studying the art of tap, I’d like to suggest an alternative: offer your students ages 3 to 5 a curriculum of pre-tap—in ballet shoes.

With planning and good marketing, your preschool program will flourish and students will enter primary-level classes excited to graduate to tap shoes. Here are some ideas you can share with parents as you shift your studio’s philosophy:

  • Tap shoes are specialized (like pointe shoes) and a dancer needs fundamental skills and specific muscle strength and control to use the shoes appropriately.
  • Requiring only one pair of dance shoes in preschool classes will save parents money and teachers valuable class time that would otherwise be spent changing shoes.
  • Tap dance requires students to relax their ankle and foot joints, and use only one part of the foot in order to produce clear sounds. This is often too difficult for preschoolers to understand—or do correctly. Bad habits start early.


Create a curriculum of pre-tap activities that will prepare students for future tap classes.

  • Rhythm games and call-and-response activities with clapping, vocalizing, or musical instruments will help students identify the 1 count, half notes, and quarter notes, and strengthen listening skills and musicality.
  • Simple tap movements, like tapping the ball of the foot, placing the edge of the heel on the floor, and marching, can be done in ballet shoes. Challenge your dancers to remember different patterns.
  • Include improvisation and creative movement opportunities to bring out the percussive energy young students love to express.
  • Inspire dancers with video footage of Shirley Temple movies and live demos by older dancers.


Teacher and director of The Dance Inn in Lexington, Massachusetts, since 1983, Thelma Goldberg is the author of Thelma’s Tap Notes: A Step-by-Step Guide to Teaching Tap: Children’s Edition.