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Irish Dance Jig Shoes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you have a toddler or preschooler at home chances are pretty good you already have her/him signed up for some type of dance class – ballet, tap, jazz or Irish dance.  These activities are fun (usually) and a great way for little ones to interact with others as well as learn new skills.

The actual dancing, however, can be pretty harmful to your child’s feet and while I’m not suggesting in this article that you pull your daughter or son out of the class, I want to suggest some stretching exercises that you can do with your youngster before and after class which can help minimize future pain/damage as well as improve the overall health of her feet – and yours if you do the stretches too!

1.  Toe Stretches:  Have your toddler stand or sit barefooted and try to spread her toes as far apart as possible while keeping all the toes on the floor.  Hold for a few seconds and then relax.   Do it again for a total of 3 times.

2. Calf stretches:  Sit with your feet flat against a wall with knees straight.  Try to keep the back straight and pull down to try and touch your toes with your hands.

3.  Hold hands with your feet.  Sit cross legged and lace your fingers with your opposite foot toes like you’re holding “hands” with your foot.  Most kidscan do both feet at once but it’s ok to do one at a time.

4.  Roll on the ball.  Have your child roll the bottom of her foot over a tennis ball – back and forth, up and down for a minute or so.  You can do this with a golf ball too.  Try it standing for a bit more pressure on the foot but make sure she’s standing close to a wall or a chair so she can hold on if she loses balance.

5.  Draw with your feet.  No doubt your little one with this this exercise is the most fun.  Just sit on the ground with a piece of paper and use your toes as finger to draw with crayons or markers.  Try to write your name, draw a face or do something specific.  Then do it with the other foot.  Such fun!

Try some or all of these exercises before and after dance class for the most benefit or add it to your before bed routine. Your feet and hers will love it and it’ll help keep her feet happier as she progresses through her dance career.  Find out more on how to keep your own feet happy and healthy by visiting

Annette Yen is a Healthy Foot Practitioner™, foot coach and blogger.  She received her training and certification through the Restorative Exercise Institute. The training involves a thorough education of footmechanics, how foot function affects whole-body health, and the role of footwear on foot health and foot pain. Find out more about your feet, sign up for her newsletter and register for healthy foot classes when you visit her website at


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