Why Children Dance the Best

Not long ago, I enjoyed one of my favorite summer pastimes. With a close friend, I attended a Major League Baseball game. My team got clobbered, it rained, and I forgot to bring home the free Johnny Bench bobble head doll that I drove 90 minutes to get. But the trip was worth it because I witnessed something that borders on magic: kids dancing without a care in the world.

Whether they dazzle 25,000 spectators on a giant screen or an impromptu dance party in the living room, kids know how to get down. They often lack skill, grace, and sensitivity. But none of that matters. Feelings are facts, and kids know the definition of dancing is fun.

MamiGibbs/Getty Images

MamiGibbs/Getty Images

Why does dancing lose its appeal? According to recent research, a better question is when does dancing become a downer? The decline of dance starts when we develop what is called a theory of mind, that pesky ability to infer another person’s mental states. A theory of mind lets the trick-or-treater know that the person underneath the mask isn’t really a goblin and what might make a parent buy a desired toy. A theory of mind also helps us think of how others judge our dancing. And that, my friends, is when dancing stops being so fun.

The upside is that there’s never of shortage of young people who haven’t gotten wise to how goofy dancing makes them look. This weekend I’ll go back to watch my team play. The kids will dance, the adults will laugh, and we’ll all enjoy a relaxing evening.