Designs & Displays: 5 Ideas to Make Your Dance Store Tot-Friendly

Know what makes preschool dancers tick—and shopping will follow. 

Girl wearing purple tulle skirt on her head, as a hat, with a playful expression on her face.
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When tiny dancers come into your store, the challenge is to keep their imaginations entertained—and your dance store intact—so their parents can shop. Preschoolers are natural explorers and will get into everything if you don’t give them something to focus on. But finding the right way to pique their interest in what you sell can help increase sales. After all, we all know who holds the power of persuasion with Mom and Dad.

Here are some simple prop and design ideas from visual merchandiser Leslie Groves that you can incorporate into your space to keep tiny tots engaged. Your usual COVID-19 guidelines for customers (masks, hand sanitizer) apply while the pandemic stretches on.

Kids are curious.
Send them on a scavenger hunt.

Create a picture map that leads to five items hidden in the children’s area of your store. (Pictures mean they don’t have to be able to read yet.) The aim is to keep their attention. 

Design the scavenger hunt to take them through the entire department, introducing them to items of interest—a picture of a princess, a stuffed animal or character, a mask, a silly hat, a ballet storybook or even seasonal props. (Remember: They may end up talking to their mom or dad about taking home their favorite.) 

The key is to change the map and the items seasonally so little ones have something new to look forward to each time they come in.

They like to practice fancy footwork.
Create a numbered pattern to teach dance steps.

Kids love to move. Instead of having the whole store become their playground, create a pattern of numbered footprints so they can learn a dance step simply by following the footstep pattern. Cut the footprints out of foam or carpet, or paint the pattern on an area rug to save space and keep the dance floor contained. 

To introduce kids to different items you’re selling, create a path around the children’s department by sticking printed vinyl footsteps on the floor. Stores with carpet can use footprints cut out of felt or fabric with Velcro attached so that they stick but can be easily moved as well. For added authentic detail, use cutouts of pointe shoes or high heels rather than simple footprints.

They like to touch stuff.
Give them a treasure box to explore.

Creating a child-friendly space where kids are encouraged to touch makes coming to the store a fun experience for everyone. (Have parents help young ones with hand sanitizer before the play begins.)

Install decoratively ornate treasure boxes to house dress-up items (like tutus, fairy wings, ribbons and wands) that feed the imagination—and perhaps then add to the final sale. 

A dress-up box might also include items older dancers would wear, such as legwarmers and ballet shoes (merchandise that is no longer sellable), since little ones often liking mimicking what their older siblings do

They’ll sit anywhere on anything.
Create a nest of little ottomans they can settle into.

To make ottomans, build frames of simple plywood, then cover them with quilt batting and fabric. Each one could be a different jewel shape and color; when grouped they fit together like a puzzle. These add an element of creativity and functionality while offering an activity with little downside. 

They love make-believe.
Give them a dollhouse to call their own in the store.

To draw attention to the dollhouse, first frame out a wall area of shelving near the children’s department to resemble a huge dollhouse, with the different levels creating display space for merchandise. It’s a simple twist on traditional shelving, but more eye-catching. 

Then, add a smaller dollhouse nearby that little ones can sit and play with. Consider equipping the dollhouse with a dance studio complete with mirror and barre, and add a dressing room with makeup station so they can be the principal dancer in their house—and you keep the focus on dance while they’re in the store.

The Bottom Line

It’s all about the fun (and the sales). Keep younger children absorbed and spark their imagination, and their parents will have more time to shop in peace.