In our preschool ballet classes (ages 3 and 4), we often start out learning any real ballet steps in parallel (not turned out). This allows the dancers to learn the step before adding the element of turnout. Especially for 3 year olds, it’s near impossible to execute even basic steps like plie and tendu correctly with their legs turned out. They don’t have the ability yet to understand and apply the knowledge that their entire leg turns out from the hip. Instead, they often to turn their legs out at the knees, or sometimes only the feet. So if you ask your 3 year old to do show you a “plie” after ballet class, she is likely to show it to you in parallel. BUT, when doing it in parallel, her knees will be over her toes and her upper body will more likely be straight up and down rather than leaning with her bum out. As the class progresses and children gain strength, we teach them the positions of ballet, which require turnout. Then we allow them to do very basic steps, such as plie, with the feet in a “slight V” first position.
In her second year of preschool ballet class (ages 4 and up), she will learn more basic ballet steps and movements and learn them with slight turnout. Later, in beginning ballet levels, the degree of turnout will be emphasized more (along with correct alignment, of course). At 4 years old, her first position should be what we call a “slight V.” There is no forcing. The goal here is for her feet make a 90 degree angle; the goal is not 180 degrees. This will allow her to begin turning out and using the correct muscles for turnout early on. In teaching her to correctly turn out early on, she will gain the strength and flexibility needed to acquire her maximum turnout later on. It will also help her to avoid injury later on.
When your preschool ballerina shows you a “ballet step” like a plie with little or no turnout, that’s totally okay. In fact, that’s how it should be at her age. The most important thing to look at when she is turned out is whether her knees are over her toes. Also, her feet should be flat on the floor. If the inner arch of her foot is rolling forward toward the floor, she is “forcing” her turnout and not using her let muscles to hold it.