We’re very happy to welcome back guest blogger and Redleaf Press® author Connie Bergstein Dow. Connie is a source of endless ideas that not only get children moving, but also make them excited about physical activity. Connie has returned with the second entry of a three-part blog series on creative movement and dance with children. This week, she shares tips to help you introduce creative movement activities to children. Make sure to check back here next week for a special Chinese New Year dance activity. You can read part one here and Connie’s first guest post here.
Many caregivers and teachers may not have experience with dance and may be uncomfortable offering creative movement to children. You may think that bringing dance into your early childhood environment could lead to a situation in which the children are not in control. However, one of the gifts of guided creative movement is that it helps children learn to control their bodies and develop awareness of moving in the space with other children. As children learn awareness and body control through movement, they become familiar with following your instructions, listening for cues, and respecting others as they move together in the shared space.
Remember, you don’t have to be a musician to sing and play instruments with the children, you don’t have to be an artist to do art projects, and you don’t have to be an expert in theater to offer dramatic play opportunities. By the same token, you don’t have to be a dancer to dance with your students. Movement is a natural and fun outlet for children, so use these simple tips to get started!
Carefully Explain Your Expectations
Before you begin a movement activity, create clear boundaries in the space. You might say to the children, “This is an activity that we will do standing in one place. Find your spot, and imagine you are in a bubble. Now touch all around the inside of your bubble. It is like a circle in space, isn’t it? You are going to dance inside of your own bubble.”
If the activity will be in a larger area with the children moving about as a group, delineate the space and explain it carefully to the children. For example, say, “We will be moving around in the area that is covered by the rug,” or, “We are going to use the space inside these lines.” Allow the children to walk the perimeter of the space to reinforce the outer boundaries.
In addition to concrete spatial boundaries, give other instructions to the children before you start, based on the nature of the activity as well as your expectations. You might remind them that we dance with our bodies, and only use our voices when the teacher suggests that. You might also remind them that other children are dancing in the shared space, and it is important to be aware of and respect others while dancing.
Verbal and Visual Cues
It is very helpful to introduce a cue during movement activities that signals the children to stop immediately. Explain to the children the importance of responding to that cue, and remind them that it is for their safety and the safety of their classmates. You can use a visual cue, such as a homemade stop sign, a picture of a red light, a puppet, a tall prop, or dimming the lights. Or you can use an auditory cue, such as clapping your hands or tapping a drum or tambourine. Starting and stopping music is another good signal—dance while the music is playing, and freeze when the music is paused. The important thing is that the children get used to stopping on command, so that you can immediately rein in the energy and continually guide the activity in the way you are most comfortable.
I hope these tips help to encourage you to offer more and more movement activities to the young children in your life!
You’ve learned a variety of helpful tips to introduce creative movement to children. Now, put that knowledge into action with Connie’s books, One, Two, What Can I Do? Dance and Music for the Whole Day and Dance, Turn, Hop, Learn! Enriching Movement Activities for Preschoolers. You can also catch up with her at PreK + Sharing, a collaborative blog for early childhood professionals. Stay tuned for more from Connie.