Creative movement is a wonderful way to get active with your child and encourage a healthy self-awareness, self-esteem, and active lifestyle in children. It also has the amazing benefit of being both an emotional process and a creative process that shapes the mind. How happy are children when they are jumping and playing? How can a child breaking it down to her own rhythm not put a smile on your face? And who can deny that sly, gleeful grin of a preschooler, pretending to be a sneaky monster on her tippy toes?
Many parents are familiar with how much fun dancing and physical play is for children but think that they don’t have the expertise to do creative movement at home. Even as a former dance teacher, I, too, sometimes have the urge to enroll my daughter in a dance studio so that she can be part of a class and have fun at recitals. But I know that she is way too young for any of that at three years old, and I can do more developmentally appropriate activities at home that are just as much fun and creative as a studio environment would give, if not more!
Here are three simple and fun natural learning ideas for having a Creative Movement Play-Date with your child.
Don’t worry – no BA in Dance or ballet shoes required!
1. The Shake it Song
My mom taught me this song (she used it in infant and early childhood Montessori classrooms for years), and I made up the movements. Kids love the simple tune (really you can sing it to any tune you want) and the BIG physical movement of the dance.
As you sing this little song, move your body with the words. (i.e. when you say “shake it high!” shake your arms and head up high. When you say/sing “shake it low”, bend down and shake your body in a low crouched or squat position – a pile for my ballet trained friends!)
SHAKE, SHAKE, SHAKE
SHAKE, SHAKE, SHAKE
Shake it HIGH!
Shake it LOW.
Shake it all about!
(repeat at least 3X)
You can choose to turn around when you sing “Shake it all about” – or you can simply shake your whole body. Allow whatever movement happens freely as you play with your child. Sing the song at least three times. You really want to get into the fun!
Ideas for furthering this activity with older children:
- Challenge your child to see who can get their body the highest/lowest, and who can shake the fastest/slowest
- Sing the song really quietly and shake “quietly” as well. Same for LOUD (just make sure the baby isn’t sleeping, and you’ve had your coffee, because the kids really love this one!)
- Talk about what “middle” means. On the first two lines of the song, follow this pattern: On the first “SHAKE”, shake your hand (or an object) up high. On the second “SHAKE”, shake in the middle, and on the third, shake the object or your hand very low. See if your child will follow your movement, and talk about what the middle is. *
* This technique can also be used with infants and toddlers who are not standing and have less control of their bodies. I sing this song to my nine month old and use a small wooden egg-shaped maraca to shake high, middle, and low as I sing the song, and he LOVES it. I have been doing this his whole life so far, and he’s starting to get into the movement now. He’ll dance along and follow the object. Abbey likes to sing the song to him, too.
2. Knee Garden
Sit with your child with your legs straight out (your body will make an L shape, bending at the hips as you sit). Pretend to have seeds in your hands, and tell your child that their legs are a garden plot full of rich soil, and that you want to plant seeds with them.
Stretch your arms up high and “look” up at the seeds in your hands. You can talk about the shape, color, size of the seeds if you like, or you can just get to planting!
To “plant” your seeds, pretend to take a handful of seeds and touch your hip, thigh, knee, calf, and then your toes with your hand held in a pincer grasp. Repeat for the other leg, and then plant more seeds on both legs. Hip, Thigh, Knee, Calf, Toes.**
**You’ll really be stretching as you do this. It’s OK if you can’t reach your toes. Just reach as far as you can, and throw the seeds the rest of the way
When you’ve planted your seeds, it’s time to cover them. Motion as if you are covering your legs with soil . . . again, you’ll get a nice stretch from this!
Then comes the rain. Pull your legs up (your abs will definitely engage!) so that your knees are bent, and stomp your feet on the floor while making a big cloud shape with your arms over your head. Then wiggle your fingers down to your legs, stretching over your legs as the “rain” falls down.
You can use this rhythmic chant if you want:
Booom-boom, boom-boom, boom-boom, and the rain falls down . . . boom-boom, boom-boom, boom-boom and the rain falls down.
After the rain falls, use your fingers to pretend that seedlings are popping up through the soil of your legs and growing high up above your head. Talk about what type of plants you have grown. (I usually grow trees or flowers. Abbey likes to grow beanstalks and strawberry plants.) Wave your (arm) plants in the air, and if you like, you can sing one of these plant themed songs or finger plays (I usually pick “The Gardener” or “Five Relaxing Flowers”).
3. Dancing with Scarves
If I overwhelmed you with the first two activities (they seem much more complicated in text than in real life!), don’t fear. This one is really simple.
Make a large enough space in your living room, play space, or outdoors.
Play some music. (I like to use Raffi and other children’s artists through Pandora Radio online, and sometimes I play dance music with a fast tempo and good beat. Other times, Abbey requests “ballerina music.”)
Give your child some play silks (as used in Waldorf education) or scarves, or even just cuts or scraps of fabric. Ribbon wands work well for this too.
Let them dance to the music. Simple as that!
It’s so much fun (and good exercise) to dance and move creatively with your child. You’ll both have a blast, and you’ll be supporting your child’s health and well-being as well as their self-esteem and creative process.