Sunday, May 22, 2016

Dancing With (Stuffed Toy) Animals!


Here is a dance activity that can incorporate your child's favorite small plush animal, which can stimulate many different movement ideas.  Children will have the chance to explore how different animals move, they will dance with their animals, and they will also dance for their animal "audience."

When I teach this lesson in the classroom, I invite the children ahead of time to bring a small plush animal.  I also have a bag of them that I bring in for extras.  

This lesson is loosely based on the chapter More and More Animals, from my book Dance, Turn, Hop, Learn! Enriching Movement Activities for Preschoolers (Redleaf Press, 2006).  

  Dancing with animals! This photo is from my class at the Otto M. Budig Academy of the Cincinnati Ballet 

Dancing With Animals!

This lesson works best in a large room, such as a gym.
Bring one or two upbeat songs about animals, or lively instrumental music, that the children enjoy.

Begin the lesson with a short Seated Warm Up using the animal theme.  

1.  Boat:   Sit with legs crossed or soles of the feet together and rock from side to side, placing the animal on the floor in the “boat,” giving the animal a “ride.” 

2.  Merry-Go-Round:  Also while sitting, have each child bring their knees to their chest and spin around on their bottoms several times using their arms to propel them.  Then have them spin their animal around the same way. 

3.  Body Part Isolation:  Ask the children to put their animals next to them.  Lead the children in a body part warm up, begininng with the face, then neck, shoulders, arms hands, torso, legs, and feet.  Then ask the children to help their animals do the same thing, moving the parts of the animals as you say them again.

For the remainder of the seated warm up, ask the children to have their animals next to them to "watch." 

1.  Upside-Down Bug:  While lying on the back, move the arms and legs in the air.

2.  Cobra: Lying face down, lift head and chest by pushing up on the hands.  Slowly lower the head and chest to the ground.

3.  Lizard Crawl:  Lying face down, bend one leg up and to the side, then use the arm and bent leg on that side to propel the body forward.  Repeat to the other side, and continue moving forward by alternating sides.

4.  Kitty-Cat:  While on hands and knees, arch and curve the back.

4.  Down-Dog Position:  Face downwards with the weight on the hands and feet, the legs straight and the seat in the air.

5.  Bring the Children to Standing: From the Down Dog position, walk the hands back to the feet, bend the knees, and slowly stand up by uncurling the back.

 Large Motor Skills Practice:

For the large motor skills practice, ask the children to line up on one side of the room, carrying their animals while they move across the floor: 

1.  March Can you march, stamping your feet like a great big dinosaur?

2.  Tiptoe Walk:  Can you tiptoe quietly like a mouse?

3.  Prance:  Prance like a proud horse!

4.  Gallop:  Gallop like a zebra!

5.  Run:  Can you run quickly and quietly like a leopard, or a cheetah?

6.  Jump: First, let’s all jump up and down while we are holding our animals. Now, standing still, let’s throw the animals up in the air and catch them, so they can “jump” too!

Animal Dance

1.  Dance For the Animals:   Line the animals up against a wall of the room, telling the children the animals will be the “audience.”  Then, ask each child to take turns leading the class, moving like his or her stuffed animal would move if it were a real animal.  Play one of your musical selections. Continue this activity until every child that wants to has had a chance to lead the class.

2.  Dance With the Animals:  Now have the children pick up their animals.  Suggest to them that they are going to do a good-bye dance with their animals.  Prompt them to find as many ways to dance with their animals as they can, using many different movements.  Play another musical selection for this activity.

Good-Bye Circle

Have the children bring their animals into the closing circle.  Tell them:  Hold your animal in your hands away from your body, and as you bow, have your animal bow toward you!

Keep on Dancin',


Moving is Learning!

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