I enjoy taking a simple preschool concept and making a dance activity around it. I have done that here with the concept of "up and down" (Or more specifically, levels in space: low, high, and everything in between). Using this theme, I have created a classroom movement lesson, beginning with warm ups and finishing with a very lively group activity.
A 30-45 Minute Themed Movement Activity
You will need:
A gym or large, open indoor space
Materials: 1 balloon per child (all the same color, if possible!)
Music: 2 lively selections, such as Joplin ragtime instrumentals, or any classroom favorite
Dance and Freeze
Start with a freeze game. Play one of the musical selections and ask the children to dance freely to the music. Stop the music and ask them to freeze in in a high shape. Continue this, alternating with high, medium, and low shapes. Finish by asking them to make a high shape on their tiptoes and try to balance.
Take five counts to go down to the floor. Then five to stand up. Then down in four counts, and up in four counts. Repeat until the children are going up and down in one count. Finish on the floor.
Sit with legs straight out in front. Flex and point feet. Then try the same thing lying down with feet in the air.
Stay lying down. Imagine riding an upside-down bicycle.
Turn over and come to all-fours. Arch and curve back ("Cat and Cow" stretch).
Squat and imagine you are a rubber band. Stretch slowly to standing, reach further, and pop, going back to the ground. Repeat several times, finishing standing.
Bend knees and stretch legs. (Stand with legs straight and feet parallel to each other, about hip-width apart. Bend knees with heels staying in contact with the floor, then stretch back to beginning position. These are called pliés and are the basis for all standing and locomotor movement). Repeat about 8 times.
Do the same thing, but this time go from bent knees (with heels down) to tiptoes. Repeat 8 times and finish on tiptoe, trying to balance.
Bend and jump: Same kind of bend, this time going up into the air. Landing should be with heels down. Try 4, rest, then try 4 more.
Bend and jump in funny shapes: Once the children are landing correctly, try 4 jumps making funny shapes in the air.
Large Motor Skills
Try these different movements across the floor and back:
March: Try with arms swinging, then again, holding arms overhead and clapping in time with the marches.
Tiptoe Walk (Challenge the children to try to walk on tiptoe without bending their knees)
Sideways Gallops (also called slides, or chassés)
Skips (If the children are older 4's, 5, and 6)
Runs (Dance runs are quiet, keeping the body weight lifted. I call them "Hurry Up and Be Quiet" runs)
"UP and DOWN" Balloon Dance
Ask the children, How long do you think you could keep a balloon dancing in the air? I will give you each a balloon -- remember not to put it near your mouth -- and you try to see how long you can keep the balloon dancing without letting it touch the floor.
If you have a large group of children, you might want to do this in two or three smaller groups, as the children will be moving around quite a lot. Play a selection of upbeat music while the children are performing the activity.
Follow-up activity: Try the same exercise with two children sharing one balloon, keeping it in the air by working together.