Sunday, January 22, 2012

Creative Movement in the Classroom -- Tips for Teachers!

Hello EC Community,

I wish you the best as the new year of 2012 unfolds!  In my last blog post, I offered a complete movement lesson inspired by the many fun and adventurous aspects of the winter season.  I hope you have had a chance to try out some or all of these ideas with the children in your care.  

I think that now would be a good time to give you some helpful ideas for getting the most out of your movement sessions, both from the classroom management side, and  to maximize the children's enrichment and enjoyment.  Below are some tried and true suggestions that I have gleaned from my many years of dancing with children.

Tips for Teachers for 
Introducing Creative Movement Activities

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 (“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 if the teacher gives permission.  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 stop sign, a picture of a red light, a puppet, 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: dancing while the music is playing, and freezing 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.


Incorporating Movement into the Daily Routine

Introduce movement activities gradually, so that the children learn to move together and become comfortable with the guidelines you have set.  A short activity such as a greeting or circle time dance can serve to familiarize the children with the expectations of a movement session.  Repetition of the activity is another way to accomplish this, so that moving together becomes a routine and fun part of the day.  Children will develop favorite activities, and will also want to add imaginative variations to them.  Inviting and incorporating these variations will not only give children ownership of the activity, it will make it a more creative and enriching movement exploration.

Another idea that can help make movement a comfortable and fun experience is to begin with very familiar music, such as a classroom favorite song or instrumental selection.  Devise simple movements (or let the children contribute ideas), and then repeat and expand this every day.  Once you have done this, you are ready to move on to other activities.

The most important tip about movement is that it provides a new avenue for learning.  Children learn by doing, and movement is a fun and accessible way for children to learn concepts kinesthetically.  Using playful and enriching movement activities in your early childhood environment can open up new and enjoyable opportunities for learning.  Allow the movement explorations to evolve as children contribute suggestions and ideas, and you all will be rewarded with a rich movement adventure.

Keep on dancin',


More detailed information on the benefits of movement, tips for teachers, and creative ideas for the classroom, is available in my March, 2010 article in NAEYC's Young Children
magazine, which was reprinted in the August, 2010 Spotlight on Teaching Preschoolers 2.  You may access this and other articles at my website:


  1. Connie!!!! I think that these specific suggestions will be so helpful + supportive for teachers as they explore movement activities -- just a stretch out of their comfort zone. Thanks for being so specific.

  2. Great ideas, Connie! I always enjoyed teaching creative movement at "circle time." I decided I needed a separate Creative Movement Pinterest board, so I created one and pinned your post at

  3. Thank you so much, Deb -- I have been on the road and didn't have the chance to respond to your comment. I really appreciate it!


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