Planning for Christmas activities in your classroom need not involve buying or preparing lots of new resources. Children’s bodies are a wonderful resource of their own and Christmas dance activities capture the joyful nature of the season.
Christmas dance activities are also an opportunity to learn new artistic and movement skills, practice ones that may have covered throughout the year or identify challenges that may need to be the focus for the New Year. As with all learning activities the focus should be on the outcomes even when the children are having Christmas fun!
The see it, hear it, do it, feel it approach works well in the dance education classroom. Movement allows the body to teach the child not just physical capabilities but through neural networks and sensory learning.
Dance activities that involve increasing children’s memory capacity, improving focus or even their coordination capabilities are important, but now could be the time to engage the children’s creativity and pinpoint dance curriculum specific learning.
There are many themes around Christmas that can support learning about the dances in other times and cultures. You could do a Christmas Past, Present and Future as a starting point for Christmas dance activities. Or perhaps investigate the Christmas dances from other countries. I always loved to do an dance activity about the making of The Magic Pudding, but that’s a topic for another article!
The following Christmas dance activities are great for a range of age groups and can be made as simple or as complex as you think appropriate. All of the dance games can be done by homeschoolers or by online deliver as well as in classrooms.
A very Aussie Christmas
This Christmas activity could be used as a warm up or a Brain break or alternatively as a beginning for exploring ideas about contrast. Begin by discussing how an Australian Christmas may be different from other countries?
Create a comparison chart with ‘Different From…’ and “Similar to…’. This chart could be about the celebration in Australia in comparison to another country and may consider climate, religion, size of population as well as artistic ways of engaging in the festive season.
It is important that children see that within each country there is no one way that people celebrate the season. For older children this may be an interesting research topic.
These are some dance movement ideas for this theme:
- skiing (skiing movements on the spot in a medium level squat),
- chopping down trees (cross body movements with two hands),
- reaching to put the star on the top of the tree (rising on your toes and reaching up high with both hands),
- Santa surfing (leg wide apart moving the upper body with arms out wide),
- walking over hot sand (running with knees high on your toes),
- Christmas tree pose (two hands above head in a pointed shape with feet together, hold this pose for a while)
- reindeer pose (elbows bent slightly with fingers wide for antlers, in a wide lunge with one foot forward, hold this pose for a while),
- leaping reindeer (big leaps across the room)
Try all these movements first and let the children explore their ideas about new phrases and movements. Then the teacher says either ‘Christmas’ or ‘Aussie Christmas’ if it is Aussie Christmas, they can only do the movements that they think are unique to Australia.
Christmas Tree Dance Relay
This is a fun warm up activity that looks at push and pull and how we can travel these movements through the space. It also is an opportunity for the children to explore floor pattern and direction.
Two teams with half at each end of a pathway (using tinsel on the floor to designate the pathway) in a relay set up. The pathway is the same for both teams, changing the course after every time you run the complete relay, from either curved or angular or a combination of both.
The children imagine they have cut down a big Christmas tree and must move it to the end of the course where their team member is waiting to take over. The children must use one of three movements. Rehearse these movements before you ‘run’ the relay, ensuring they using the correct dynamic for a heavy weight.
- push (big lunges moving forward with strong pushing arms),
- pull (travelling backwards or sideways dragging the arms across the body),
- roll the tree (small quick running and pushing movements with curved arms)
The teacher makes the call about which movement each person will use as they travel through the tinsel pathway. Try to do the complete relay three times so each child can have a different action each time.
In this movement activity children practice their balancing skills but also explore different pathways for choreographing their own travelling movements. The sensory component of the bare feet on the tinsel is helpful for laying down neural pathways.
In bare feet, walk along a line of tinsel travelling forwards, sideways and backwards. Make sure when travelling and balancing that there is someone close-by to catch any children who may overbalance. One child at time on the tinsel will keep this activity safe for younger children.
Two lines of tinsel spaced a step length apart and cross walk using alternate feet on the opposite side.
Try with all these directional activities to create a range of patterns for them to travel in. Curved and angular as well as a combination of both. You may even want to put it in the shape of a Christmas tree with branches out the sides that they travel forwards and then backwards to the trunk of the tree.
Over the next few weeks, you may choose to play all of these games and then in small groups get the children to make up a dance using the movements from the various games. You can make choreographic parameters that could include using every movement that you have used when playing the games or pick only one from each game. These limitations will depend on the age and ability of the child.
Children can perform the dance as a group or as individuals. If performing as individuals, you could film it and present it to the parents as an end of year present.
These are just some the wonderful movement activities possible that celebrate the Christmas season while engaging children in creative and beneficial dance learning. Over the next few weeks DTI will have more fun ideas for the Christmas classroom.