Planning for creative dance for Kindergarten children it is often in two different forms. One is a ‘follow me’ kind of dance activity and the other is improvising movement to a theme or in response to a teacher-led narrative.
Both kinds of dance activities are easy for the children to follow and engage in. They are adaptable to suit the concentration of the child or children you are working with. Keeping younger children interested and moving with you, is the most important consideration when planning a creative dance lesson for Kindergarten.
Little children love to move, and many will improvise happily with not too much stimulus. Others, however, need an example to confirm that they are on the right track. This is where it is important for the teacher to move with them.
Seeing their teacher moving, imagining, and having fun gives them permission to join in. You often find children stopping to watch you before they start. This is important because you need to put aside your own self consciousness and have fun exploring your own movement potential.
If the teacher is trying new ways of moving, no matter how bizarre it may feel, children observe that you value an active and energetic imagination.
Another essential part of the Kindergarten creative dance lesson is safety. Making sure you have adequate room for children to move, whether that is inside or outside, is important for physical safety. Space to move safely also provides a greater freedom for children to explore a range of movement; large, travelling movements as well as small, controlled movements and everything in between.
As with any physical activity it is important to have a Warm up as a part of the activity. This may be physical and/or mental. It acts to bring them into their physical self, becoming aware of themselves and others in the space.
The Warm up also helps children to focus on the learning experience by adding structure and grouping them together in unison. Children develop an awareness of each other, moving together, interacting without words, learning the ‘rules’ and expectations of a dance lesson through modeling behaviour.
Warm up ideas for your creative dance lessons
Try to begin each lesson by talking about personal space. You might like to refer to it as a ‘space bubble’ that is around each child to ensure they keep a safe distance from each other. Alternatively place crosses on the floor or ‘spot mats’ so they can determine ‘where is my spot’.
I put a safety switch into each class by having a magic ’stop’ word for the children to freeze. Make the word something that fits with the theme of the lesson. For example, the lesson could be about animals and you might use ‘predator’ to freeze the action in the room.
A ‘go’ word is also good to have embedded in the ‘rules’ of the class. This might be used to start children walking. Ask them to show you how they walk to show they are strong enough to control their body.
Are we watching who else in the room can be in control of their own bodies?
Warmups for littlies could be as simple as jiggling. Ask the question ‘jiggle my what?’. You can name different parts of the body. Have the children say them out loud; shoulders, hands, hips, feet (rise and lower), head (rock or turn side to side).
Then get them to stop and hold. They follow the teacher to make the same shape that should include balancing on two and/or one leg, tipping over at the side in a side bend or stretching a leg out at the back with the arms in an aeroplane shape.
Follow these activities with a quick movement section of the warmup with jumping for joy (jump on your own spot in a joyful shape), moving quickly between a giraffe and a turtle (big stretch to small and curved low level shape).
Warm ups are fun to do and will prepare the children for what you are going to do next in the creative dance lesson.
Creative dance activities for Kindergarten
This dance activity begins with a fine motor and sensory motor activity while building a Dinosaur garden. Use plastic lunch bags to colour some rice with few drops of food colouring and a little vinegar. The children massage the bags with their hands to spread the colour throughout the rice. This rice is then placed in a container to use as the base for your Dinosaur garden.
Using plastic dinosaurs, rocks, and plants collected from outside, build a dinosaur garden. The children then explore this new world and experiment with words to describe around how the different dinosaurs might move through the space.
What makes you think this one may fly?
How would this dinosaur move in the water?
Is this a dinosaur that might walk or run?
Do think it would walk heavily or softly?
Do you think how heavy it is might change how fast or slowly it moved?
Explore these different movements to some Cool Dinosaur Music. They can pretend to be one of the dinosaurs they have in their garden or you can create a narrative. It is important for the teacher to model some movement during this activity.
Your narrative could explore a particular pathway. Thinks about the terrain that could make them move not just on high and low levels but zigzagged, straight or curved pathways. They may need to negotiate moving in a small space to find their way through an imagined landscape.
You may choose to have the children who are being large dinosaurs move first and then pause while a second group of smaller dinosaurs or ones that fly or swim move together. This ‘organic’ way of grouping gives the children time to watch each other and to practice taking turns.
Using different types of music, one for big slow dinosaurs and one for small quick dinosaurs will assist in stimulating contrasting movement qualities in the children. It is always good to have children use a movement quality that may be different from what they would usually choose.
By exploring different energy qualities children learn to experiment with their own bodies which leads to them having control over their own movements.
Beat the drum
This movement story encourages children to use their muscles with strength without the aid of aid of objects to supply resistance or weight. Their imagined world creates the movements, engaging the muscles of the arms legs, torso, hands, and jaw.
The drumbeat is the call to action and may be used throughout this improvised dance activity. It is also useful to replay this music if you want the children to move with strength at other times as they will remember the in-body experience.
1.Warming up the arms and the legs. You are going to call an animal out of its cage by beating a special drum beat. To beat the drum you have to beat hard and strong and then change to soft and gentle. Beat your drum up high and beat your drum down low. To make some more drumming noises stamp your feet at the same time.
What kind of animal do you think you have called?
You have called a huge silver back Gorilla. The teacher may like to choose a different animal, but we need strong, powerful movements that use arms and legs. Show pictures so the children can really imagine themselves as the Gorilla.
- You are now a huge silver back Gorilla escaping from your cage. Using heavy movements to really wake up the muscles; push, pull, carry, throw, reaching high to push, growling faces and clenching jaws. You need to use your legs, arms, torso, hands and jaw. Squeeze your hands around the bars and pull them apart poking your face through bars.
- Now you are free you need to dance for joy. Move all your body freely with no weight or resistance. When the drum beat stops you are suddenly frozen in time. Try not to move any part of your body, not even your eyes or your mouth.
This is a great time to take a photo!
Centring and settling children at the end of a lesson is important for the smooth running of any activity that may follow. The dance activities build children’s excitement levels to a crescendo and relaxation is important to bring them back down to earth.
Anything relaxing is appropriate. Slow movements, deep breathing, or consciously relaxing through mindfulness help them to bring their heart rate down and their concentration in.
Concentrating on something is a great place to start. This could be a visualization, with closed eyes, about how parts of their body move slowly.
Stretching to explore the range and strength of movement is always good for children who struggle to close their eyes.
Self-expression through dance helps to develop physical, mental, creative and social skills in Kindergarten children.
These are a few samples of how a dance activity may look in a Kindergarten, but there are many alternative lesson structures. Using ‘follow me’ and improvised narratives encourages child to play with creativity and movement. Here are some other examples of free dance lesson plans for younger children.
These suggestions can be a springboard for your own dance activities and assist with developing creative dance as an essential part of your Kindergarten program.