Musical play holds a special role in the early childhood classroom as well as in the home. Even as adults we remember the music and action songs of our childhood and often pass them down through the generations.
Now research has shown that this is not just fun but a way of preparing our young children for learning. Through dance, singing and movement we can support our early childhood students in a successful transition to ‘big school’.
Dance as a part of a successful transition to school
When we think of school readiness, we often think of social development and cognitive ability. However, physical and emotional development is also shaped through these early childhood learning experiences.
Often a child’s personality is expressed through their physical selves, sometimes because of their inability to express their emotions verbally. Managing feeling, expressing thoughts and emotions, and negotiating relationships and self-motivation are all need to be nurtured during this time.
It is important to acknowledge that early childhood learning experiences are highly influential on a child’s future development.
Turning movement into dance provides the child with sensory and creative skills as well as perceptual and emotion experiences. It assists students in learning about self-control, restraint and delayed gratification as they explore, create, rehearse and perform.
Rhythmic dance movement in the early childhood classroom
Recent research carried out in Queensland shows that using movement is an effective way of developing emotional, cognitive and behavioural processes in Kindergarten children. By developing a series coordinated rhythmic movement activities, Associate Professor Kate Williams showed that children’s motor, auditory, and self-regulatory functioning could be enhanced. Look here for an example of these early childhood classes.
This is particularly valuable as many children in these early childhood learning situations struggle to maintain concentration. This lack of self-regulation has been linked to gaps in school readiness and achievement in later years.
Given that music activities already exist as a prominent part of early childhood programs, implementing dance through rhythmic movement is not difficult.
A fun dance activity for Kindergarten children
Listening to the music and responding in an appropriate rhythm can be a simple starting point.
Movements include stomping/marching, skipping, running, galloping. Try finding music with a strong beat that really encourages the different dynamics of each movement.
By making the activity a little more complex you can make the children shift their concentration. Try clapping to a slower rhythm while running on the spot with your legs. Then reverse it by clapping in a running rhythm and marching with your legs.
This is only one example of a movement activity for this age group. Here are some further ideas for creative dance in your early childhood classroom.
Using dance in your early childhood program
Implementing a dance program can be a daily part of your music activities or a movement break between other learning activities.
In a recent interview Associate Professor Williams says, “The aim is for regular sessions to be introduced into daily activities of young children to help support their attentional and emotional regulation skills, inhibition and working memory. We want all early childhood teachers to feel confident to run these fun and important activities.”
The connection between exercise and cognition has been researched in various age groups for many years. Introduce dance to your early childhood program as a critical foundation for students behavioural and emotional self-regulation for transitioning to school.