Thursday, December 16, 2010

Guided Mediation Is Not Just About Finding Your Happy Place

Have you ever led your class/children through a guided meditation?  The benefits of even a quick few minutes of guided meditation or relaxation is super beneficial for them and you.

Guided Relaxation Exercise
Give these directions: Lie down on the floor and close your eyes.  Put your hands on your belly and rest them there.  Now slowly breath in and out through your nose.  As you breath feel your hands resting on your belly.  Don't answer my question out loud but only to yourself - can you feel if your hands are rising and sinking on your belly with each breath?  Notice how your shirt feels under your hands.  Is it soft, rough, thin, thick?  Breath in and out at your own pace  Now feel your body sinking into the floor.  With each breath that you take feel if you can sink further into the floor.  Feel as if your body is getting heavier and heavier.    Imagine yourself lying on your favorite blanket.  It is soft, warm and cozy.  What color is this blanket?  Does it have a pattern on it like stripes or hearts?  Is it big and squishy or light and thin?  Feel as if your blanket is giving you a warm hug.  Now notice your hands again on your belly.  Can you feel your belly moving up and down?  Take another deep breath in and out.  Take your attention back to the room.  Do you hear any noises from the hallway or outside?  Start to prepare for our relaxation time to be over.  Slowly move your legs in and out.  Reach your arms over your head and do a big stretch.  Make a big yawn sound.  Slowly open your eyes and when you are ready come to standing.

Here are just a few of the many benefits of this exercise: 

Visualization is a powerful tool to focus the mind on one specific idea.  If you are seeing the color of your imaginary blanket then you are not thinking about what you are having for dinner.  Closing your eyes helps further take away any distractions.  At first it might be hard for some children to close their eyes.  If this is the case, you might want them to lie on their stomachs so they can not move their head around.

Connecting to Breath
By focusing on calm breathing, inhaling and exhaling, children can feel how their lungs expand and contract, how their bellies move up and down and how the air is drawn in and pushed out through their noses. They can feel how their breathing effects their bodies.  It gives them a sense of body awareness.

When the body and mind have a chance to reconnect it can be very peaceful.  The children are not being asked to do anything except be, breath and focus on your voice.  It is a time to take a break from all the stimulation of the outside world.  This is also a great tool to use to transition from a very active activity to a quiet activity because you are giving the children a chance to change focus and pace.

You might find that guiding the meditation is very peaceful and relaxing for you to.  I always do!  Let me know if you try this out and how your students/kids respond!

Have fun reconnecting with the children in your life!


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Jingle Bells

This winter song is great to sing with little ones.  The chorus is easy to sing and repeat!

Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O'er the fields we go
Laughing all the way
Bells on bob tails ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to laugh and sing
A sleighing song tonight

Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh
Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh.

Have the class come up with a gesture or movement they can repeat every time they sing "jingle." Let them free dance to the song and listen for the "jingle" word. Can they do the gesture in high, middle and low level? Can they travel with the gesture? Can they do the gesture looking at a friend?  (Maybe the gesture is opening and closing their hands, or raising and lowering their shoulders, or shaking their leg.)  Whatever it is explore all the ways your class can jingle!!

For a more advanced challenge try it to Jingle Bell Rock!

Have fun jingling with the children in your life!!


Monday, November 29, 2010

Festival of Dancing Lights

Thanksgiving is gone and the winter holidays are right around the corner - literally.  Chanukah starts this Wednesday night and lasts for 8 days.  Here are a few Chanukah movement activities you might like to try  with your students and children to bring the festival of lights to life!

A fun exploration of Chanukah
The story of Mama mouse and her little children discovering the tastes and sightsof Chanukah in the book Hanukkah Mice by Ronne Randall  is an easy introduction to different ways families celebrate this holiday.  I love reading this book to my classes.  After we read the book we explore some of the themes through movement.

Melting Candles Slowly Burning Bright
The mice are looking for the Chanukah lights and at the end of the book they find all the candles burning bright. Pick one child to be the first Chanukah candle.  Ask the child to stand nice and tall as you "light" her.  Ask your student to dance bright and glow in her spot and then slowly melt down to the floor.  Next, this child should pick a student to be the second Chanukah candle.  "Light" them both and watch as they dance and glow in their spot and slowly melt to the ground.  Repeat this until all eight candles are burning bright.   (This is a great activity to focus on moving slowly because melting candles take their time!)

Information about the candles:
There are 8 candles along with the Shamas, or helper candle.  This candle is usually placed in the middle of the menorah and lights all the other candles ( which would be the teacher in this activity).  The 8 candles represent the 8 nights of Chanukah.  On the first night you light one candle with the Shamas, on the second night 2, etc.  Each night you light the newest candle first.  The candles are put in the menorah from right to left.

Whirling Dreidels Quickly Spin 
What is the opposite of a melting candle?  A dancing dreidel spinning fast as can be!  If you don't have a dreidel you can pick one up in most pharmacies or grocery stores for very little.  It is a spinning top.  And you spin it to win chocolate coins.  I don't teach the game to the students even though it is a lot of fun.  What we focus on is the action of the dreidel.  It spins uncontrollably and then stops.  Completely the opposite of the candles in the menorah.  It is very hard to spin and then stop.  It takes great muscle control and concentration.

Spin the dreidel for the children.  Ask them what they see.  Have a child demonstrate .  Focus the classes attention on the start and stop of the activity.  At first have them start and stop to the sound of a tambourine or your voice.  Ask them how it feels to spin like a dreidel.  How is it different then moving like a melting candle?

Candles and Dreidels Dancing together
Put on some music. (Klezmier music for this is fun!)  Have the children dance around anyway they like.  Then yell out candle or dreidel and see if they can put the slow melty feeling in their bodies or the fast spinning energy of the dreidel.  Remember, they can choose to put the energy into their entire body or maybe just one body part.  Can one body part be a candle while the other is dreidel?  Which do they like to do better ( slowly melting or spinning fast) and why?  You might learn a lot about your students/children by what the choose and why!

Have fun exploring some fun ideas about Chanukah with the children in your life!


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Great White Way

I love getting together with my family for Thanksgiving.  The turkey, the stuffing, and the dancing!  Yes, I know that dancing might not seem as traditional as cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie but it is!  As a child, I used to wake up early and put on the Thanksgiving day parade and watch the first hour without moving from my seat (usually 3 feet from the little TV in the kitchen so my mom and I could watch it together.)  The first hour would feature all the new Broadway shows and rain or shine the performers would be singing and dancing their hearts out. And don't forget the Rockettes!  It was fantastic!

I now watch the parade with my daughter and my mom. It is a dance experience we can share together.

So, if you are by a TV at 9:00am Thanksgiving Day, turn it on and share with a child the magic of Broadway!  (Of course, children of all ages are welcome!)  And encourage your students' parents to check it out as well!

Have fun planning your own special Thanksgiving dance traditions with the children in your life!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dancing in Tight Spaces

When I was student teaching in the Bronx, I had almost 30 children in a small classroom.  I remember standing on a chair in front of the class to teach dance and I had the children copy my movements.  I did not know what else to do.  I did not want anyone getting hurt by moving in a such a crowded room and since I am a little over 5 feet, I wanted everyone to see me as well. 

I know that crowded classrooms/studios/spaces can be quite a challenge.  Here are some ideas to help manage space issues.

Dancing in tight spaces:
  1. Go outside.  Make your own boundaries with cones so the dance space is clear.  You can make the space as big or as small as you want!
  2. Dance in groups.  Switch off doing the activity.  One group watches and one group moves.  Make sure the group that is watching has an assignment.  (Watch for 3 traveling steps, look for level changes, etc. so the kids are still active participants.)
  3. Create one big circle.  Have the kids sit in a circle and call various children to come in and out of the circle. 
  4. Line the children in rows of 4 or 5 and have the children practice their gross motor skills traveling through the space a few at a time.  Have the kids "tag" the next group to go.
  5. Practice, practice, practice moving together.  First walk through the space.  Move close to each other without touching.  Move as far away from each other without touching.  Try it in different levels and ways of locomoting.  The more you practice the easier it will get.
  6. Use painter's tape to make lines, curves and angles on the floor.  Have the children dance on the shapes.  Have the groups shift from one shape to the next.
  7. Create a dance where the kids don't leave their spots.  This can be a great exploration of the space directly around them.  Then have some kids dance through the space while others continue to dance in their spots.  Take turns.
  8. Make a chair dance.  How many ways can you move while seated in a chair? Can you use your legs, elbows, heads, knees, feet, backs, arms, etc.? 
  9. Use all of the above to vary the use of space in the room.
As a new teacher, I was so nervous about the kids getting wild and bumping into each other but we never practiced how to move safely together.  You will be amazed how the kids will become very aware of their boundaries.  Exploring your space and movement possibilities will lead to new dance experiences for you and your students/kids.  Moms - I know it is really hard to move around in a tight living room as well.  These ideas are for you too!

Have fun exploring tight spaces with the children in your life!


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Chicken Soup is a Tasty Dance Lesson!

I love chicken soup.  It just tastes good.  It is soothing, comforting and always makes me feel better when I am under the weather.  It is simple to make.  Start with water. Add a bunch of different vegetables, some chicken, a handful of parsley and a pinch or a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  My sister adds garlic and leeks.  Some people add noodles.  I prefer matzo balls.  My daughter likes the broth and the matzo balls.  I love eating the parsnips and onions.  Everyone eats what they like.  The point is a little bit of this and a little bit of that added together makes for a great soup.  And can make for a great dance lesson too!

Chicken Soup Dance
Tell your class that they are going to make chicken soup but you forgot the recipe.  Have them stand in a circle (which will be the pot.) Go around the circle and one at a time ask each student to name some food to throw into the pot.  (The sillier the better - you might wind up with a chicken, pizza, peanut butter, rhinoceros soup -yum!)  When a student throws, tosses, drops, sprinkles, etc the ingredient in have her be specific about the movement.  Then have the class stir the soup with different body parts.  At some point you might need to turn up the heat and have the soup boil or turn down the heat and have the soup simmer!  Have the class use their imaginations.  When the soup is ready make sure each child gets a bowl full.  Drink it up and let the " dance" soup takes hold!

This activity is great for class participation, body part recognition and isolation and well as creativity and expression.  Also great for adding in lots and lots of action words!! 

For added fun make "recipe" cards for the kids to take home so they can make their own dance soup with their families.

Dance Soup

  1.  pour 3 cups of water with your elbows
  2.  slice 2 bunches of carrots with arms
  3. throw in 4 handfuls of noodles with your knees
  4. Stir with your hips
  5. Toss with your toes
  6. Boil with your body
  7. And simmer with your shoulders
Slurp, sip, gulp.  Get ready to dance!

Have fun cooking up some dance fun with the kids in your life!


PS.  Check out  Stone Soup by Marcia Brown

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Halloween Treat

Happy Halloween to all those trick and treaters!  As a lovely treat I would like to share with you a fun music video created by my friends Steve Blunt (children's singer/ songwriter) and Deb Mendonca Cote (

Check out "Pumpkins Beware":

Use Halloween as motivation to create your own dance video.  All you need is a favorite Halloween song, a video camera and space to dance.  Explore some action words from a favorite pumpkin song or book.

Excerpt from the song "Pumpkins Beware" by Steve Blunt:
Pumpkins beware it's Halloween
Cling to the vines and don't be seen
if a human comes for you
your happy pumpkin days are through!

Excerpt of the book Five Pesky Pumpkins by Marcia Vaughan

One worried pumpkin
All alone tonight.
Out jump the others..."BOO!"
And give her such a fright!
Five Pesky Pumpkins: A Counting Book with Flaps and Pop-Ups!
Remember when creating any kind of dance always have a:
  • Beginning (opening shape, entrance, etc.)
  • Middle (maybe a specific way to travel around the space or the children's favorite movements)
  • End (ending shape, exit, etc.)
That's it.  Kids love to watch themselves on camera and it gives them a different perspective on how they move.  Believe me, once they start creating it will be hard to get them to stop. 

Have fun creating dances with the children in your life!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Performance Magic!

When my daughter was little she loved to put on dance shows for me.  We had a brick fireplace that was her stage.  She would run out of the room (or backstage) for costume changes and she would even pretend to come out at the end of the show and do a "meet and greet" with the audience (me and my husband.)

Her understanding of dance as a performance came from us taking her to see dance shows.  I am not talking about Broadway but whatever local dance company or school was performing, sometimes in the park or in a theatre or high school auditorium.  When my husband and I would take her, I would explain that we were paying money to buy tickets.  The tickets were to prove we paid so we could go in and out of the theatre.  The programs that we got told us who was performing, who worked on the show and gave us information about the performance.  I would take her up to the stage, if it was accessible, and have her touch it.  I would point out musicians in the pit, if we were fortunate to go to show with live musicians.  And if there were ushers, she would learn how they make sure everyone is in the right seat.

Any opportunity to meet the performers was always pure gold.  I would point out the costumes, hair and makeup.  I would let her know they are people like me and her.  They practiced often, possibly auditioned and put time, energy and love into their performance.  I loved her look of pure awe, mouth open, eyes wide whispering her questions to me.

Her shows at home were filled with all of these elements.  She would make us "pay"  for tickets at her make-shift box office.  She would show us to our seats and even "sell" us concessions at intermission.  My favorite part of her shows were her ""meet and greet" after.  The way she held out her hand to shake ours.  Her declaring that she was one of the performers and asking if I had any questions.

She is 7 now and she is still in awe when we go to shows.  It is a very special time we share waiting for the lights to go down, the music to begin and the curtain to open.  We hold hands, and giggle.  This live performance can't be rewound, paused or recorded to watch later.  We are experiencing a moment together that we will share in our memories forever.

I encourage everyone to take a child to see a live show.  So much can be learned about dance and the art of creating.  And it is pure magic!

Have fun seeing a live show with a child in your life!


Monday, October 11, 2010

Falling Down, Sideways, and All Around

Here in  the northeast the leaves on the trees are vibrant, colorful and awesome!!  And when the wind blows I get to witness a dance of colors cascading down to the ground.  See if you can bring the outside in with this autumn inspired activity (or do the activity outside and join the leaves!)

The week prior to the activity ask the children to observe the leaves on the trees and how they fall to the ground. Ask them to wear autumn inspired colors for the activity (orange, red, yellow, brown, etc.)  

Have the children share there week's observations with you.   How many different ways did the leaves fall to the ground? Write down all of their descriptive words.

 How many different ways can they fall to the ground? 

The children at first will probably fling themselves onto the floor.  After they have explored this way of falling ask them to show you the opposite way of falling. 
  • Can you fall slowly?
  • Can you fall leading with your elbow?
  • Can your fall take you all the way around the room?
  • Can you fall softly?
  • Can you fall with a partner?
  • Can the entire class fall together?
  • Can you fall in a scattered pattern through the class or in a big cluster?
After they have explored all the various ways they can fall, have them describe their experiences to you.  Now see if the class can create a poem with the words.  Read the poem out loud and have them dance to the poem.

This activity works on observation skills, sharing ideas, collaboration and creativity.

Have fun falling with the children in your life!


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Back on the Road Again

I am glad to say hello again!  Thank you for all the well wishes!  I am on the road to a full recovery after my recent neck surgery.  Wow - it is amazing what the neck does and how it affects the rest of the body!!

Did you know that an adult human head ways about 10 pounds?

No wonder our necks and backs get sore!  That's a lot of weight to carry on our thin necks! 

Now think about children writing at their desks all day.  No wonder you see so many of them with their heads down or slouched.  Did you ever say to a child "sit up straight?"  I know I have.  But I never thought about how tired their backs and necks might be.

Some exercises to strengthen those back and neck muscles:
  1. Wall Push-ups - similar to regular push-ups but do it standing leaning against a wall.  Most young kids don't have the strength for regular push-ups, and  it is important not to practice poor technique or form.
  2. Plank- Have your students hold their bodies in "push-up" position on the floor and hold it for ten seconds.  Make sure their ears stay over their shoulders and their heads don't drop down.   Their backs should be nice and straight.
  3. Rows- Sing  the "row, row, row your boat" song while sitting on the floor or in chairs.  Row your arms in circles with a nice straight back.  Go forward, go backward, do alternating arms.
These three easy activities will strengthen the students/children's arms, backs and chests and will enable them to sit without their heavy heads toppling to their desks.  And make sure they get a break because muscles can't work when they are tired.  A runner can't run 24/7 and children and adults can't sit all day.  Muscles work better when they are rested.  This doesn't mean lie down and snooze but get up and work different muscles.

Try a new way of sitting:
  1. Wall Squats - have the children lean against the wall and slowly slide down until their legs are at 90 degree angles.  See how long they can hold themselves in this position.  What a leg workout!  Those legs need some activation so they don't get to sleepy sitting!
  2. Back to Back Standing - Have two children sit back to back on the floor.  Ask them to press their backs together and stand.  They really have to engage those leg and stomach muscles.
Teachers, parents and dance educators - try these exercises and see if it brings new life to your students/ children's ability to sit and stand with their heads held high.

Have fun strengthening the muscles that support your neck with the children in your life!


Monday, August 2, 2010

A personal note...and WATER BALLOONS

Hello Fabulous Leaping Legs Readers,
I hope your summer has been filled with adventure, relaxation, observations and explorations.  I, unfortuntaley, have been struggling with two bulging discs in my neck which will require surgery this month.  I am expected to have a full recovery, with no movement restrictions. 

As typing is painful, I will be taking a small hiatus from the blog and will be back to sharing with you hopefully sometime in September.

I will leave this posting with a fun summer activity: water balloons! Great to cool off in the summer - and to work on eye hand coordination as well as the dynamics of weight and effort. 
  1. Stand facing a partner.  Toss the water balloon back and forth to each other.  Each successful catch earns the team one step backwards to make the distance longer!  Feel the weight when you catch the balloon.  Feel it pull your hands/shoulder down.
  2. Do this activity again with a balloon filled with air.  Can the balloon make a direct path to the partner? How does it feel when you catch the balloon?
Movement is about experiences and observations! After the activity see if your body can soar through the air like a water balloon/air filled balloon.  Does it move fast or slow, straight or curved, does it float, sail, or drop?

Have fun getting wet and experiencing movement with the children in your life!


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

You Don't Need Cake to Celebrate

How do you celebrate your students/children's birthdays?  Do you have a favorite birthday song, game or food?  Do you have a birthday basket to pick out a present or book?  Do you have a family/friend party?

Many schools encourage celebrating without food due to food allergies and concerns about healthy eating.  When my daughter was in preschool she wore a birthday crown that she made at school and a special birthday pin.  In elementary school she gets to pick a book out of the birthday basket and her name is announced over the loud speaker.

Movement Activity- Birthday Wishes
When I celebrate a student's birthday, the class makes a giant cake (a big  seated circle around the birthday child.) The reason I have the children sit is so the class can focus on the special birthday girl/boy.  I "light" each candle, and the children extend their arms overhead and flicker their fingers. We sing "Happy Birthday"  while the birthday child dances to his/her song.  Then with a movement that represents the wind, the birthday child "blows" each candle out.  Each  candle" is blown out and melts to the ground.

Of course, this activity does not only have to take place in school.  Try it at your next birthday celebration and add some movement to the "Happy Birthday" song.  I love to move when I sing, especially when I am trying to hit those stubborn high notes!

Have fun celebrating with movement with the kids in your life!


Monday, July 12, 2010

The Itsy Bitsy Spider Practices Her Fine Motor Skills!

The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the water spout,
down came the rain and washed the spider out,
out came the sun and dried up all the rain,
and the itsy bitsy spider climbed up the spout again.

I am sure most of you have heard this rhyme before.  Most of you probably know the hand gestures that go with the rhyme.  Fingers together, thumb on pointer finger, pointer finger on thumb climbing like a spider.  What is so great about this little dance is that the focus is on fine motor skills.

People usually think of dance as big full body movements.  Fingers can dance too, and it is very important for finger strength and coordination to do so.  The skills involved in little fingers dancing like an itsy bitsy spider are the same in holding a pencil, drawing a straight line and cutting with scissors.

So on a very hot day when jumping around is the last thing you want to do with the little ones in your life, try creating a finger dance.  Not only is it fun but essential for fine motor development.

Some fun finger games:
  1. Where is thumbkin?
  2. Little Bunny Foo Foo
  3. Patty Cake
  4. Open Shut Them
Create your own.  Put music on and see how your fingers can dance, first one finger at a time then one hand at a time, then both hands together!

Have fun dancing with the hands of the little ones in your life!


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Firework Dance Explosion

Fireworks can be a great inspiration for movement.  Most of us will be able to see and, if not see, hear fireworks this weekend.   For some children this is exciting and for others this can be quite scary.  By exposing kids to a kinesthetic firework activity, it can enhance the experience for some and make fireworks more accessible to others.

Ask kids to show you in their bodies these words:
  • Boom
  • Pop,pop,pop
  • Bang
  • Sizzle
  • Crackle
  • Twinkle
  • Flash
  • Sparkle
  • Quiet, calm, still
Now see if you can pick a few and put it in sequence:
  • Boom, crackle, flash, twinkle, twinkle, Bang
  • Pop,pop,pop, sizzle, sizzle, Bang
  • Flash, Sparkle, Twinkle, Boom
  • Twinkle, crackle, Sizzle, quiet, calm, still
Fireworks sail high into the air, explode reaching out far into the space and then fall to the ground.  Can you create a dance sailing, exploding and then falling?  Can you create a dance reaching high, reaching far and wide and reaching toward the ground?

How can you show color through dance?
Can you dance with multiple scarves?  Does each color represent a different step or movement?

Can you show the difference in your body between the two opposites of fireworks loud  and quiet stillness?  Can you be really still and then explode into movement? 

We learn through experiences.  So by children processing fireworks through their bodies and creating their own fireworks show through dance, can help them process the fireworks when they see, hear and smell it on the 4th of July.

Have fun creating firework dances with the children in your life.  What you create might be far more beautiful then what appears in the night sky!


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Water as a Dance Tool

There are some dance concepts that are easier to grasp in summer because you can use sprinklers and pools easily.  Water is a great tool.  I wrote about water in a past post but there is so much more to explore!

High, middle and low level can truly be explored when jumping into a pool.  High level when you jump, your body soaring above the water.  Middle, when you are standing in water, head above, body below.  And low level when you dunk and are submerged.

Tap the water gently. Punch it with great force.  You can clearly see effort and feel it. 
Push the water, pull the water.  You can feel your muscles engage and work hard.  Sometimes it is hard for kids to feel their muscles engage without resistance.  Here is a great opportunity to play with strength.

What if you don't have a pool?  
No problem!  Try this activity with a garden hose:
  1. Put your finger over the spout (or use a spray attachment.)  Have the water spray out gently. 
  2. Have the kids run and jump OVER the water. 
  3. Next, spray the water high over head.  Have the kids run, skip, turn, roll etc. UNDER the water.
  4. Finally, put the spray in middle level and have the kids run THROUGH the water
  5. Talk about the difference between OVER, UNDER and THROUGH and see which they liked the best.
  6. If you are brave have them hold the hose for you and give it a try!!
Explore water this summer with the kids in your life.  Let it cool you down and let it be a teaching tool to delve into the elements of movement.

Have fun getting wet with the children in your life!


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dance Your Tush Off

I have been watching a show called Dance Your Tush Off on the Oxygen network.  Ok, it isn't exactly called that. Substitute the word tush for donkey, and, well, you get the idea.  For those of you who have not seen this show let me give you a quick synopsis:

Overweight contestants work with professional dancers to develop routines which they perform at the end of the week in front of a panel of judges.  Their dance scores are added to the amount of weight lost for the week to come up with a final score.  The one with the lowest score each week goes home.  The last one standing at the end of the competition wins. 

What I liked about the show:
  • People are getting into shape, working hard and dancing their hearts out.  The dancers have personality, some technique and are learning ballroom and other various styles.
  • As they get more fit, their bodies take form, the mastery of their bodies improves and they develop a sense of body ownership.
  • The development of body ownership is beautiful, the connection the dancers develop to themselves and their partners is inspiring.
What we can all learn from the show:
  • Dance is not for the elite, the ballet trained or the perfectly fit. It is for everyone.
  • Dance is exercise.  Dance is strength, stretch and endurance.
  • Everyone can do it.  The more you dance the better you get, the more confident you get and the more you can let go of your inhibitions.
  • Dance lets you connect with others.  Hold hands with someone, dance and look into their eyes.  You will see what I mean.
Need a little exercise?  Need a little pick me up?  Need a confidence booster?  Put on your favorite music and dance!  Can't go outside and want the kids to get some exercise - dance.  Want to cheer up a cranky child -dance.  Want to let off stress at the end of a hard day - dance.

And do what they say on the show.  Dance your you know what off!

Have fun dancing your tush off with the children in your life!


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dance Spontaneously

Have you ever danced in front of your little ones?  I am not talking about demonstrating a step or the dance they are learning; I am talking about you just breaking into dance spontaneously.   There is something very powerful about teaching the art of self- expression and in order to teach you too must do!

When could you break into spontaneous movement?
  1. Waiting for the CD player to play (my CD player is always very tempermental)
  2. Walking a class in or out of the classroom or studio
  3. While kids are putting on shoes, clothes, etc
  4. Anytime, whenever, any moment will do

What will they learn from watching you break into dance?
  1. Dance is for everyone
  2. Movement is not limited to a certain time, day, or place
  3. You can express your feelings through dance
  4. It gives them permission to do the same
At the end of every class I teach we finish in a circle.  I have each child go into the middle of the circle, one at a time, and share his or her favorite way of moving.  When I teach in the schools I also have the classroom teacher go into the middle of the circle.  The kids love watching their teacher dance.  They clap and giggle.  The kids also make sure that I don't forget to go into the middle as well.  When you ask kids to share, make sure that you don't forget to share as well.  It builds a sense of community, trust and creates a shared experience.

I dance in the kitchen when I cook dinner.  My daughter laughs and will sometimes join in without me asking her to do so.  Just the act of dancing in front of her creates a bonding moment.  A moment where neither of us is asking anything of each other.  We are just sharing an experience together.

So, have fun dancing in front of the little ones in your life! 


Thursday, June 3, 2010

This Little Piggy Went to Market

Do you ever dance with your little ones without shoes and socks?  Let the soles of your feet the prickly grass or feel the plush carpet or smooth hard wood floor? 

And what about those wonderful toes?  As anyone who has ever stubbed a toe knows, toes help you balance, they enable you to spring off the floor when you jump, help you to transfer weight from one foot to the other when you walk as well as raise you up on tip-toe.

When kids dance in shoes they miss the tactile sensations their feet can provide them as well as the opportunity to articulate their feet (especially those wonderful toes!)

So the next time you dance with your little ones, pull off those shoes and socks wiggle those toes and make up a feet dance.  Scrunch those toes, spread them wide, clap them together, walk on your heels, balance on tip toes, and explore those feet and piggies!

Have fun dancing barefoot with the children in your life!


Monday, May 24, 2010

Water dance: Float, Sink and Bubble!

Floating is an amazing sensation.  It is one that we can visualize and observe but to truly experience it you got to jump in; to water that is.  I love to move and dance in water because I can feel my body so differently and can move with an added sense of buoyancy.  I experience breath differently to because I am more conscious of how I breathe underwater.  I slow my breath down and deliberately  breath through my nose or mouth.

Water can be a great tool to explore new and unusual ways of moving.  It can assist you in performing movements that would be quite difficult or impossilbe to do on land.  It also helps in developing body awareness and spatial awareness.

  • twist, twirling, rolling
  • floating, sinking
  • kicking, splashing, bubbles
  • pushing and pulling
  • diving, jumping, bobbing
One of the most important teaching tools in water is patience, trust and safety.  It sometimes can take children a very long time to be comfortable in water.  Let them explore at their own pace.  Learning and discovery is not on any artificial timeline.  As children develop confidence, they build self esteem and a sense of awareness of what their bodies can do.

After swim time is over, see if the children can take the movements they explored in the water and translate them to land.  How can they float, sink, bob, dive and splash?  How can they jump, twirl and roll?  Does it feel different?  How?

Have fun dancing to the pool, in the pool , on and  land and with the children in your life!


Monday, May 17, 2010

The Nature of Movement

Watch an animal move.  Really watch.  Most of the time it is different then your percecption of how you think it moves.  Kind of like when you learned that a dog says 'bark" and a bird says "tweet."  I don't hear "bark" or "ruff" when I really listen to a dog. It's a sound I can't put into the english language.  Sometimes a dog bark sounds like pans crashing to the ground or a bag of potato chips being ripped open.  And sometimes a bird "tweet" sounds more like a squeeky chair.

My point is when you really listen, really watch, you learn something different then what you expect.

Watch a bird with children and say what you see. 
  • How does the bird move?  How does it walk?  Does it put one foot in front of the other or does it jump around with both feet?  When it moves it's head does it move it slowly and scan or does the bird tilt it sideways very quick?  When it flies does it jump into the air and flap it's wings?  Does it take a running start?  When it flies does it flap constantly or does it soar tilting slightly?
Ask the children to do these movements.  Remember they are not acting like a birds but taking the movements they observed and putting them into their bodies!  Observation is a very important skill .

I took my daughter to see the movie Ocean.  Throughout the entire movie I kept thinking, "I didn't know dolphins moved like that", or "I didn't know fish could swim under a shark."  It was like a water dance and I was in awe.  It made me think about really watching my surroundings and seeing the true nature of movement and not my perception of movement.

Take the time to observe the animals around you with the children in your life and discover the movement essence of the world.  Then make a nature dance that is not like anything you might imagine because the true nature of movement can sometimes be even more spectacular!


Monday, May 10, 2010

Thank You Sun!

Have you danced outside with your little ones this spring?  It is warm enough now without being too hot, cool enough without being too cold and breezy enough without being too gusty.  It seems to me to be perfect weather to feel the space, the air, the ground and the sun. 

When I teach outside, I define the movement space with cones ( but you can define the space with anything you have on hand.)  This way the children have definite boundaries and I don't have to go chasing anyone.  Obstacles to be aware of:
  • wet grass/cut grass
  • bright sunlight
  • bees, bugs, butterfly distractions
Have a dance space already in mind to before you take the kids out, preferably with a shady area.   Be prepared if the ground is wet to have an activity that does not require sitting, rolling,etc.  If the grass is dry, roll away!

Thank You Sun Activity
For those of you who have a yoga background it is great fun to do sun salutations outside.  Reach up and arch up to the sun and yell thank you sun in the beginning and the end of each salutation.  If you don't know the sun salutation make up your own thank you dance or stretch.

Ask your students:
  1. What is the sun's job?
  2. Where is the sun?
  3. How does the sun feel on your body?
  4. What is the sun like today? (Can you feel the sun today, is it cloudy, bright, etc.)
See if your students can stretch their bodies in all different directions and have the sun hit every piece of their bodies. Their noses, knees, elbows, chins, backs, bellies, shoulders and toes.  Reach up towards the sun, face to the sky and yell "thank you sun!"

Dance BIG
This is a great time to move big.  I usually don't have the opportunity to teach in a large enough space to accommodate the entire class running, leaping, jumping at the same time.  I usually have to keep tight control on how many students can move through the space at one time.  But outside there are no walls, ceilings and doors!  I love to watch full movement without constraint.  And it feels different to the students as well.

Have fun feeling the wind between your finger and the sunlight dancing on your knees with the children in your life!


Monday, May 3, 2010

Exploring Science Through Movement: Flower Dance

I am a guest in a first grade class today.  Our theme: Flowers.  The class has been learning about the parts of a flower and the teacher wants me to come in and create a movement activity based on this unit.
After the movement activity the kids will write in their own words how a flower grows.

Parts of a Plant
In order for us to delve into movement ideas, we have to understand/review what we are exploring.
  • roots- which takes in the water for the plant (low level)
  • leaf- makes the food for the plant (low to  middle level)
  • stem- carries water from the roots up the plant (middle to high level)
  • flower- makes seeds (high level)
What plants need to live
Without any of these four elements, plants would not be able to grow.
  • water (rains down, sprinkles, drips, pours)
  • sunlight ( radiates, beams, shines)
  • soil (covers, surrounds, holds, blankets)
  • air (can see but can feel around us. Blows side to side, forward and back)
 How a plant grows
Plants don't just pop out of the ground. They grown slowly.  They grow down before they grow up and up and up.
  • A seed is placed under ground and covered with soil
  • Roots reach down and sprouts reach up
  • Petals expand wide as the stem continues to grow up
  • Flower blooms and opens
Flower Dance
From what we know about flowers, I am going to have the class piece together the dance.  We will have a beginning:  the seed, a middle: sprouting, an ending: the bud opening. And we will connect these three parts of our dance with the action of the soil surrounding, the rain dripping, the sunlight beaming and the air blowing.

I don't know exactly what the dance will look like until I see it unfold in front of me.  I will take their knowledge of plants and help them translate it into movement. The hardest part of an activity like this is to keep the focus on movement and action instead of acting.

For an activity like this it is also important to utilize the students' knowledge, this way the movement activity can be an assessment piece for the teacher.  It also enables the students to delve deep into movement concepts (levels, shape, direction) and can be a assessment activity for you as well.

April showers bring May flowers outside and inside the classroom as well.

Have fun exploring, dancing and blooming with the children in your life!


Monday, April 26, 2010

That's What It's All About!

Have you ever done the Hokey Pokey with kids?  What about The Chicken Dance?  Electric Slide?
Kids love these dances and adults love them as well.  Whenever I go to a fancy party ( wedding, Bar Mitzah, etc.) I am always amazed that adults jump up to do these dances led by the MC. 

When I got married a pleaded with the band NOT do any silly party dances.  I wanted a romantic and classic feel.  They did it anyway.  The funny thing is the dance floor was packed with people in fancy outfits flapping their arms like chickens. I realized that party dances (dances that already have choreography or are led by someone) give people permission to be silly, to dance with abandon.

See if you can find a moment this week to have kids and adults of all ages dance together.  Lead the dance so your dancers don't have to think, they just have to follow.  Dancing together as a community is fun as well as creates bonds between generations.  Get silly, dance with abandon no matter what your attire is for the day. 

Some fun party dances:
  • Hokey Pokey
  • Chicken Dance
  • Electric Slide
  • Cha-cha slide
  • Limbo
  • Macarena
  • Cotton Eye Joe
  • The Twist
  • YMCA
See if you students/ kids can teach you a party dance.  Maybe you can create your own!
Keep dancing with the kids in your life, flap your arms, put your elbows in and shake 'em all around because that's what its all about!


Monday, April 19, 2010

Dancing In The Rain

Have you ever seen the movie Singing in The Rain?  One of my favorite scenes in the movie is Gene Kelly dancing, stomping, kicking, jumping, splashing, and twirling in the rain.  How many children can relate to this scene?   My guess is most every child can.

The thing about dance is that it is a kinesthetic connection to what you are experiencing. 
Gene Kelly didn't just stand still and sing about the rain, he explored it and everything he could possibly do in it.  For a child, this is how he or she learns.  How does it feel, sound, taste, smell?  How can I make it move?  What happens if I jump in it?  What if I splash really hard?

When I teach, I try to connect the lesson to what the children are learning in school or I try to connect to what they are experiencing around them.  This way they are able to connect what they are learning cognitively to what they are experiencing physically.

Well, since April showers bring May flowers, I thought about the wonder of rain and that iconic scene in Singing in The Rain.  For kids who are afraid of rain, thunder and lightning, exploring rain in a classroom or studio can be a safe way to become comfortable with all the elements of a thunder storm.

Dancing in The Rain Activity

1.  Come up with a the list of words that describe what you see and feel before a rain fall
  •  angry clouds, puffy clouds, air blowing, sun disappears, rumble...
2.  Come up with all the list of words that describe rain falling down
  • Splash, drip, drop, drizzle, plop...
3.  Come up with a list of words that describe what you see and feel after the rain
  • Drippy, quiet, puddles, rainbows, sticky mud...
4.  Now you ready to perform your "Dancing in the Rain" dance.  You have a beginning before the rain,  a middle the rain, and an end after the rain.

You can even video your dances and watch Gene Kelly's dancing in the rain section of Singing in The Rain and then watch your classes' rain dances.

Have fun dancing in the rain with the children in your life!


In continuing participation in the Why Dance Matters event, dance matters because dance is a learning tool.  For proof, just watch a child dance in the rain!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Why Dance Matters

This post is in honor of Arts Advocacy Day and the online event Dance Matters going on April 12 through May 3rd.

Dance can be...
a form of expression
a way to get the sillies out
a medium for physical fitness
a way to share common ground
a tool to interact with others.

Dance can...
 make time fly by
 make a moment more intimate
 make a moment more universal
push you to the limit.

Dance now...
with others
by yourself
in your room
in the grocery store
while waiting for a bus, the subway, a loved one.

Dance is...
a voice
loud and clear
a way to say what can not be said any other way.

next week
with emotion
with spirit
with a friend
with a stranger
with a relative
with a child

Dance matters...
to me.

Ask the children in your life:
  1. How does dance feel in their bodies and in their hearts?
  2. Why do they like to dance?
  3. Do they like to dance by themselves or with others?
  4. Where is there favoirite place to dance?
  5. What kind of music do they like to dance to?
  6. Can they make up a special dance and share it with you/the class?
For more information on the Dance Matters event check out:

Have fun exploring why dance matters to you and the children in your life!


Sunday, April 4, 2010


Here in the northeast we have been having beautiful spring weather. With "spring" in mind, action words are so much fun to explore with your kids/class. One of my favorite books to read in the spring is "Bugs, Bugs, Bugs" by Bob Barner. There are lots of action words to pick out and fun spring pictures.

"Butterflies that flutter in the sky,
spotted ladybugs that go creeping by..." 
Can you just visualize the children in action?

You can make an action word list with your class by picking action words out of books you are reading or come in with a premade list. You can even have an action list that you add to every week. Then take the words and get moving! Try taking the children's favorite action words, put them in a sequence and have them perfom their "action dance". Integrating vocabulary into the body helps with comprehension, literacy and story telling. It is also silly and fun!

Here are some of my favorites:



For an extensive list visit:

Have fun bending, melting and twisting with the children in your life!



Monday, March 29, 2010

Audience Appreciation

I am going to participate in a Passover Seder tonight. For anyone who is not familiar with a Passover Seder, it is a dinner where everyone at the table participates in reading out of a special book called the Hagadah. It tells the story of the exodus of the Jewish people out of Egypt. There will be 24 guests celebrating Passover tonight and each of us will take a turn reading out of the Hagadah.

As I think about the Seder, I keep coming back to audience participation, and the importance of teaching this concept to children when they are very small. We tend to think that the person dancing on stage is the one who is actively engaged. But this is not true at all. Yes, of course the person on the stage is engaged but the audience member is just as engaged. The audience member is a critic, observer, and a part of the experience.

The Role of the Audience

1. To listen. We listen with our eyes and ears.

2. We are quite so we don't disturb the dancers and other audience members.

3. We watch. We look for shapes, levels, steps. We watch for images.

4. We think. We feel. What did the dance remind us of? How did the dance make us feel?

5. We share. We tell the dancers what we saw and liked.

6. We applaud. We thank the performers for sharing with us.

Sometimes it is hard to sit and be still and not be the one on stage. But when the audience has a job to do, they have the tools to focus and give feedback. They have the tools to be apart of the performance and have the opportunity  to use the dance skills they are learning by observing.

When I am sitting at the Passover table tonight, I will be an audience member and "performer." I will speak, listen, observe, think, and share.

Children at every age can be audience members and start practicing this very important job.

Have fun being an audience member with the children in your life!



Monday, March 22, 2010

Dance Treasure Chest

I love keeping a dance journal.  I started this in college.  I wrote down thoughts, inspirations, technical corrections, concepts, anything and everything that I encountered in a day.  It helped me process what I was experiencing.  And some of those thoughts became dances. And some dances I saw encouraged me to right down my thoughts.

Dance Notebooks
I bought small notebooks, pencils and colorful erasers for the children in one of my classes and asked them to write about what the learned, experienced, and what their favorite activity was in class.  These students are 6 and 7 years old.  Some of them asked me if they could draw a picture of their experiences and my answer was an absolute YES!!  They were very excited to each pick a notebook (they were various colors), a pencil and a colorful eraser to go on top of the pencil.

After they were finished writing I asked them one at a time to read what they wrote.   Some entries were very detailed and others were about a sentence. It was special for me to hear each child read about their own personal movement experience and it was also a great assessment tool.

If your child/students are not old enough to write down some words or sentences you can have them draw a picture about their movement adventure.  They can describe the picture for you. 

For examples of this check out

There is more than one way to learn from an experience.
By doing and then redoing in a new way, like writing about it or drawing a picture or talking about it, you develop a deeper understanding of the kinesthetic experience.  Having a special notebook to process the experience is just as important, it is like the dance treasure chest that holds all the gold!

Have fun moving and writing/coloring with the children in your life!


Monday, March 15, 2010

Free Dance is Freeing

I believe a person receives a gift every time they dance; the gift of body ownership and a sense of control.  Children do not get to make many choices in their day.  They don't choose when to wake up, what they are going to eat, what they will be doing at school, and what time they go to bed.  Adults might not get to make as many choices as they would like either!  But when you dance you are the one in charge!

You can choose to wiggle your hips, swing your arms and tap your toes.  You get to find your own rhythm, create your own pathways through the space and choose your own steps. You can raise your arms up to the sky or reach them down to the ground.  The possibilities are endless; the choice is for each dancer to make.

"Free dance" is an important part of any dance experience.  This is a time when you decide and find out how you like to move.  What feels right for your body, what feels natural and safe?  It is important to remember that giving children the time to explore and move freely is essential to developing a sense of self.  It can promote body awareness, self expression and self confidence.

Our Favorite Thing
I like to make a circle with my class and have one child at a time go in to the center and dance.  I call this time "Our Favorite Thing."  Each child shares their favorite way of moving.  We clap along and practice being good audience members.  If a child is shy, he or she can invite another friend to dance.  This is their special time to shine.   

In a day filled with so many unknowns that you can not predict, so many rules and schedules it is great to let loose and explore what is yours alone; your body.  Find at least one moment a day to dance freely, without rules, with the children in your life.  It will do your body and your children's bodies good!!

Have fun moving any way you like with the children in your life!


Monday, March 8, 2010

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb

I love the wind.  I love feeling the air on my skin.  It makes my body feel alive.  I love teaching movement with the wind as a tool for body awareness.  It is the perfect tool.  We are normally not aware of our skin like we are aware of our knees bending or our arms swinging.  It is hard to be conscious of the back of your neck or the front of your shins.  But when a strong brisk breeze blows by you can feel every ounce of your body come alive.  The hair on your skin stands up as if to shout "We are here!" like the Whos did in the book Horton Hears a Who!

In feeling all sides of the body, in essence your three dimensionality, you become aware of all the directions your body can move.  The wind can blow forward, back, side, and side and so can you.  The wind can twist and turn, so can you.  A kite can take flight and so can you.

Movement Activity
  1. Talk about the wind with your child/class.  It travels in all directions.  How do we know?  We can feel it.  We can feel it whooshing by our legs, it sometimes can push us forward or back with its force.  We can see it when our hair gets whipped about or when it picks up a piece of litter and lifts it off the ground.  Let's see if we can travel in all directions like the wind.
  2. Give each child a scarf.  (If you don't have a scarf, use a tissue.)  Can they move their scarves forward and back?  Can they make their movements bigger and smaller?  Can they move through the space with big sweeping forward and back movements?  Next try side (right and left) and back.  Can they twirl and spin with the scarf?  Can they move from low to high and high to low?
  3. Make a circle and have one child go into the circle at a time.  Watch as they do their wind dance.  Have the children pretend to blow softly, moving their scarves gently, directing the dancer to move gently and slowly like a calm breeze.  Then have the children move their scarves fast and furious like a blustery wind.  The dancer in the middle then should react with gusto!
Have fun moving up down and all around and off the ground with the children in your life!


    Monday, March 1, 2010

    Keeping the Beat

    I just got back from exhibiting at the eastern regional AAHPERD convention.  For those of you who have never heard of AAHPERD it stands for American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.  There mission is to "promote and support leadership, research, education, and best practices in the professions that support creative, healthy, and active lifestyles."
    Check it out at www.

    I had a wonderful time meeting educators from all over the East Coast who are dedicated to bringing  movement programs and possibilities to kids and adults.  My booth was next to the American Heart Association.  They were promoting their Jump Rope For Heart Program .  Here is more information about the program taken straight from their website

    • The American Heart Association, with its partner the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, launched Jump Rope For Heart as a national fund-raising and education program in 1978. More than 30,000 schools jump in each year to help fight America’s No. 1 and No. 3 killers – heart disease and stroke – and teach kids the importance of physical activity and a healthy heart. Jump Rope For Heart continues to educate students about living a heart-healthy lifestyle.
    • Jump Rope For Heart develops rope-jumping skills that are fun for everyone while promoting the value of physical activity and teamwork. Students learn about the seriousness of heart disease and stroke, the lifelong benefits of physical activity and the importance of living a heart-healthy lifestyle. The program also teaches students to set and achieve goals and shows them how they can make a difference through volunteering and community service.
    Jumping Rope Teaches Rhythm
    I remember when I was 10 I learned a jump rope tap dance routine.  It was crazy hard and fun.  The most interesting thing about jumping rope is that it helps to teach rhythm.  Many people tell me they can't dance or they have no rhythm.  What they really are saying is that they are self conscious about how they move and have never been taught that they don't have to move like anyone else.  There is no right or wrong way to move the body - just choices and possibilities!

    When I teach rhythm to students I use jump ropes, balls and hula hoops.  Why? Because you need to keep a beat in order to do these activities.  When you jump rope you natural keep a beat, the same with bouncing a ball or moving a hula hoop!  Everyone can keep a beat, but it is easier when you are not thinking about the beat but doing an activity.

    Try using balls, jump ropes and hula hoops and see what fun you can have. And thanks to Donna, my first dance teacher, for teaching me to jump rope and tap dance, I will never forget it!

    Keep moving up down and all around with a beat and a jump!


    Tuesday, February 23, 2010

    How to Get From A to B

    Have you ever heard kids sing "Don't step on the crack or you'll break your mother's back?"  Well, if you haven't let me explain.  Kids love to step over cracks in the sidewalk, pavement, floor tiles, you name it.  I don't particularly love the phrase (especially because I am a mom and don't need any back problems!)  This game as silly as it is, is great for movement exploration.

    When choosing to move from point A to point B, the possibilities are endless. You can choose to move in a straight line, a curve or a zig-zag pathway.  Or you can choose different steps to get there: hop, skip, tip- toe, jump,etc.  You can move fast or slow.  You can choose to move in different levels (high, middle and low) and you can choose to move over cracks, around cracks and through them.

    Movement Activity:
    Dancing On, Over, Around and Through
    I love painter's tape.  It is such an easy tool to use.  The tape can be applied to the floor easily, and it comes up without a mess, won't leave a mark and takes seconds to remove.  Especially if you work in so many different spaces, it can be invaluable because you can mark off you movement space ( I make a square and call it the movemet square.)

    This activity uses painter's tape to makes "cracks" on the floor.  You can design zig-zags, curves and straight lines on the floor.  You can do shapes or even letters or numbers. The choice is yours.

    1. Design the floor with various lines, shapes and letters.  Ask the kids what they see.  Observation is a great skill and children can learn a lot by verbalizing what they see.
    2. The children can dance on any of the lines.  See if they can walk on the lines.  After they have mastered this challenge ask them to jump, tip-toe, skip, etc.on the lines. 
    3. Next,  change the tempo.  It's fun to continue an activity and change the music.  Ask the kids if they notice a difference in their movements with the different tempos and music selections.  Observations are always encouraged!
    4. You gueseed it.  Try it again moving in different levels.  Is it harder to move in one level then another?
    5. And lastly can they jump over lines, can they move around them without touching them and can they run, hop, skip and leap through them? 
    Like many activities, you can choose to do some or all of the steps.  Never be afraid to repeat activities either.  Kids learn by repetition and master skills by practice. 

    Have fun and let all the moms out their know what you are exploring in case they feel a twinge in their backs!

    Keep exploring and observing all the up down movements with the children in your life!


    Monday, February 15, 2010

    Body Awareness and the Power of the Breath

    My daughter had a snow day from school last Wednesday.  We sat on the couch and watched the snow fall, it was quite beautiful and I was amazed that my very active child was cuddling with me for so long.  I got off the couch to do some chores and she just sat on the couch all cuddled up.  This was quite unusual.  I would love to say that she was taken with the snow and the peacefulness of the moment but when I touched her forehead I knew otherwise.  She was sick.

    You often hear the expression "you have to listen to your body" and it is the truth.  It also relates to last week's Friendship Dance post.  We have to learn how to listen.  To quite ourselves enough to connect to what we are feeling.  Adults do anyway.  My daughter was trying to tell me all week that she was tired.  I first thought she had the Monday blues.  I then thought she did not get enough sleep.  NOPE.  She was listening to her body.  Her body was tired.

    As parents, teachers, friends, etc. we need to embrace the cues our body gives us and we need to connect to the cues that our children, students, friends' bodies tell us as well.  My daughter lacked her usual pep, was whiny and lost her patience very easily.  All cues.

    What I learned from this experience is LISTEN.  Not only to the words (which she expressed very well) but to body language!

    Some children don't have the words to express themselves.  Sometimes it is due to age, language difficulty or a non-verbal disability.  Using the body becomes an extremely important tool, a necessity to communicate with others.  The body is truly a tool of communication.

    Body Awareness Activity

    1. Lie on the floor with your arms by your sides and your legs straight out. Breathe deeply and concentrate on your chest rising and falling.  Rising with each inhale and falling with each exhale.  You can have students put a small doll or a bean bag on their chests to watch it rise and fall.
    2. Focus your breath now in your belly.  You can place your hands on your belly or the doll.  Watch/feel it rise and fall.  Feel how slowly your belly rises and falls. 
    3. Jump up and run around the room, or in place for one minute.  Lie back down and watch/feel your chest rise and fall.  Feel how fast your belly rises and falls. 
    4. Your breathing speeds up when you speed up.  It slows down when you slow down. 
    Enjoy this simple activity and see what words kids use to describe their breathing before and after the activity.  Did they know that their breath was connected to how they moved?

    A Few Words About Breath:
    The act of breathing is part of the autonomic nervous system.  We breath automatically, we don't have to tell our body to do it, it does it beautifully on its own.  Breathing, however, is the only part of the autonomic nervous system that our body can control.  We can speed it up and slow it down on our own.  We can also use this to our advantage. Have you ever been startled? Your breathing speeds up.  To calm yourself down, you consciously slow your breath down.  When we clue into another person's breathing we can gain important information about the person.  Learning to clue into the breath is a wonderful mind-body tool. 

    Keep moving up down and all around with the children in your lives!


    Monday, February 8, 2010

    Celebrate Valentine's Day with a Dynamic Friendship Dance!

    What does it mean to be a friend?  Ask a child this question and you will get some wonderful answers!  Around Valentine's Day I always ask this question to my students.  And through our discussion we wind up talking about feelings and sharing our feeling with another person.  Which leads to my next question.

    When you listen to another person do you talk when he or she talks?
    No, you are quiet and you have eye contact.  In movement we can show this by staying very still when our partner is moving.

    How do we know when we are happy, sad, surprised or mad?
    We feel it inside our bodies.  We have to pay attention to how our body feels because it tells us amazing things. Our body can be light, heavy, quick, slow (sustained), bound or free. 

    Happy can feel light and free.
    Sad can feel heavy and slow.
    Surprised can feel quick.
    Mad or angry can feel bound or tight.

    Dynamic Friendship Dance
    When we clue in to how our body feels (mind-body connection) we learn a lot about how we feel.  We can share how we feel with others and our friends can share with us how they feel.
    1. Explore the dynamics of each emotion with your class or children.  Move around the space light and free like a helium balloon, carefree and at ease. Feel like balloon is deflated, slowly sinking to the ground.  Everything gets heavy; arms, legs, shoulders, back.  Next, clap your hands or beat a drum.  When the class hears the sound see how fast the can jump into a new shape. And finally, see how tense and tight they can make that shape squeezing every muscle in their body (knees, toes, neck, tummy shoulders,etc.)
    2. Depending on the age of the kids you can do the partner dance in a few different ways.  If they are able to work in partners great. Otherwise you can pick one child at a time to partner with the class. Ask the first partner to choose a quality of movement (or you can say an emotion as long as they know they are not acting out the emotion but showing how the emotion makes their body move.)  The other partner (or class) stays very still then repeats the movement as best as they can to show they were listening.  Repeat this with the other partner picking a different quality or emotion. 
    3. Share your friendship dances with the class. Sometimes I have kids share with the class one at a time or I have a few partners up and moving.  Ask the audience what they saw, and what they liked.  It is never to early to develop good audience manners!
    Keep moving up, down and all around with the ones you love!  Happy Valentine's Day!


    Monday, February 1, 2010

    Baby It's Cold Outside

    Here, in the Northeast, you can't go outside without bundling up covering up from your head to your toes.  Even with all my layers I am still shivering!  The wind is bitter, the air is cold and the ground icy.

    So, in this cold weather how can we all stay warm?  By moving of course! 

    I really dislike wearing a coat, hat, gloves, scarf, etc.  I can't feel my body and usually feel like a walking closet.  Here is a fun activity to keep your little ones warm while they get dressed, and will encourage body awareness when all are body parts are covered!!

    And if you live where the sun is shining and the ground is not frozen solid, you can pretend with your little ones you are going on a trip to the north pole!

    Bundling Up

    • Make a big pile of the clothes your child will be wearing.  If you are in a dance studio or classroom you can pile up a bunch of costumes or ask the kids to bring in a bunch of extra clothes for this activity.
    • Ask each child to find one article of clothes to put on.  After the child puts the clothes on, he or she has to move the body parts the clothes is covering.  For example, if the child put on socks, then he or she will have to do a "sock dance."  All other body parts should be still while the feet go to town.  When the child puts on pants then the pants dance begins; legs, knees, and hips have there turn to move, shake, bend and jump.
    •  What happens when the hat goes on? How about those mittens?
    • When all your layers are on and you are about to go out into the cold try a full body shake, twist and bend.  Ask the kids if it is easier to move with more or less clothes.  Body awareness is about clicking in to our body, feeling and being aware of each experience.  Notice the differences.  Are there are similarities?  Can you wiggle your nose the same before and after you bundled up?
    • The same game can take place after coming in from the cold, when you take all those layers off!! 

    More on right and left brain activities
    Last week I wrote about my pinched nerve and thank goodness I can report I am typing with both hands this week.  The experience left me analyzing how often I use my right arm and hand.  As a teacher, I try to have the children use both sides of their bodies equally and I was quite surprised at my own body discovery. 

    I also encourage movements that cross the midline. Basically, when you cross the midline, or center of your body, you engage both right and left sides of the brain.  So, you are creating not only movement intergration but brain intergration as well.   This is great for all learners of all ages and abilities.  For more information on this check out this website:

    Bundling up the Midline
    In exploring our bundling up exercise, see if you can encourage your children to exploring their mitten dance down to low level crossing their right arm to their left foot or their sock dance tapping their left foot over their right foot.  See how the dance changes and becomes more challenging!

    Have fun dancing with your snow bunnies inside, outside, up and down together!


    Monday, January 25, 2010

    Left, Right, Left

    It has been about two weeks since my last post. Unfortunately, I have apinched nerve in my neck and had to tajke some time off from tje computer and just about everything erlse. You can tell by my typos, I am only using my left hand to type at the moment.

    What this experience has taught me, is how much I utilize my right hand and arm. From brushingf my teeth, to opening a door, to brushing my hair I am a true righty. When I teach, I encourage the children to use both sidfes of their bodies equally. Did you know that when you use the right side of the body, the left side of the brain is activated and vice versa. So, having a balanced body is important for mastering all sorts of physical skills as well as brain power!

    I will go further into this concept in a future post, for my left arm/right brain is in over dtrive at the moment.

    Here are some fun activities to try with children to challenge our one arm/one side tendencies.

    Right/Left Challenge

    • Hold a scarf with your right arm and make big circles, making sure to cross the middle of you body. Try it high over you head and low on the ground as well. Then switch arms and have the left arm perform big beautiful circles.  Finally, with a scarf in both hands do this activity one more time.  I call this "making rainbows."

    • When teaching, we usually start everything to the right first. Do everything to the left first. Notice if this is harder for you or the kids!

    HIGH FIVE - left hand, right hand then both hands after various activities throughout the day.

    Simply activities - but not so simple. Learning, activating the brain and the body IS as simple as becoming aware and finding new was of exploring the body but performing the tasks takes practice, patience and a good sense of humor!

    Keep moving up down and all around to the right and left!



    Friday, January 8, 2010

    Movement ABC's and 123's for Toddlers and Preschoolers

    It was so exciting when my daughter took her first steps. When she let go of my hands and teetered away. As she got older I wanted to help her discover more about her body, facilitate body awareness and help her with her gross motor skills. But how was I going to do this?  The answer I discovered was simpler then you might think. 

    I moved with her!

    As your child masters different skills like rolling, crawling and walking it is important to “review these skills.” It might seem silly at first to get on the floor with your child and roll with her. You might think that she already knows how to do this but movement is a layered experience, which means we relearn the same concepts over and over and each time we relearn it we get better at it. Crawling is a contralateral movement and so is walking.  (Contralateral movement is when the right arm and left leg are moving simultaneously and vice versa. So mastering crawling will help a child master walking, running, leaping, etc.)

    Cool isn’t it?

    Another example is when my daughter as a baby rocked on her hands and knees before crawling. She was practicing pushing from her feet, the same concept that she re-explored when she learned to walk and jump.

    Why move with your child?

    Well, first it is great bonding time. You are performing an activity together and communicating non-verbally. You get to experience what your child just discovered and believe it or not rolling, creeping and crawling is good for you too! We never stop relearning skills! And lastly, if you start moving with your child at a young age, you are setting up great habits that will last. Exercise/moving will always be a special time together.

    Here are some essential skills for the both of you to review and rediscover:
    • Rocking on hands and knees
    • Rolling
    • Crawling
    • Finding new ways of pushing and pulling yourself around the floor on your belly and back

    And for my teachers reading this blog, I have done this in preschool classrooms as well to squeals and delight!

    Think of it in terms of mathematics.

    You can’t learn to divide or multiply before you add and subtract.  The same thing is true for the body.

    My daughter and I had some of our best giggles rolling on the floor together.  Let me know what you and your children re-discover together! 

    Keep moving up down and all around!

    Monday, January 4, 2010

    Ready, Set, Don't Move!

    I am sure we have all said to a child at some point in our life, “Stop moving” or “don’t move.” And I am equally certain that a majority of the requests were met with more wiggling. What does it mean to actually not move, what skills are you asking a child to use by being still?

    The first thing is to change the understanding of not moving. When a person does not move or otherwise “freezes” he or she is using a great amount of muscle and brain power. I tell my students that they are in charge of their bodies. Their brain has the power to tell their bodies what to do, and there muscles have the ability to make this happen. Instead of not doing, I ask them to do. Do something amazing while you stop moving, have superpower control over your body. Connect your mind and body together to “freeze” and become as still as a statue. The other thing I confide in them is that this is a very difficult task. When you stop moving, gravity wants to take over. Your muscles have to fight gravity in order to keep still. This means your muscles are working just as hard as if you were doing jumping jacks or push-ups.

    Next, I ask them to become aware of how there body FEELS. I ask my students to put their hands above their heads and then not to move. I cue them with “you are in charge of your body,” “your brain tells your body what to do” and then we wait. I compliment them on how hard their bodies and minds are working to keep their body still. Then I ask “how do your arms feel?” Their arms will feel tired, and might even feel sore from working so hard. I tell them the muscles in their arms are fighting gravity; gravity wants to pull them down. The longer their arm muscles resist gravity, the stronger they become!

    They are basically doing isometric exercises.

    Then I ask them “what is the muscles job?” This is an important question because if you ask a child not to move, then the child needs to know HOW not to move. This is the job of the muscles. I ask them to tap on their upper arm or bicep muscle and then I direct them to bend their arm at the elbow a few times. The muscle made the arm move by contracting and lengthening. Muscles are in charge of moving bones or keeping bones still. The more we activate our muscles the stronger they get!

    One more fun activity I do with my students is I ask them to stand very still on one foot. At first kids get very silly and fall down a lot. They might even say that they have a hard time balancing. Then I give the control over to the students. I tell them “you are in charge of your body. If you feel you are falling tell your brain to tell your body to put your foot down.” The result is amazing. Not only do the kids balance longer but they quietly put their foot down if they are falling and try again. Permission and personal control are powerful things.

    With little control children have in their lives, the power of controlling their bodies is a very important one. And instead of telling a child “don’t move,” give them permission to use all the muscles in their body at once. This can become empowering, fun and can help them develop important body skills. So, the next time you say “don’t move” explain to the children in your life how hard this actually is, how much brain and muscle power this takes, and how much they are doing by not doing. They’ll want to impress you with their amazing not moving abilities!

    This activity works on muscle control, balance and body awareness.

    Keep moving (or not moving) up down and all around together!