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: http://www.drjean.org/html/monthly_act/act_2006/03_Mar/pg04.html

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!