Last Friday was one of my favorite days in the library: Preschool Dance Party day. This is a music and movement program we do twice a month at my library. It’s consistently popular (usually around 50-75 attendees), builds early literacy skills, and is FUN. I’ve seen lots of awesome posts on how people do their own music and movement programs. This is how we do ours.
Our program is 30 minutes long (although, full disclosure, we usually go over) and it consists of a movement book or story to start, 20-25 minutes of dancing, and ending with an activity with the parachute. Our music for this program is pretty much all pre-recorded music that we make into a playlist on our iPad and hook into our sound system in our meeting room. The age range for the dance party is technically 2-5, but younger siblings come, and that’s always been fine with us. Although we call it Preschool Dance Party, in a lot of ways it’s toddler dance party.
What kinds of music and dances do we do? All kinds! We always do one song with instruments, one song that we dance to with scarves, and quite a few classic songs like “Wheels on the Bus,” “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” and “The Hokey Pokey.” We also do the Limbo quite a bit, usually to a Motown song because I love them. And for the other songs, we use a lot of Laurie Berkner, Jim Gill, and other children’s songs you can follow along to and that spell out the dances and moves you can do. At last preschool dance party, we danced liked robots for one song (“Robot Friends” by Yo Gabba Gabba, another dance party favorite), played our instruments along with “Day-O” by Gregory Isaacs, pretended to surf to “Surfin’ USA” by the Beach Boys (I really love using oldies in the dance party because it gets the caregivers dancing with the kids), pretended to be dinosaurs to Laurie Berkner’s “We Are the Dinosaurs,” and shook our sillies out with Raffi.
If I’m not making it clear, I really love Preschool Dance Party. It’s one of my favorite programs that we do, and I think it has a lot of value. If you’d like to throw one of your own, here are my top tips:
1. Decide which dances you are going to do ahead of time. I have a planning sheet that I use where I write down the song and how we are going to dance to it (i.e., are we going to follow along to the song’s cues, are we going to dance with scarves, are we going to clap our hands and stomp our feet, or whatever). This helps me remember what the plan is during the craziness of the program, and lets me describe to the kiddos what we are going to do before every song.
2. Keep dancing! The kids will follow your lead. Which means you pretty much have to dance for the whole program. So be prepared to move.
3. Use tape to mark the perimeter of the dance area. Dance party is fun, but it’s also crazy and can be really overwhelming. I like to have a big taped square in the middle of the room, and then in my opening spiel I can make it clear that inside the taped area is the dance area, and outside is the place you can sit down if you need to take a rest. Also, when we do the Limbo, it’s nice to have the kids start by standing on a piece of tape. We also start the dance party by having everyone sit on a piece of tape. It’s helpful to have the tape as an anchor for the room and a place to have the kids come back to if necessary.
4. Think about the energy of the room when you build your playlist. I try to think of the playlist as part of the flow of the program, and that a high energy song is best followed by a quieter favorite. Otherwise, it gets a little too crazy and everyone can get overly hyped up, which leads to meltdowns. So, we might do a fun song like Pharrell’s “Happy” with our instruments, and then slow it down a little with one of my favorite dance party songs “Can You Clap?” by Sue Schnitzer. And then we might to the Limbo and bring the energy back up a little, and then follow with “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” It’s all about balancing all of that energy to keep the program fun.
5. Don’t forget about the classics. I love using new and fresh music, but one day after the dance party, I asked one girl what her favorite dance was. “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” she said, right away. As we know from storytime and all of our early literacy training, kids love repetition. They love singing and dancing to songs they know. So make sure you include a healthy dose of songs that a lot of the kids will know, like “Ring Around the Rosie,” “The Hokey Pokey,” “Wheels on the Bus,” and so on. I also use the same opening (“Shake Your Sillies Out”) and closing (Laurie Berkner’s “Drive My Car”) songs every time to keep a sense of repetition.
Those are my top tips for doing your own Preschool Dance Party. What tips can you add from your own music and movement programs?