The Toymaker and Other Holiday Activities For Young Dancers

Guest post today from the wonderful Nichelle at Dance Advantage! I can’t wait to try these ideas in my classes this week! Have creative ideas for young dancers? Want to guest post? E-mail me at maria.f.hanley@gmail.com!  Enjoy the post!

I like to celebrate the holidays with activities that spark the imaginations of my young students. An activity I’ve found works really well with students ages 3-8 is something I’ve titled The Toy Maker. This simple dance is a great way to end your class on an high note. The kids have a great time with this one.

  1. Choose a piece of music that has contrasting musical sections (loud and quiet, or fast and slow, etc.). I’ve used a classical piece called Bella Bocca Polka (from 25 Classical Dance Favorites or find it oniTunes). It’s contrasting themes work pretty well.
  2. Have the children choose and create the shape of their favorite toy. It might be what they want for Christmas or you could give them classic suggestions like a tin soldier, a teddy bear, a ballerina doll, a stuffed rabbit, etc.
  3. Encourage the students to remember their shape and also where their  ‘spot’ in the room or on the shelf is because they will have to find these again.
  4. Explain that you (or your assistant) is the Toy Maker. You check on the toys every night before ‘falling asleep.’ But when The Toy Maker falls asleep the toys awake and dance around the room -i f they’ve done a bit of free dancing before you can leave it very open, or you might suggest different ways of moving.
  5. The dancing disturbs the Toy Maker’s sleep and  you will begin to dramatically stir and yawn, giving the dancers time to return to their spot and their shape. They need to be back in their places by the time the Toy Maker awakes.
  6. You can check on all the toys, who are now as you left them, and return to sleep.
  7. This sleeping/dancing and waking routine repeats with the music.
  8. You might “catch” them on the last one before they have time to return and then dance with them on the final round.

My students have asked for this at all times of year but it’s a fun treat for the holidays. The key is not to be bashful about hamming up your role as the Toy Maker. The kids have so much more fun when you are committed to your performance!

More holiday ideas:

Spice it up

Bring a little holiday spirit into your class simply by altering some of the activities you already do to reflect the season. For instance turn gallops into “reindeer gallops.” Create or wrap cones in green paper and leap over ‘Christmas’ trees. Try some “polar bear” walks, “ice skating” glides, or catch snowflakes during your port de bras… use your imagination!

Icicle Land and Snowflake Land

Divide your room in half and place markers to create a boundary. On one side of the line is Icicle Land where all the dancing is sharp and strong. On the other is Snowflake Land where all the dancing is soft and light. Signal when children should switch sides with a break in the music or a beat on a drum.

Streamers and Scarves

These props are especially fun at the holidays. I like The Nutcracker’s Spanish Chocolate variation for streamers, and the Russian Trepak variation for scarves. The kids do too! But experiment with what works for you.

Made of Snow, I Don’t Know Where I Fit In

The Barenaked Ladies (that’s a Canadian rock/novelty band) has a wonderfully sweet but melancholy song about a Snowman. I’ve used this for slightly older children, 8 and up, to practice meeting and parting in dance and it makes for a nice informal demonstration for parents. Essentially the dancers improvise freely. They are to find a partner and meet – making contact with hands (or other body parts), creating a shape. Then they part and dance on to other partners. This might be practiced with signaling at first but eventually dancers should try to make improvised choices.

What kinds of creative dance activities do you do in your classes around the holidays?

Comments

  1. Pingback: Frosty the Snowman’s Magic Hat! « Maria's Movers

  2. Thanks very much, Maria for featuring me on your blog! I’m so happy to share something with your readers. I hope that it proves useful for teachers!

  3. Pingback: Teacher’s Top Three: Learning Fun and Games | danskinshorts.net

  4. Saw you at Dance Summit Maria! Love your blog with some Christmas ideas, especially helps during this busy time of year. THANK YOU. My kids LOVE Toy Maker. We like to gallop on reindeer to the North Pole to Run Run Rudolph by Brian Adams, where we read a letter from Santa on what we need to do to get to his workshop (we dance to Winter Wonderland – build a snowman, be snowflakes, throw snowballs, etc.), once we get to the workshop we do Toy Maker. They LOVE it!

    1. Author

      Thank you Angela for writing in! I’m so glad you have used the holiday ideas! It sounds like you are having a wonderful time with your dancers! 🙂

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