Thursday, February 10, 2011

Kathy Stemke

Encouraging Movement to Music

By Kathy Stemke

All of us have enjoyed dancing around the living room to music when no was looking. These are uninhibited moments in response to music. In fact, moving to the beat of the music is an innate quality found in all human beings. Infants and toddlers bounce to the music without any instruction at all. We need to provide children with a safe environment to explore and learn all they can about how their bodies can move to music.

Improvising movement to music is a natural way for children to express themselves. This release of emotional tension can help to calm children and improve their mood. Depending on the music, it can invigorate or soothe the emotions. Exposing children to a wide variety of music at an early age will increase their appreciation of music.

Because classical music generally evokes strong emotions you could use Beethoven’s “5th Symphony” to inspire anger, or Rimsky-Korsakov’s, “The Flight of the Bubble Bee” to inspire excitement.

Making and using simple instruments in exploration of various musical styles will add to the experience. For instance, a homemade drum will add to the fun when moving to Native American music.

Because there are no wrong reactions in movement exploration, it will build self-esteem. If children hear their name mentioned with an affirming compliment, they will gain the courage to explore even more.
Giving children the opportunity to explore and expand their movement vocabulary will increase their creativity. These activities will bring out quick and slow, heavy and light, strong and gentle, as well as tense and relaxed movements. As kids experience different combinations of movement and a variety of themes, their own movement ideas will emerge.

In the “Fastland/Slowland” activity one side of the room is for quick movements and the other side of the room is for slow movements. Children cross over to the other side when they hear a signal like a drum beat or a whistle.

“Abracadabra” is an activity that teaches the difference between heavy and light movements. Kids push an imaginary refrigerator. When you say, “Abracadabra” the refrigerator is suddenly on wheels, or the children stomp through the woods like Tyrannosaurus Rex then turn into a ballet dancer.


Movement exploration helps develop both fine and gross motor skills. “Move this Way” is an activity that inspires practice in locomotor skills. Prepare a set of large word cards with one action word on each card like walk, skip, gallop, slide, crawl, roll, tiptoe, hop, jump and stomp. Kids move around the room doing the skill on the card in front of them. When they hear a signal they stop at a different card and when signaled again they do the new skill.

In “Paper Plate Balancing” each child balances a plate on part of the body as they move around the room. When it falls off, they balance it on another part of the body.


Even if it is just you and your child dancing to the radio, he/she will learn how to relate to you through movement. If children are working with other kids, they can improve their socialization skills. Group activities require teamwork and leadership skills.

In the “Moving Machine” activity children join the group one at a time and become a machine part that must relate to the rest of the group. It’s fun to add a machine sound to each movement. When done, you will have a giant machine with really cool sounds.


Research shows that movement is the young child’s preferred mode of learning-because they best understand concepts when they’re physically experienced. For instance, if they become the shape of the letter “C,” they will remember it better. The children will increase their awareness of the space around them and the shape of different objects. Participating in movement exploration activities will build their vocabulary and language skills as well. Following the directions will increase their concentration span and listening skills. As their movement vocabulary increases they will develop different ways to solve problems.

This article can only serve as an introduction to this enormous topic. Visit Kathy Stemke’s blog and sign up for her free monthly newsletter, Movement and Rhythm at http://educationtipster.blogspot.

Kathy Stemke, a retired teacher and freelance writer, is a contributing editor for The National Writing for Children's Center. She is part of the team at DKV Writing 4U, a writing service that includes ghostwriting, copywriting, editing, proofreading, critiquing, media releases, and much more. Look for DKV’s March 2011 special-one article or blog p0st just $10!!

Other Articles:

Follow me on twitter:

Follow on Facebook:!/kathymarescomatthews.stemke?ref=profile

Follow on LinkedIn:

Moving Through all Seven Days ebook purchase on lulu:

Kathy's next two children's picture books, "Trouble on Earth Day," and "Sh,Sh,Sh Will the Baby Sleep?" will come out in 2011!

Thanks Kathy, I really enjoyed your article.


  1. Enjoyed this article very much. And anyone who understands and encourages people to experience those "uninhibited moments in response to music" gets an A+ in this old Hippie mucisian's book! :)

    Marvin D Wilson

  2. Great article. Music is so important to the human experience. I'm glad to hear how to promote it with children.

  3. Kathy, what a great article. Music is a wonderful tool for so many things and kids love it. From babies you can watch them move, then dance to the sound.

  4. Absolutely terrific article and right on the money! Last at a local b-ball game at half time when the music came on a 2-yr toddler got up and started dancing. She had the undivided attention of all in attendance. It was a a pleasure to watch her!

  5. Developing self esteem is so important for kids. Its easy to feel intimidated and the big ol' world at such a young age. Too many kids have an identity crisis. And big thanks to all who help develop our youth of today and leadership of tomorrow!

  6. I just love this post and I can't say what is my favorite part because it all is. I grew up with music always playing in my house and so have my children. I play music to help set the mood and scene I'm going to write as well. Thanks for sharing this with all of us.

    VS Grenier

  7. Thanks for all your wonderful comments! Music is a gift of God. Have you ever seen a dog or cat tapping their paws to music? No, but we still love them.

    thank you fr hosting me Martha!

  8. Wonderful article, Kathy! I'm going to Facebook it and Tweet it.

  9. Hi Kathy,

    I love, love this great article. This afternoon at my school we had a DJ and dance for our middle school students. It was very interesting to see kids that usually are very passive in my classes dancing and having a great time. Thanks for sharing this article.

    Nicole Weaver

  10. Fabulous article! I love music and dancing so I was completely enthralled wtih this. Great post Kathy!

  11. Interesting article. I totally didn't get over here - only a day late - lol. I'm trying to be better. We all need that movement in our lives or we tend to atrophy. Thanks for sharing with us. E :)

    Elysabeth Eldering
    Author of the Junior Geography Detective Squad, 50-state, mystery, trivia series

    Where will the adventure take you next?

  12. As a singer and musician, I agreed with everything - and with your statement that music is a gift from God. Wonderful article. Will tweet!

  13. Do you have an simple resources for making children's instruments from everyday stuff?


  14. Kathy, This is a wonderful article! From someone with no musical talent whatsoever,this makes me envious in the nicest way possible!

  15. Excellent article, Kathy. Both my girls are dancers and one of them plays guitar.

    Margo, one easy instrument we made was a shaker using a paper towel cardboard roll and some rice. We stapled one end of the roll, and then put in some uncooked rice. We stapled the other end of the roll and then used contstruction paper to cover it, which the kids then decorated. My girls have made them for vacation Bible school in the past and have always loved them.

    Thanks for the fun article, Kathy.

  16. What fun! As usual, your ideas are great, Kathy.

  17. Thanks for sharing the wonderful article, Kathy! I'm a musician and have taught preschool music in the past as well as encouraging my grandchildren to enjoy music. My oldest was almost dancing to music before he could walk!

  18. it's great to see how excited everyone gets about music and movement! I've even danced to the written word.

  19. We're getting our kids involved with music starting with a keyboard first. Then they can decide what they want to branch out into. And best wishes for your next two books!


About Me

My photo
Virginia Beach, Virginia, United States