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!!

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Thanks Kathy, I really enjoyed your article.

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