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Most people recognise the value of creative childcare ideas, and often early childhood is seen as the best “training ground”. Most developments in society can be traced back to creative approaches that were taken, seen in medicine, technology and even business. Psychologists believe that we naturally respond to things that are new and innovative, and this is used in advertising and even capitalism – the newer, the better.

Choosing what early years activities to ‘teach’ in early childhood is another challenge: what early childhood life experiences caused different inventors and innovators to make a change that impacted society? Current thinking is to create opportunities in a wide range of areas.

The creative part of the early childhood curriculum echoes this and includes: architecture, circus, dance, handcrafts, media art, music, theatre, visual arts, word arts, 2D/3D arts/visual media, painting, drawing, building, crafting, modelling, creating statues, installations, animations, advertisements, taking pictures and videos.

A Finnish study, (Lehikoinen, 2023) considered 6 different ways to explore creativity with a particular focus on 1- and 2-year-olds, with a focus on successful engagement. This age is known to be tricky, with limited pedagogical content for under 3s in the arts. Like many countries, visual and musical arts in Finland were not usually accessed daily, with most settings bringing in specialists once a month or less. So, 6 activities were devised, specifically for this age group:

  • Dance-painting – paint feet, move to song
  • Snow-painting
  • Magic dough
  • Digital drawing
  • Musical drawing
  • Balloon painting

This month, we are focusing on dance painting. Dancing is a natural behaviour in most cultures and traditions. Some languages still translate the word ‘music’ as dance AND singing AND instrumental play. Painting little ones’ feet and combining this with music and movement, embraces this concept and is also a demonstration of the child’s expression.

Free dance often works best with younger children or older/more confident children as children are either less self-aware or have become more self-assured. It is usually when children are in a state of transition that they are unsure of themselves, needing the security of instruction and examples, and this is where songs mixing instruction with free dance are helpful. Modelling free dance is also a helpful way for less confident children to learn to copy and repeat. The following songs are a few creative childcare ideas that combine games and free dance as a great introduction to exploring movement.

We are dancing

https://youtu.be/gK69nlsD5Ac

We are dancing in the forest
While the wolf is far away
Who knows what may happen to us
If he finds us at our play
Wolf are you there?

… I’m combing my hair
… I’m brushing my teeth
… I’m getting my coat
… I’M COMING TO EAT YOU!

This song is a variation on “What’s the time, Mister Wolf?”. It is sung to a tune that children will easily learn and repeat successfully because it uses notes that are near each other, so it is easy to sing accurately. But best of all, it is fun, non-prescriptive, AND contains an element of suspense! Children can dance freely to start – there is no right way or wrong way to ‘dance in a forest’. Sing the song through a few times with different endings – even make up your own! Children also develop their listening skills, looking for hints and cues, and need to listen as the song progresses to listen out for the point where the wolf is … coming to eat (catch) them!

This way, Valerie

https://youtu.be/DfE6Lw3VyeE

This way, Valerie, that way, Valerie
This way, Valerie, all day long
Here comes another one, just like the other one
Here comes another one, all day long

This song combines organised dancing with free dance, and allows for children to take part while also watching and learning through taking turns. Children stand in two equal parallel lines opposite a partner/friend. They should be far enough apart to allow two children to pass between them – while dancing! As the song begins, the couple at the end choose their own moves – creating a dance together or separately as they move down the centre. When they get to the end of the line (when the new verse starts), they join the end and the new head couple pass between the lines, doing their own dance!

Clapping land

https://youtu.be/Gja2y6juFcM 

I travelled far across the sea
I met a man and old was he
Old man, I said, where do you live?
And this is what he told me

Come with me to clapping land
Clapping land, clapping land
All who want to live with me
Come with me to clapping land

Come with me to wiggling land
Wiggling land, wiggling land
All who want to live with me
Come with me to wiggling land

Come with me to disco land
Disco land, disco land
All who want to live with me
Come with me to disco land

Come with me to ballet land
Ballet land, ballet land
All who want to live with me
Come with me to ballet land

Come with me to hip-hop land
Hip-hop land, hip-hop land
All who want to live with me
Come with me to hip-hop land

This is another great transition song that mixes up clear instruction with free dance. It starts with the group in a circle, holding hands with younger children, and walking around to the chorus – “I travelled far across the sea”. The different verses can be changed to describe different dances, helping children to learn about different ways to move and develop their own personal ‘movement signature’ or dance style.

Dance is the natural form of self-expression that most babies automatically engage in as soon as they are able to sit. Being aware that different homes will celebrate or discourage movement helps us to know how to create opportunities for the children in our care. Moving comfortably and confidently has so many health and life benefits that it really is an essential part of early childhood development.

References:

Lehikoinen, S. M. (2023). Joy of exploring–visual art methods for 1- and 2-year-old children in the early childhood education, 42.

About the author:

Frances Turnbull, a musician, researcher, and accomplished author, boasts a skill set that encompasses both music education techniques and a Master's degree in Education from the University of Cambridge. Frances' literary contributions shine a spotlight of music, dance, and movement within early years education.

About the author:

Frances Turnbull, a musician, researcher, and accomplished author, boasts a skill set that encompasses both music education techniques and a Master's degree in Education from the University of Cambridge. Frances' literary contributions shine a spotlight of music, dance, and movement within early years education.

About the author:

Frances Turnbull, a musician, researcher, and accomplished author, boasts a skill set that encompasses both music education techniques and a Master's degree in Education from the University of Cambridge. Frances' literary contributions shine a spotlight of music, dance, and movement within early years education.

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