Categotry Archives: Props Ideas

Welly Walk, Welly Dance

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Children love a welly walk. They love to be outside and they love to explore. Why not bring the welly walk into the dance class and extend the fun! Some things to try for schools, pre-schools, nurseries and when at home.

What is a Welly Walk?

A welly walk is basically that, a walk in wellies. Along the walk the children are encouraged to collect things they see. At this time of year that could be leaves, acorns, chestnut cases and other things that have fallen from trees. It often involves some puddle jumping and could include some leaf kicking.

 

Into Dance…

There are lots of opportunities for movement play whilst on the welly walk, but I’ve put together some ideas for in a dance class, continuing the fun and extending the learning. These things can be done with parents at home or with teachers at school.

Collections

Collect things from the welly walk and bring them into the dance class as inspiration or props. A leaf is great for a cool down. Ask children to sit or lay down comfortably, leaf in hand. With calming music on, they can copy you or interpret your direction in their way. You could begin with stroking the arms, don’t forget the elbows. You could do a tickley arm pit or chin. You can twirl the leaf between the fingers. It can be balanced on different body parts. There are lots of things that can be done during cool down.

Link to English

Use the welly walk to encourage the use of different types of descriptive words (float, swish, splash, slide) then choreograph a dance using the words. This is an easy way to help children be more creative with the types of movements they do. For example, if you ask a child to pretend to be a falling leaf it’s likely that they will reach up and then wiggle down to the ground. If you ask them whilst also reminding them of some of the words they’ve thought of, their movements will be very different. They might begin high up, swaying, twitchy, swoop and then get lower as they float, twist, fly and land softly. If you don’t have real leaves, conkers and twigs etc. for this you can get craft leaves that work well throughout the year!

Roots Game

Whilst on a welly walk, roots are great for inspiring movement, especially big gnarly ones that stick up out of the ground. When back inside you can play the roots game and remember what you did. Set up some bases around the space and at each base the task is different. Tasks could be root jumping (like a ski jump over something), root balancing (find something to balance on in a certain position or balance whilst walking along it), root hopping (a row of roots that need to be hopped or hurdled over) etc. This is circuits for dance and with a theme!

Gumboot Dance

Quite a specialist area, we have dance teachers who are trained to deliver authentic classes, but you could take some aspects of this African dance style into the dance class. Put wellies on and dance in them. Use the wellies to inspire stamping, clapping and welly slapping rhythms!

Acorn, leaf, muddy puddle game.

Get some pictures of these things and/or use your voice to announce each thing. Start slowly. Ask the children to improvise around each item, use descriptive words. See my blog about improvisation for more about this. Once they have some movement material for each one, speed up your announcements. A slow breeze to start with then speeding up so they are moving between each one quickly, switching movements fast and getting excited as they go. This idea could be used as a warm up or for a game anytime in the lesson.

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Dance Ideas for New Friends

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This month we’re focusing on friendship, new things and social inclusion so I had a conversation with the TRS Teachers about their ideas. Dance is a fantastic medium for making friends and learning about social interactions. 

It’s September and the schools are back, the children in our classes are meeting new people in their new classes and it’s a new school year, but we’ve talked about all classes for this blog, including Active Armchairs, because the social aspects of dance are present everywhere!

The TRS Teachers have shared lots of ideas for dancing around these themes below. I’ll also be writing a blog post about PSHE towards the end of the month and this will relate as well.
 

Meet and Greet Ideas…

Rebecca
Name and shape is a fantastic introduction game. It’s an old favourite that I first played when volunteering at Magpie Dance Company ten years ago! It works with any age, any ability and pretty much any theme! Its great for us dance teachers to learn names and to give all participants a chance to be in the spotlight if they want to.
 

How to play:
Everyone stands in a circle. Teacher explains that we are going to take it in turns to say our name and make a shape or do a little movement. Then everyone will copy the shape or movement and say the name back. As you go around each person can pass the turn onto the next person by gesturing that it is their go.
 
 
Georgia
“I like doing ‘Meet and Move’ we have selected movements and then travel around the space, when the teach shouts meet you find a friend (A different partner each time) and do the movement together and then continue. I have done this as part of a warm up where when we meet we circle a different body part starting from our head and then working towards our toes! By the end you will have danced with around 6 different people! for younger ones to make this clearer it can be when the music stops that you ‘meet’ with a friend to do the moments.”
 

Social Inclusion, how we can encourage it…

Steph
“I’ve been using the theme of holidays recently in Active Armchairs which has lead to some brilliant conversations and connections between participants. We have been sharing memories of places we have lived or visited, which has connected many people in conversation as they had visited the same place! It’s so interesting to hear how people have moved around in their lives, and lead to lots of revelations between the participants as they released that perhaps they might have even crossed paths before!”
 
Rebecca
Props are a brilliant way to include everyone in a session. I had a magic moment in Active Armchairs at Valley View Nursing Home and always share it with trainee facilitators…
 

“One lady has her table that when chooses to always sit at. The layout of the home means that she’s close enough to the seating area to see the tv and be involved with my sessions, but she is still comfortable at her table. She always sings and joins in with arms movements even though she isn’t in the circle. This is nice, but I thought she might enjoy it more and feel included if she joined our circle so I thought of some ideas. The prop that worked best was the giant elastic. I had excellent support from Dee the Activities Co-ordinator so we were able to work together. I laid the elastic out before the start and went to chat to the participant. I explain what we were going to do and asked if she would like to join us. Luckily she did and Dee helped move her to the main circle. It was a fantastic class and a real turning point.”
 

Jess

Parachutes are such a sociable prop. Call a colour and the participant runs underneath and swops places with someone else. Yoy could adapt to include a high five under the parachute.
 
Our ideas for the best props for social inclusion…
Giant elastic
Huge piece of lycra
Big balloons or beach balls
Knotted scarves
Feathers used for mirroring
Shakers for call and response
Parachute
 

Exploring Friendship…

Becca T
A nice dance idea is people bring an item to share or the teacher brings a small selection. E.g stone, feather, cube. The dancers explore the texture/shape/pathway/feeling of the item to make their own phrase. Progress: partner up and combine 2 items. Suitable for all ages and abilities.
 
Steph
I covered the theme of Friendship last term in schools. We discussed what we felt made a good friend, and then used those ideas to create movements. We made sure we danced with people in class that perhaps we didn’t know very well or were in different year groups and kept swapping partners throughout the dance. There were lots of brilliant buzz words like ‘supportive’ and ‘caring’ which lead to some lovely trust and support movements. Then together we put all of this together into a dance to ‘You’ve got a friend in me’ from Toy Story.
 

 

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TRS Tots

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Last week we launched TRS Tots. We’ve been providing classes in the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) for years, but now these sessions have an official logo and marketing material thanks to Tremendous Design Agency. We’re looking forward to holding more classes in nurseries, pre-schools, children’s centres and other places were babies, toddlers and young children gather. They’ll be sessions for parents / guardians to dance with their children and for the children to move without them from 2. 
 

Anyway, to celebrate,  I thought we would share some of our favourite things to do so here are some ideas from the TRS Teachers.

What’s in the bag prop task, getting them to guess what it is always fun.
Georgia
I second this! A bag full of egg shakers makes wonderful sounds when you wiggle it, creates conversation and excitement as they put a hand in to feel what could be in the bag and then produces big smiles as they pull out a brightly coloured prop that doubles up as an instrument! Magic!
Steph
 
I love to pick out a prop (whatever it maybe, scarf, balls etc) and watch them explore the different movements they can make using it.
Georgie
I like to use bubbles at the end of class. I ask them to dodge them and make funny shapes with there bodies or pop them. They always look forward to it.
Hayley
I love an improv story. It’s great to see the unexpected things that the dancers come up with. Even if I have some ideas, give them something I think is difficult or give them a really specific task, they’re always surprising me! Plus, there are so many things you can do with an improv story! I wrote a whole blog about it here… http://www.therightstepdc.co.uk/2018/11/21/improvisation/
Rebecca
 
Props props props… I love a prop and so do they. I also have a theme for each class… going to the park, winter weather (in winter), dancing in the rain, and then each theme leads to the movements we do such as splashing in puddles, lifting our knees high when walking thru snow, swishing the fallen leaves with our feet etc.
Clare
 
I’d say things that make noise or that are very tactile.
Georgia about classes for babies
 
I love to watch their eyes follow the noisy objects. Parents like to see how they react to different tactile objects too.
Rebecca
 
I used to use light up balls when I taught ball skills – turned the lights in the room off and then they just bounced the balls around
Katie
 

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Hoopsiration

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I’ve been looking at Pinterest a bit more recently and I stumbled upon lots of ideas for using hoops for movement play and dance. You might think that hoops are just for swinging around your hips or limbs, but there are lots of things to be done with them. Not just big, gross motor skills movements, there are a few ideas for more intricate movements and team building too! Hoops are not just for children and some of the ideas below can be adapted for our Active Armchairs classes. Hoops were very popular in the past and this could be a nostalgic prop that leads to lots of great conversation.

You can get hoops online and in many toy shops. They range in price and some of the more expensive ones even count how many times you swing it around. For the following ideas you just need simple circles, but do try and get some variation (different colours and sizes are great for tactile stimulation) and, if you’re using them with lots of children a lot of the time I’d recommend sturdy ones or you will end up replacing them very soon when they bend. If you want to be extra exciting you could get light up hoops, glow in the dark hoops or glitter hoops (Amazon). You can also buy travel hoops. I’ve not tried them myself, but they might be useful for a traveling dance teacher who already has a lot of props in the car!
 

Hoops and Tape

You can make hoops into all sorts of shapes, both on the floor or standing up, and you can keep them there by using tape. A wobbly climbing frame can be good for an adventure dance (see my improvisation blog for more on this) and has an extra element to the ones played with outside as they have to be careful not to squash it or wobble it too much. Tape the hoops together in a few places and use one on the floor to keep it sturdy for something 3d or make patterns on the floor for games like hop scotch, Lilly pads or islands.

Magic Doors

I love a magic door adventure… they can go anywhere and any when, they can go to real or imaginary places, they can take you through as you or someone/thing else and they can take one person or a team. You can use lots of different things to make a magic door because you just need to create a shape to walk through. Hoops are great if you want to send the whole class through because the teacher can hold them on their own and send themselves through afterwards. You could use a hoop as a floor magic door or a standing one. You could have a different colour hoop for a different adventure.

A similar idea for a circus theme that I just found on Pinterest… Fire Hoops! Decorate the hoop with fire shaped paper and dancers climb, jump or squeeze through. https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/222224562848847865/ 

Pick Up Hoop

This is good for in a classroom, during Active Armchairs, in small group time or in a hall based dance class because it’s very adaptable. It is also good for all ages and abilities. Each pair or group has a hoop and they sit cross legged around it. The dancers have to work together to lift the hoop, stand and end with the hoop above their heads. This can be made more difficult by using fewer and fewer fingers, starting from laying down or using a time limit to speed them up. It can be made simpler by starting from a crouch or chair and using more fingers.

Hoola Circuits

Create stations around the room as you would in ‘normal’ circuits. Different hoops could mean different things and you can position the hoops on lots of ways to signify what needs to be done at each station. Here are a few ideas to get you started, but circuits is always easily adapted to the class theme.
 
Mini lilly pads, excellent for core strength and gross motor skills (position the hoops on the floor and dancers frog hopfrom one to the other)
Hoop spin, great for hand eye co-ordination and fine motor skis (dancers hold hoops in one hand and stand back, spin the hoops and try to keep them upright)
Climb through, good for co-ordination and heart rate excitment (how many times can the dancer climb through their hoop)

Hungry Hippos or Blackhole Rescue, use this for core strength and co-ordination (put a pile of bean bags or similar objects/toys into the hoop that lies on the floor, put some tape on the floor a little way away. Dancers put their feet on the tape, crawl out to plank to collect a bean bag one at a time and put each bean behind them.)

Circle Dance

Not the circle dance we offer to care homes, this is literally choreograph a dance about circles! This idea can also be used at any age, for any ability. Use various techniques to help the dancers create movements that are circular both with and without the hoops, in them and around them, holding onto them and not. The circular movements are likely to be large and therefore developing gross motor skills. This is great for improving muscles needed for writing.
 

Try sequencing the movements into a motif and then developing them into a full choreography. The hoops make great backdrops and can be positioned on the floor to encourage interesting ways of travelling between motifs. There is a lot of fun to be had with this idea and all the ideas above could be used yo influence he choreography.

I’m going to be writing more blogs about props ideas, but in the meantime, if you want to read more about props you can see our Facebook page (Each month we share some ideas about props on Facebook) or click on the ‘props’ link below and it will show all of our blogs relating to props.

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Valentines Dance Props

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Georgie set my daughter and I a challenge this month…

Make some Valentine’s Day themed dance props! We had a lovely time making them and playing with them since. I’m not going to tell you how to make these things as there are lots of tutorials online about that already, but I would like to share some thoughts and ideas about what we did. 

 

 

Sensory Bottles

  • This is a fantastically versatile prop. You can change the size (imagine a massive one for team work!), the shape (small hand held ones for dancing with), the content and the colour (red gel food colouring was pretty) so they could fit almost any theme. 
  • These are a wonderful thing for Active Armchairs. For all the reasons they are good for sensory stimulation, but also because they are unusual, not patronising (providing the contents is appropriate) and they brighten up the room. 
  • We only had jars for this, but I do think plastic screw top bottles are better. The jars look very pretty, but they are a little heavy and might break if dropped. 
  • When making them hand eye co-ordination and fine motor skills were developing. 
  • You can dance with them, copy them or move after them as they roll away.
  • Play a version of eye spy and use the things in the bottle as inspiration for choreography. 

Hearts for Hopping!

  • I used an A4 bit of card and let Tiny One choose how to decorate them. We used crayons, stickers and paint. We could have made smaller ones and turned them into wands! 
  • They are also very versatile as shape, size, colour, decoration etc. can be changed. 
  • The texture of the puffy stickers is a nice addition to the game. Other textures could be used as well. 
  • They could also be used for aiming or landing pads and this would be fun for Active Armchairs
  • This would be a lovely thing for a cross-curricular approach. Each child in the class could make their own and they can bring them to dance as a magic spot or as part of a larger thing such as a long snake of hopping stones.

I enjoyed this challenge so if you have one to set us please get in contact and we’ll see what we can make! 

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Motor Skills Part Three

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The third and final blog post in my motor skills series… a few things to try!  If you missed them, please check out the previous blogs posts…
 
Section One: Gross Motor Skills 
Section Two: Fine Motor Skills
Section Three: How to Maintain and Improve Motor Skills With Dance (this section)
 
Some things to try! 
 

Use a giant elastic in a circle. The fact that you’re dancing as a team gets everyone excited and they forget themselves. This generally increases the size of movement at any age or ability and therefore is great for gross motor skills. The fact you’re also holding onto the elastic is great for strengthening fingers and, therefore, fine motor skills too. 

 
There are plenty of things to do with a giant elastic, but for this purpose you could put some music on with a simple beat. Gently bounce the elastic to the beat as a group, as you continue change the movement you’re doing. You could try up, down, up, down, bicycle arms, swaying side to side and much more. The picture is of some of the TRS Teachers in Educating Dance training using the giant elastic to create large shapes. 
 

Swap hands! In dance class we always do things both sides. It often feels odd not to because one side will be stronger or more flexible than the other. With the hands this is known as Bilateral Integration and this can be improved by doing a prop exercise with the other hand too! For example, if you’re using scarves, encourage the group to swap hands half way through.
 
Lycra is great for resistance. A fun game for children and able adults… as a group, hold the lycra at the edges and pull it taught, but not completely tight. One person goes underneath and stretches the lycra in interesting shapes. You can also do a similar thing as a group sitting on the floor and making shapes with legs. 
 
The Smallest Movement Counts  in Active Armchairs and this is applicable whenever you’re working on fine motor skills. Small movements and gestures are great for brain breaks in the classroom at school or for a few minutes of hand training in a care home. I mentioned finger counts in my second blog post, but there are plenty of other things that can be done. You can try tapping each of the fingers on the thumb, putting songs on with simple rhythms and moving fingers in different ways or remembering and talking about signifying gestures such as pointing and waving. 

Egg and Spoon races can be achieved whilst standing or sitting. It just takes some imagination. The idea for egg and spoon races in Active Armchairs came from Steph during the Age of Creativity Festival last year. The theme was partnership and the egg and spoon passing sprung from that. 

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these ideas and have learnt at least a little something. The plan is for 2019 to be the year of useful, informative and inspiring blog posts so please keep an eye out and see our News Page for more. 

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Motor Skills Part Two

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The second part in the motor skills blog series, fine motor skills. If you’re behind here are some links…

Section One: Intro and Gross Motor Skills
Section Two: Fine Motor Skills (This section)
Section Three: How to Maintain and Improve Motor Skills With Dance

Fine Motor Skills: these are smaller movements making use of smaller muscles, most commonly in the hands. Movement examples would include clenching a fist, wiggling toes or using tools such as cutlery or a computer mouse and keyboard.

In dance props are our main source of support in fine motor skill development and maintenance, but there are things that can be done without. When working with children in an Educating Dance (cross-curricular) class small gestures are wonderful at conveying meaning. I used them in our Dinosaurs themed classes when doing a warm up about excavation and fossils (see photo below). A dance club as a whole can also be a good opportunity for practice as participants often have to get changed and therefore use buttons, buckles and laces.

In our Active Armchairs classes we do the finger count in our first warm up dance. This is predominantly about the opening the  lungs (we shout our counts as the fingers open), but it is also great for fine motor skills, the circulatory system and generally waking bodies and minds for the class. It is one of the few essential movements that are found in Active Armchairs sessions, though the TRS Teachers still put their own spin on it.

Props make development and maintenance of fine motor skills much easier. Simply holding a relatively small object is beneficial.  Squeezing balls or egg shakers (the TRS Teachers have hundreds of these between them) takes the benefit to the next stage. I have a fun trick with scarfs where by you screw it up into one hand, hiding it away, then slowly open it to make a rose.

Fine motor skills, like gross motor skills, are key to freedom and self worth, but in different ways. Fine motor skills allow someone to press buttons, write and draw, point and make signifying gestures or sign. Without them, as with gross motor skills the ability to perform simple tasks is lost.  Children have a sense of excitement and pride when they receive a pen licence. An adult who can write down or draw their thoughts is able to express themselves artistically.

The next section is How to Maintain and Improve Motor Skills With Dance.

Props Sharing

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Written by Rebecca, Georgia and Jess.

The TRS Teachers gathered for a props sharing to discuss ideas for using props in the dance class with different age groups and in different settings. The sharing was a great success and not only did we all come away with lots of ideas, we also made some props together such as egg shakers and a giant scarf. 

During the the sharing we explored different ways to use the props we had made and thought of ways we could use these as a way to engage participants and to enhance the dance class.

“I love using props in a dance class because they always enhance the session and they can be used as a tool to engage the participants and develop creative moment. I use props in classes for all ages as they provide a visual stimuli and provide the participants with something fun and tactile. Props can be used to create music (such as the shakers) or encourage a participant to move in a certain way. Some examples of this may be to reach a bean bag as high as you can, move a scarf softly through the space or squeeze a ball to see how tightly you can grip it before passing it to your neighbour. I had a wonderful time at the props session and cannot wait to put the ideas in to practice.”
Georgia Smith (Adult Dance Co-ordinator, Level Two TRS Teacher and Active Armchairs Facilitator)

Jess is the newest member of the TRS Team and is absorbing all the ideas she can. She said…

I have recently started teaching in different environments and with different age groups. This has made me think about the way I can incorporate props into my classes. Not only can props extend the movement and can help tell a story, they can also help participants interact with each other and with me, as their teacher, creating new bonds and friendships within the group. The sharing gave lots of ideas for how to make props and use them in classes in different ways. Props never just have one use, with a little imagination a scarf can turn into anything.

The sharing provided lots of ideas of how to make props and use them in classes in different ways.
Plastic eggs to make egg shakers
Material to sew together and make bean bags
Hoops to add ribbons to and wave

We created a prop shopping list that included teacher’s favourite props. Some of them are the basics that every TRS Teacher needs! 
Feathers
Scarves 
Ribbons
Cotton Snowballs
Pom Poms
Ball Pit Balls
Dusters (A great first prop, 50p for a  pack of 100!)
Bubbles

At The Right Step we love to share great practice and this is what the sharings are about, but we found the props sharing was also very therapeutic. Conversation and craft in a relaxed atmosphere. As well as sharing days between the TRS Teachers we also share props and ideas on our Facebook page, usually on a Wednesday, so keep an eye out HERE

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