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5 Keys to Unlock the Brainpower in Your Preschooler with Dance and Movement

Jan 25, 2012 05:20PM, Published by Brian O, Categories:



By Jeanne Mayer, Ph.D.

Every place you go, everywhere you look, you see it – young children dancing, singing, telling stories, hidden away in their own make-believe world. No one is there – just them. They are caught up in their dancing, making it up as they go. What is this? Is this just silliness of a young child, or is this telling us something. Is it a clue to something bigger?
Movement and dance stimulate the mind. Movement develops neural connections. Every step of a dance is instrumental in developing a young child’s brainpower. Society, in its quest for an antiseptic environment, has greatly neglected a child’s inherent need for creative physical experiences. You can change all of that. Children learn from their mother, father, grandmother and grandfather more than any one else. Dr. Page wrote an article in the American Music Conference Magazine, which stated that, “young children need to be able to move to music in a variety of ways. Preschoolers enjoy movement activities that center on their bodies, such as keeping a steady beat with a rhythm instrument or patting their knees. They also respond to music by moving in their own ways, unconfined by rules.”

I have fond memories of growing up dancing with my mom, dad, and my sisters. My dad would put on recordings of our favorite songs at night, after dinner. We would all dance together in the living room. You may be saying to yourself, “ I don’t know how to dance well enough to teach my child to dance.” You don’t have to. The keys to follow will give you the confidence and “know how” to teach your child movement activities in a simple, fun way. You will be sharing times that will form a special bond with your child along with invaluable memories.

Key #1 – Marching Band

Everyone loves a marching band, and all young children love to march. Put on a song and watch them go! 

According to online article, “Running Training: Workouts Designed To Improve Technique,” “Marching, the most basic form of exercise, provides an excellent starting point for beginners. Marching is performed slowly and deliberately at first but progresses in speed and cadence as balance, stability and body mechanics improve.” Preschoolers, who are learning basic techniques, are comfortable with a movement such as marching. They can easily accomplish it and have instant success. Here’s how! Find a recording of the march, “The Stars and Strips Forever” by John Philip Sousa, for example, from your local library or download it from the Internet. Due to a young child’s development, they usually cannot successfully march around in a circle unless it is marked off for them. You can mark it off by putting a small table or two to three chairs in the middle of a room to march around. Put on the music and prepare to march. As you and your youngster march around the room, you can pick up your knees and look like a real- live band member. Adding purchased or homemade rhythm instruments such as drums, rhythm sticks, or shakers can make marching even more fun. You and your child can take turns being the band major, holding a safe stick in your hand. What about a marching band hat? The sky’s the limit! 

Carla Hannaford, a neurophysiologist and professor, explains how movement increases brainpower. “By engaging a child in movement activities, parents and grandparents can actually awake the brainpower in their youngster. Physical activity reestablishes the nerve networks that activate the vestibular system – the system that carries messages to the brain. Movement anchors thinking in motor pathways as we speak, write, or perform any physical acts that express our thoughts.” 

Key #2 – The Hockey Pokey

Here’s an old favorite everyone knows and loves. However, it’s new and exciting for

your preschooler. If you sing the song yourselves without musical accompaniment, sing it through a couple of times before you add the actions. If you would like, play a recording of “The Hokey Pokey,” turn it up and let her rip! The first few times through, you can lead the movements; and then let your preschooler lead. 

According to researcher and author, Eric Jensen in his book, Arts With the Brain in Mind, states that, “Movement and dance may enhance cognitive, positive attitudes and confidence. In some cases, they can grow new brain cells.”

You’ll have so much fun! Giggles will be heard throughout your house, and …”that’s what it’s all about!”

Key #3 - The Scarf Dance

“They” say that scarves are always in. Are they? “They say that you can
wear them with everything. Well, if you have scarves in your closet or drawers you haven’t worn for years, here’s your chance to put them to good use. Have a scarf dance! Both of you hold one or more scarves in one or both hands. Put on a recording such as “Spring” from the classical symphony, The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi. Begin leading your youngster by putting your scarves high, then low, side to side, around in a big circle, squiggle it around in a small circle, turn a round with the scarf, and leap like a ballerina. Next, let your preschooler lead, and you follow. 

According to Jensen, “Movement affects the brain in many ways; and most of the brain is activated during physical activity. Dancing and movement contribute to the development and enhancement of critical neurobiological systems, including cognition [brainpower], emotions, immune, circulatory, and perceptual motor skills.” This quote supports the lesson that I have learned teaching preschool music and movement. Simple put, “Kids learn more when they move.”

Key #4 - Animal Actions 

Get ready, get set, go! Your preschooler will love to run around a circle
pretending to be different animals. 

This was evidenced in the store today as I talked to a young mother and her 4-year-old boy. I was buying a greeting card with rubber ducks on it. 

I asked the little boy, “What are these?”

“Ducks,” he said.

Then I asked him, “What sound a duck make?”

Boldly he squawked, “Quack, quack, quack!”

“Can you please show us how a duck walks?” I asked. Without hesitation, he waddled and quacked his way down the isle. His mom was surprised. I wasn’t. I know that children love to pretend they are animals. With or without accompanying music, you can name the different animals for your child to “become.” Favorites are bunnies, dogs, cats, snakes, ducks, birds, and fish. Encourage your youngster to make the sound of the animal as they go. Make a movie of it. You will get big laughs later if you show it at your child’s future wedding reception. Within all the fun lie profound effects on the development of a child’s brainpower. 

In the NaturalNews, Northwestern University scientists concluded their finding. "The effect of music training suggests that, akin to physical exercise and its impact on body fitness, music is a resource that tones the brain for…fitness.”

Key #5 – Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Ready for some more fun? It’s time for your child to define parts of his/her body. “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” can do it. Before you start, ask your child to name and touch his/her head, shoulder, knees and toes. You can also ask your child what each of these parts of the body do. Sing the song through, and then later, sing it faster and faster. This is always good for a laugh. Sing it again, leaving out words, such as:

“______________, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes, knees and toes, etc. In the next verse, you leave out two words: “_______________, _____________, knees and toes, knees and toes.” It’s all fun and it’s all important to building your child’s brainpower. Movement develops the area of the brain responsible for speech and language.

According to Jessica Pitt from the Pre-School Music Association: "Young children seem to learn best when songs are experienced through their bodies. Movement and music greatly enhance acquisition of language." 

Motor skills used in dance and movement is defined by Dictionary.com as, “The ability to perform complex muscle-and-nerve acts that produce movement.” It is a misconception that children “naturally” develop fundamental motor skills through undirected play. This is shown through systematic observation. Many children never develop a quality of fundamental motor skills, which later can lead to statements like, “I can’t dance,” or “I can’t throw.” Motor skills and brainpower and are interdependent. Increase your child’s motor skills, and you will increase his/her brainpower.



Dance Child Development


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