You may not think a group of energetic children need to warm up to prepare for dancing, but warm-ups are a safe and healthy way to prepare their little bodies for movement. Warm-ups should be fun and quick. A good warm-up routine ranges from five to seven minutes and targets muscle groups you plan to use during that day's dance. Aim for two or three short movement activities to get the kids moving.
Stretch Those Muscles
Young kids can bend like pretzels they're so flexible, but they still have to stretch to avoid injuring themselves before dancing. Warm-up activities such as moving to the song "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" are engaging and effective. Twisting their bodies, touching their toes and reaching for the sky are all good ways to stretch out tight muscles. Encourage them by saying "How high can you reach? Can you touch the clouds? Now how low can you bend? Who's touching the floor?"
Balance and Control
Balancing is hard work for many toddlers and preschoolers, but it builds strength and control necessary for safe dancing. Pretend to be flamingos and stand balanced on one leg, then the other, counting how long they can balance without falling over. See if any of the kids can stand on tippy toes. Practice walking on a line taped to the floor, putting one foot in front of the other. Make it silly by asking kids to touch their noses or rub their tummies as they try and stay balanced.
Increase Heart Rate
Marching, skipping, crazy freestyle dancing and gentle jogging can all increase children's heart rates. Throw on some music and get moving. While the kids have fun expressing themselves, they will be warming up their bodies for the dance routine they'll be doing. Don't be shy, let go of your inhibitions and join in. This type of warm-up also teaches children how to move safely in their own space and to be aware of where their body is in relation to other things.
Loosen the Limbs and Joints
It doesn't take much convincing to get young children to act silly. Have them act like animals to loosen their arms and legs and bend their knees and elbows. Play a game of follow the leader, and pretend to be an elephant swinging his trunk. Clasp your hands together and stretch your arms out in front of your nose, forming a trunk, then sway your arms back and forth. Pretend to be a monkey climbing a tree or walk like a lion on all fours. Be giraffes and roll your long necks. Take turns deciding which animal to act like and you will all be warmed up in no time.
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