Creative Movement and Dance Lesson Ideas for Preschool Children

Updated on October 7, 2019
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I love giving useful advice for those interested in the art of dance.

Preschool-age children have truly wonderful imaginations and a thirst for learning. As their educator, it is important to engage them in exciting, fun activities that will help them develop physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. One of the best ways to stimulate their creativity is by getting them up and moving. This article has many different ideas to educate preschool children through movement and song.


Getting Started

Be sure to have all your materials ready before the children arrive. Some great tools to help you with your activities are:

  • Hula Hoops
  • Parachute
  • Colored sheer scarves
  • Tambourines
  • Laminated movement cards

Write down what activities you intend to teach during your learning session in the order you will present them. Try to begin with something more low key, followed by a high-energy activity, then take it back down to a lower-key activity. By choosing this method, you will keep your students' attention, but also will not drain them of their energy 10 minutes into your class.

Tip: Always over-plan! Better to have too much to do and not get it all done than not have enough!

Warm Up

To immediately engage children's attention, have them begin by sitting criss-cross in a circle. Have light, relaxing music in the background that will add to the atmosphere of the classroom without being distracting.

Begin with small, simple movements. Have them sit very tall to straighten their back, then incorporate small head movements.

Butterfly Stretch/Rocking Boat

Have the children sit with the bottom of their feet together and move their knees up and down. Encourage them to fly like a butterfly and ask them where it is they would like to fly today.

Begin rocking from side to side to become a rocking boat and again; ask them where they would like to sail.

Learning Objective: Stretching the hips.


Ask what mermaids have that we don't have. "TAILS!" Have them connect their legs with their toes on the floor. Have them "stretch their tail long" by sitting in a v position, then pulling back in to "hide behind their tail"

Learning Objective: Core strengthening.

Good Morning

Have the students sit with their toes into the middle of the circle. Tell them to say hello by flexing their feet and waving to their toes. To tell their toes goodbye, have them point their toes back to the center.

Learning Objective: Difference between flexed and pointed feet.

Ice Cream Scoops

With their toes still in the center, have the children sit tall and put their hands next to their hips to form "scoopers." Ask what kind of ice cream they would like to scoop and how many scoops we should have today. Reach all the way down to their toes without bending their legs and count the scoops. Finish by placing a cherry on top of the toes.

Learning Objective: Stretching hamstrings.

Making Pies

Scoot the circle to be larger and have the students sit in a straddle stretch (flat with floor with legs in a v). Ask them what kind of pie they would like to make today. Pat the ground, then lean to the center to 'smell the pie'. When you sit up, be surprised and tell them that they have pie on their nose and they don't have a napkin to wipe it off. Have them lean to the right and then to the left to clean off their nose. As they get more advanced, have them count to 8 each time, then switch to counting backwards from 8.

Learning Objective:Stretching sides, stretching inner thighs.

Interactive Songs

"I'm a Little Teapot"

This is a great one to teach bending at the waist and stretching the sides. Plus, most children are familiar with the lyrics:

I'm a little tea pot short and stout,

here is my handle (have them put their hand on their hip),

here is my spout (have them hold their other hand up like a spout),

When I get all steamed up hear me shout,

Tip me over and pour me out! (have them lean to pour then stand straight).

Learning Objective: Side stretches.

"Itsy Bitsy Spider"

Another classic that is great, especially in the fall around Halloween. Have them do just the finger motions, then have them stand and turn the song into larger movements.

The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout (have them pretend to climb),

Down came the rain (have them wiggle their fingers to make it rain),

and washed the spider out (have them slide onto their belly on the floor),

Out came the sun (have them put their arms up to make the sun),

And dried up all the rain and the itsy bitsy spider crawled up the spout again (have them pretend to climb).

Learning Objective: Creative thinking.

"Walk, Stamp, Tiptoe, Hop"

Follow along with the lyrics. Have the children begin by walking, then have them stop, listen, and walk again. Do the same with stamping their feet, tip toeing like a mouse and hopping once on each foot. At the end, have them sit down.

"Walk, walk, walk, walk, listen"

"Stamp, stamp, stamp, stamp, listen"

"Tip toe, tip toe, tip toe, tip toe, listen"

"Hop, hop, hop, hop, rest"

"Think I'll sit down"

Note: This is a song from Kimbo on the Pre Ballet (a class for young children)

Learning Objective: Following instruction, parts of the foot.

"On Your Mark"

This is another great one for following directions. Bend the knees and bounce in between each command. First jump, second hop, third clap, and then have them dance in a circle and bow.

"On your mark get set now ready to jump,"

"On your mark get set now ready to hop,"

"On your mark get set now ready to clap,"

"On your mark get set now ready to dance,"

"And bow."

Note: This is a song from Kimbo on the Pre Ballet (a class for young children)

Learning Objective: Difference between hopping and jumping, clapping on counts.

"Magical Monkey"

Explain that each child has a magic wand that can change them into different animals. Have them wave their wand then turn into each animal by acting as that animal would act.

"I'm a magical monkey, my letters M you see (bend knees and bounce),"

"When I wave my magic stick, I change magically (wave wand),"

"I'm a magical monkey, just watch what I can do (bend knees and bounce),"

"Here's the trick I wave my stick and I'm a kangaroo! (wave wand),"

"Bouncing up and down, feet way off the ground, bouncing sure is fun, watch me everyone! (bounce like kangaroo)."

(Repeat chorus)

Turn into a horse and gallop, a bumblebee and fly, a snake and slither.

Note: This is a song from Kimbo A to Z the animals and me.

Learning Objective: Creative thinking, following instructions.

"Hokey Pokey"

Another great classic.

You put your _______ in, you put your _______out,

you put your ______ in and you shake it all about.

You do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around,

that's what its all about!

Fill in the blank with body parts: arm, foot, head, etc.

Learning Objective: Learning right from left, learning the difference between body parts.

Itsy Bitsy Spider by Cullen's ABCs

Interactive Games

Butterfly Flying

You will need two scarves for each child.

Have each child hold a scarf in each hand and have them flap their wings like a butterfly, fly around the room, and make a cocoon on the floor by hiding their wings and forming into a ball

You can switch it up by having them fly one at a time from their cocoon to learn to take turns.

Learning Objectives: movement from standing to the floor and following instructions.


You will need either 2 scarves per child or one hula hoop.

Have the children make a line and hold their arms out to the side holding the scarves or hoop. Stand a few feet away and have them turn in circles down to you on a straight line. Once they have the hang of this, move further back each time. Encourage them as they are twirling and be ready to catch them if they are dizzy.

Learning Objective: Balance.


You will need one small tambourine.

Have each child walk up to you and hit the tambourine with their hand. Have them use right or left or a combination and a different number of hits each time.

Learning Objective: Learning right from left, counting and following instructions.

Hula Hoop Houses

Each child will need a hula hoop.

Have each child find a place that is all their own for the hula hoop. Explain that the hoop is their 'house' and everyone's hoops make the 'neighborhood.'

Have them begin in a laying position pretending to sleep. Make an alarm clock noise to wake them and have them stretch and stand up. Pretend to get dressed, eat breakfast, brush their hair, etc. Once they have done this several times, have them tell you what they want to do to get ready.

Push open the 'door' of your home and wave good morning to the neighborhood. Instruct them to step outside their house and free dance around the neighborhood. Have them do this several times, the first having them go back to their own 'house' then a 'friend's house' then with a friend in a 'house' etc. Finish by having the whole group stand in one hoop. Then have them go back to their own 'house' to fall back to sleep.

Learning Objective: Following instructions, getting ready for the day, difference between inside and outside, counting and sharing.

Card Game

You will need laminated cards each with a movement on it such as: gallop, scoot, skip, leap, slither, roll, etc.

Place the cards with the word down on the floor all over the room. Have each child pick up a card and bring it to you. Read the word then have the children act out the word on the card.

There are several variations to this game as they become more advanced:

  • Have each child put a card down.
  • Have multiple children pick up a card and put the movements together. Start with two, then increase.
  • Alter the movement on the card to fast, slow, high, low, etc.

Learning Objective: Sharing, differences between fast and slow, etc,, doing multiple movements at once, following instructions.

Freeze Dance

This is a very popular activity for children for all ages. Play music and have them move around the room however they wish. When the music stops, they freeze right where they finished. Once they have accomplished this, have them move like different animals, different heights, etc.

Learning Objective: Independent thinking, listening skills, following instructions, stimulating creative thinking.

Parachute Play

You will need a large children's parachute

There are many songs that can be used for playing with the parachute, but you can always fine-tune it to fit your needs! Here are some ideas for using a parachute:

  • Lifting like a mountain, lowering like a valley (parachute up and down).
  • Wiggle and giggle (shake the parachute).
  • Merry go round (move in a circle with the parachute stretched out in the middle).
  • Bouncing ball (put a ball or stuffed animal on the parachute and make it jump and move).

Learning Objective: Working with others, following instructions, learning right from left and up from down.

Working to the Corners

You will need 4 different color objects that are medium in size and a ball*

Place 4 different color objects, cones, stars, etc., in each corner of the room, one per corner. Have the children stand in the center of the room and give them a ball. Explain to the children they have to get to one of the corners (pick any color) together using movement. They cannot use the same movement twice.

Learning Objective: Learning colors, working together as a group, creative thinking.

Share Your Thoughts!

I always love to hear from fellow teachers and getting new ideas! Please feel free to ask questions, comment, or share an activity of your own! Thank you for reading!

Let's hear from you!

Have you ever used movement to teach children?

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If you answered 'yes' to the answer above, how successful were you in teaching with movement?

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© 2014 Passion for dance


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