Ideas and advice from teachers
Props add excitement and spark imagination—and can serve as a much-needed energy release—in classes of children ages 2 and a half to 5.
Ribbons. At the beginning of class, dancers visit my ribbon wall to select a prop, which they wave as they move about to familiar music. Beginning class with this activity helps with separation anxiety; while in the lobby, dancers hurry to get their shoes on in time so as not to miss this fun activity.
Hula hoops. Hoops can help with motor skills: dancers enjoy stepping or jumping into a hoop they are holding, and then turning the hoop in their hands so that it rises behind them and over their heads so they can do it again. I also use hoops in story scenarios. Students step or hop into hoops lying in an “S” pattern that represents a path leading over a frozen lake to a castle. Because the children can follow the hoop pattern by themselves, I am free to assist a child who might need individual help.
Wands. Wands are magical, and are especially effective with shy students. I use a wand to turn my youngest dancers into ballerinas at the start of ballet time. Standing quietly on their stickers, each waits to be tapped with the wand, then does a bourrée turn and sits down.
Parachute. This is an end-of-class prop. While seated, students hold onto the edges of the parachute, and shake the chute to make waves. They can also pretend to make bubbles—which other dancers can pretend to pop. Standing, the class raises the parachute into the air, and one at a time dancers jeté or skip underneath to the other side. We also use the parachute to make a house over our heads, which is a nice setting for chat time. —Kim Black
Kim Black is children’s ballet director at the Burlington [NC] Dance Center and a creative movement teacher at The Burlington School.