By Connie Bergstein Dow, author of From A to Z with Energy! 26 Ways to Move and Play
This is a playful movement game that can be incorporated into a walk outdoors and will add a little extra fun to your outing. Extra benefits include reinforcing children’s learning of the alphabet, helping children recognize the sounds at the beginnings of words, and expanding their understanding of the natural world.
To begin the activity, say, Let’s think of something in the natural world that starts with the letter A. Then we will all think of ways to move like that! You can demonstrate by using examples from the list below.
Once children understand the game, proceed through the alphabet as you continue your walk. For each letter, give them a minute or two to act out their word. Encourage them to use their imaginations to come up with their own ideas. If they get stuck or need some help, suggest one of these examples:
A: Ant, antelope, alligator
B: Bear, boa constrictor, butterfly
C: Creek, cat, caterpillar spinning a cocoon
D: Dandelion (when its seeds blow away), dog, dinosaur
E: Elephant, eagle, electric eel
F: Frog, fish, flamingo
G: Goat, giraffe, gorilla
H: Hailstorm, hen, hippopotamus
I: Iguana, icicle (slowly dripping and melting), icy
J: Jaguar, jellyfish, jackrabbit
K: Kangaroo, kayaking down a river, koala
L: Lion, leaves (blowing in the breeze), lightning
M: Manatee, monkey, moth
N: Narwhal, newt, birds building a nest
O: Ostrich, octopus, orbiting planet
P: Panda, penguin, pig
Q: Quail, creeping quietly like a mouse, running quickly like a cheetah
R: Reindeer, raindrop, rhinoceros
S: Snowflake, shark, seal
T: Thunder, tortoise, tornado
U: Unau (sloth), water running under a bridge, umbrella opening in a rainstorm
V: Viper, vulture, volcano
W: Waterfall, wind, waves
X: Can you find two trees that make the shape of an X? Do you see any other X’s in nature? Try making your body into a big “X” shape, and move around in that shape.
Y: Yak, yellowjacket, a bright yellow sunflower
Z: Zebra, zephyr (a west wind), a hummingbird zooming between flowers
To expand the activity, challenge the children by combining letters into movement words. For example, if you suggest the word hike, children respond by performing the movements they did with those four letters. So, the movement sequence might be:
Move like a hippopotamus, then melt like an icicle, hop like a kangaroo, and fly like an eagle. This is a fun and creative way to make up short dances!
When you return indoors from your outing, play some music to accompany the children’s nature dances.
Connie Bergstein Dow took her first dance class when she was four years old and has been dancing ever since. After attending Denison University and earning an MFA from the University of Michigan, she danced professionally in the United States, Venezuela, and Guatemala. Connie has had a long career as a dance educator and has written two books for teachers about integrating movement into the early childhood classroom, articles for magazines and journals, and verses for Highlights. She shares her passion for dance by writing, teaching, volunteering, visiting schools and libraries, and offering movement workshops to early childhood professionals. Visit Connie at www.movingislearning.com.
Connie is the author of From A to Z with Energy! 26 Ways to Move and Play
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