Happy feet

PUBLISHED: 05:33 29 December 2014

Children dancing

Children dancing


Dance and movement is not only a great way to enhance children’s co-ordination, open their ears to different music and improve fitness, it is also a lot of fun.

Dance and movement is not only a great way to enhance children’s co-ordination, open their ears to different music and improve fitness, it is also a lot of fun.

Helen Battelley is the founder and director of Music + Movement, which teaches creative dance to young children throughout Norfolk. She began dancing as a two-and-a-half year old in the county, before moving to Spain to study creative dance. When she returned to the UK and had children of her own, Helen felt compelled to create a different approach to movement, music and dance.

“I was living in Birmingham and my took my 18-month-old son to music class but they were expected to sit still. I started thinking there must be a better way to engage children in music, dance and movement.”

She spent two years researching the huge music resource at Birmingham Library.

“It was before the days of electronic music files so it took a long time to work through the different music,” she laughs. “I gradually composed a syllabus combining music, creative dance and drama and that was the beginning of Music + Movement.”

Since moving back to Norfolk, as well as carrying on her classes, Helen also works with education providers at the Early Years and Foundation Stage to help deliver dance and music in schools.

Her ethos is shared by musician Caroline Southard who runs Concerts for Kids, a community organisation with provides a relaxed, informal and unstructured setting for young people to enjoy music.

The two recently worked together for a major Children in Need project in Norfolk bringing together live music and dance.

“The ethos of Music + Movement is to create something emotive,” says Helen. “To make children think, move and to feel. The benefits to a child’s development are huge but best of all it gives them huge confidence.”

Get moving

Here are three great things to try at home.

Find a piece of music with a recurrent beat – Happy by Pharrell Williams is a great example. Practice counting eight claps, eight jumps, four knee bends and two twirls. Ask your child to suggest some moves. Simple choreography develops sequencing, and creating and following simple patterns is also a key mathematical area in ordering and problem solving.

Play a Simon Says game: Simon says wiggle your bottom, Simon says jump and clap. Progress to follow the leader, copy each other’s dance moves and keep it simple, trying to remember the sequence of moves.

Using equipment in dance – such as scarves, ribbons and balls - will encourage the fine motor skills needed to write. Take a small, floaty scarf to dance with. Practice moving high and low, side to side, wriggle the scarf like a snake, tickle your toes, throw it in the air and catch it. Encourage a change of tempo, fast movements to fast music, and slow movements to slow music; a great piece of music for this is Bjork’s Oh So Quiet.



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