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Prop Play: Scarves

A staple in every dance studio and most classrooms... the humble scarf! But is there more to do with a scarf than shaking and jiggling your scarf? Absolutely. Here are a number of ways to dance with a scarf that build skills while having fun!

Painting in the air: This is the classic way to use a scarf, but here are some ideas. Hand your dancers their painting scarf and encourage them to make small and big shapes, write their name, high and low, cross the midline, you could even attempt to master the figure 8 or for older children the pinwheel turn! Encourage dancers to watch their scarf. Remember to cross the midline often and swap painting hands to ensure both sides of the brain get a work out. This activity develops fine motor skills and eye tracking that improve reading and writing.

Painting on the floor: Ensuring the standing leg is firmly on the ground, place the working foot on a scarf placed on the ground (this works on a wooden or lino floor). Rotate and circle the leg to push the scarf around. Imagery used could be cleaning the floor or painting on the floor. This increases mobility of the leg and prepares turn out.

Throw and toss: Scarves are light and catch the air, so when balled up and thrown up high they come down open and slow giving children a chance to process and catch. Fun imagery for this is creating fireworks! This is perfect for little ones to catch, helping develop hand eye coordination. You could also shake up the method of catching such as snatching, pinching, clapping, etc for arm and hand coordination development.

Non-contact contact: Scarves are the perfect way to link children without physically holding hands. Dancers can hold each end of a scarf for link lines, circles, and facing partners. For small groups this can enlarge a group shape and enable greater range of movement. This also presents a fun challenge to older dancers who need to employ extra sharp spatial awareness skills, proprioception, and muscle tone to maintain shapes with such a flexible link between them.

Wings: Nothing gets tiny dancers to extend their arms to the fullest like a pair of wings. Unicorn, butterfly, dragon, bird... the imagery is endless. Increase your dancers reach and arm strength by dancing with scarf wings.

Tails: Scarves tucked in pockets and waistbands (with a tail sticking out) can provide entertainment for hours while playing this game. Simply let the tailed dancers loose to music with the goal of collecting as many tails as they can from other dancers. This game is a challenge to spatial awareness, shifting weight and direction at speed, agility, and confidence. At the end of say 5 minutes, have them count how many they have and the person with the most wins. Safety consideration: tails should not be hanging long enough to touch the ground or fall out. If your group is big or children are less spatialy aware, slow down movement by changing the traveling step (essentially ban running) to skips, jumps, gallops etc.

Folding and picking up: If I've left a group of dancers with their scarves for stretch time I often see them press, fold, repeat with their scarves. Maybe it is the silky feeling or the fact that it is a perfect square that can be halved and quartered (hello numeracy skills) but children love it. Teach your children to grasp the scarf, fold the scarf, lift the scarf in a variety of ways: pincer grip, ballet fingers, clenched fist, using knuckles... be creative and have fun knowing you are developing fine motor skills and expressive hands!

Right and left: Scarves can be used to tie onto a wrist or ankle to aid in differentiating left and right. Learning a dance or step that needs to start on one side? Use the scarf as a visual and tactile reminder for which side to use.

Blindfolding: Use your scarf to turn vision off and give dancers the opportunity to develop their proprioceptive skills by making shapes and perform stationary steps you call out. Without visual input they may think they are straight, bent, arms up high, etc. but they might not be able to feel that yet. Using partners, or as parent/teacher, provide tactile (i.e gently tap the knee to bend or straighten it) and verbal feedback to help them feel the movement.

As with all above, do play some music to inspire natural movement, develop musicality and increase enjoyment! What ways do you play with a scarf?


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