Dance party programs are one of the latest innovations in storytime, encouraging movement and exercise as well as self-expression and the enjoyment of music. Try thinking of a fun name for this special storytime. How about “Move and Groove,” “Baby Bandstand,” or “Toddler Soul Train”? Dance party programs are normally a stand-alone, special storytime activity, not a regular weekly event. They can help to attract new audience members for your regular storytimes or to kick off the summer reading program.
Dance party programs are relatively free-form, but you need a leader who is willing to dance and move, similar to an aerobics or Zumba instructor. If you are not that person, hire someone. Along with publicity, room setup, and other basics of any program, you will need:
- Playlist: your list of songs, arranged with some variety between up-tempo and slower songs
- Recorded songs as well as sing-alongs: have some recorded “free dance” songs, along with songs the whole group will sing, such as “Head and Shoulders”
- Props: scarves, beanbags, shakers, hula hoops, pompoms, and other items you may already use in storytime
- Sound equipment: make sure the CD or MP3 player has great speakers, and you will also need a microphone for the leader
- Crowd control: you don’t want an uncontrolled “mosh pit” situation where the young children can accidentally hurt each other
- Hydration: be sure to have water and other beverages, so participants stay hydrated.
- Quiet reading area: for those wanting a break
- Books to read at the beginning, middle, and end: to give the whole crowd a chance to catch their breath
You may want to use movement songs and dances that you already use in your regular storytimes, such as “Head and Shoulders” or “Shake Your Sillies Out.” The audience is likely to know some other common dances, including the classic “The Hokey Pokey,” which would motivate parents to join in, too! Try those familiar dances, and add just one new dance at each party so people don’t feel overwhelmed. Other common movement songs that most families are likely to be familiar with are “Sally Go Round the Sun” and “Wheels on the Bus.”
You may want to do simple movement activities with toddlers and preschoolers using scarves or beanbags. Hand out a scarf to each child, and then the children use them to wave in the breeze, put them on their heads, or use them as superhero capes. Lakeshore Learning has both large and small scarves. The children can use them in several ways; a few of the music and dance CDs listed at Kimbo Educational have scarf or beanbag activity songs. These can help the children improve their coordination and motor skills. Beanbags can also liven up a movement song. Children can put them on their heads, elbows, knees, the small of the back, all of which help a child with motor skills and coordination.
Here are two video examples of a Dance Party Storytime:
Bauer, Marion Dane. Winter Dance.
Beaumont, Karen. Baby Danced the Polka.
Boynton, Sandra. Barnyard Dance!
Carle, Eric. From Head to Toe.
Craig, Lindsay. Dancing Feet.
Cronin, Doreen. Wiggle.
Donovan, Mary Lee. Won’t You Come and Play with Me?
Greenfield, Eloise. Par-Tay! Dance of the Veggies.
Hanson, Warren. Bugtown Boogie.
Kohuth, Jane. Duck Sock Hop
Lionni, Leo. The Alphabet Tree.
Litwin, Eric. Groovy Joe: Dance Party Countdown.
Litwin, Eric. Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes.
Long, Ethan. Dance! Dance! Dance!
Marsalis, Wynton. Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!
Mitton, Tony. Down By the Cool of the Pond.
Newton, Jill. Crash Bang Donkey!
Rim, Sujean. Zoogie Boogie Fever! An Animal Dance Book.
Rueda, Claudia. Let’s Play in the Forest While the Wolf is Not Around.
Sandall, Ellie. Everybunny Dance!
Sayre, April Pulley. If You’re Hoppy.
Schofield-Morrison, Connie. I Got the Rhythm.
Smith, Charles R. Dance with Me.
Starin, Liz. Splashdance.
Walton, Rick. How Can You Dance?
Wells, Rosemary. Felix Stands Tall.
Wensink, Patrick. Go Go Gorillas: a Romping Bedtime Tale.
Wheeler, Lisa. Dino-Dancing.
Whippo, Walt. Little White Duck.
Whitehouse, Patricia. Summer.
Penny Peck, San Jose State University iSchool