Circle dancing activities teach children how to watch, wait, listen, move and play in time with others, take turns, and anticipate and follow the sequences of songs and dances. Children quickly learn prepositional concepts such as up/down, in/out, and over/under, to feel the musical form of folk dances, by moving in one direction for 8 steps, changing direction for 8 steps, going into the middle for 4 steps and moving backwards for 4 steps.

A child can go into the middle and do a solo dance and enjoy being the leader, having a narrative song sung about what they are doing moment by moment. Sung questions can be sung, such as “How many children in the middle today?” and “What can you do in the middle?”.

There are many folk songs and games on my CD “Dancing in a Circle” that can be done with a parachute or rainbow ring, by holding hands, or by dancing with scarves, poi, or ribbon sticks. (Film footage of children enjoying a variety of songs and dances from this CD can be found on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/ZX1YgYiCQtI).

Circle dances can be done with a partner, or in groups of four or more, and maths concepts can be developed through singing instructions, such as “Make a circle of 4 today” to the tune of “Skip to my Lou”. This can be extended by adding more instructions. For example, “Make a circle of 4 today / Walk around in a circle today / Back we go the other way / And now get ready to stop”. Keep adding more children to the circle through the counting song until everyone is involved in the dance.

Circle games help parents and children to develop a sense of steady beat as they hold onto a rainbow ring and bounce it in time to the music. Echo songs and singing games can be played, thus developing timing and understanding of the elements of music.

Babies enjoy sitting on parents’ knees, watching and feeling steady beat through the use of circle bouncing games and peek a boo games, as well as dancing in their parents’ arms during circle dances.

Turn taking games can be played with older children by passing around props such as bean bags, stones, a ball, or balloon, in time to an instructional song or music. Music games from other cultures can be used to help children appreciate and learn songs and games using another language.

The advantage of a circle is that each person is an equal player, there is a lot of opportunity to listen and watch everyone, and to move and play in time. Circle songs and games help to develop a strong sense of music community, and joyful, interactive play.

© Julie Wylie Musical Play, 4 July 2019