The Power of Stuffed Animals!

The Power of Stuffed Animals!

Fall is in the air and that means it is time for the start of preschool ballet classes! We have kicked off many Wish Upon a Ballet classes here in MN and have met so many wonderful students! I had a great experience with a shy child today at one of my classes and thought that I would share it with you.

It was our second class today and most of my students seemed very comfortable with me now. We got into a good groove talking about ballet steps and what we were going to do in class. Everything seemed to be going very well. As soon as I turned on the music however, I noticed one little girl start to tear up. I knew immediately that she missed her mom and once I looked at her with sympathy the tears started to flow more and I knew I had to think quick.

When you have a new group of preschool students, many who have never taken any sort of class before, you will have shy students who may not trust you right away. However, you will also have many new parents that may not trust you right away either. I strongly believe in having closed classes (where parents and guardians wait outside the dance studio during class) so that children really learn the material that I am teaching and they learn how to listen in a class. So I didn’t want to have to go get mom if I didn’t need to. I wanted to solve this issue by myself so that this little girl could have fun!

Something that I have been doing lately when I have a shy student is that I get my stuffed animals out right away. I used to save them to leap over or for balancing games later in class but now I use the power of the stuffed animal when I need it! Props are very powerful in a preschool class. In my book I explain more about how props can be beneficial in your class. They can be a great ice breaker, get children excited or provide a needed break to your normal routine. My dance program, Mayer Arts, is a traveling program. We don’t have a studio. My teachers and myself always carry around props with us to each of our classes. I provide a parachute, shakers, scarves and small stuffed animals to each of my instructors. I know that they will be useful to them when they are teaching.

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So when I saw this little girl start to tear up I immediately started to think of what I should do. I said very excited, “Oh! I think the animals want to come and play with us! Do you think the animals want to play with us?” The other students in the class became really excited and couldn’t wait until I brought them out. I turned off the music and I went in my bag and started to take an elephant out and even started talking for him, “Can I come and play with all of you?” The students, of course must not rush over to me. They need to quietly stand, or better yet, sit on their spots and wait until I call their names one at a time to come a choose an animal. If they don’t, then the animals will hide in my bag again and I will tell everyone that the animals need quiet before they will come and play. Then I called everyone’s name one at a time and all the students chose an animal. Even shy little “Erica” chose an animal. I turned the music back on again to continue our warm-up. Erica stood by me and was still a bit timid however as the class went on she became more and more confident. Problem solved!

This will not work every single time you have a shy student but it will be helpful most of the time. Just handing out animals is one trick however you will still need to find fun ways to get the animals involved in the class. The first time that I tried this I wondered how I would make it work. How can the animals help you learn first position? How can they stretch with the class? I find myself coming up with more ideas each time I bring the animals out!

For some teachers I know props can be scary. Preschoolers will rush over, grab, become upset if they don’t get what they want, use the props inappropriately, etc. if you don’t show them how to behave with your props. I am in the process of writing a free booklet about using props effectively in your preschool classes. Look for that soon!

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