Movement Games

At House of the Roses, our Teaching Artists are always focused on movement exploration and helping our students to find creative freedom. We achieve these goals through choreography prompts, story-telling and - of course - games. Please read on for nine movement-exploration games geared towards children ages 6-12. These activities are great for HOTR teaching artists and educators of all types who are looking to implement creative movement in their classrooms.

Freeze Dance: There are several variations to this favorite freestyle dance game. The simplest version is to turn on music and have the kids dance around the room. When the movement stops, freeze! If you get caught moving, you’re “out.” You can keep going until everyone is out, or have that student be the “DJ” for one round, then go back in. Here are some other variations to try:

  • Movement Words: each time you stop the music, call out a movement word for the students to embody during the next round.  Try moving in different tempos, levels, movement qualities, animals, foods, or letters of the alphabet.
  • Movement Cards: this version is similar to movement words, but each child will have their own secret mission. Before beginning, tape index cards to the floor upside-down. The cards can have any movement words on them (be specific - like jumping jacks, army crawls, bunny hops – or general – like smooth, sharp, circular, shaky). When the music stops, freeze. The students pick up the card closest to them, take a peek, and put it back down. That is their secret mission for the next round!
  • Shape Dance: in this version, one student is chosen to be “It.” The music plays continuously. If you are tagged by “it,” you have to freeze like a shape. Another student can “unfreeze” you by standing next to you and mirroring your shape. For a challenge, assign two ore more students to be “it” at the same time.

Emoji Wall: This activity is a great method of allowing kids to connect with emotions in a very safe and abstracted way. Draw or print out emojis of different expressions – Happy, Thoughtful, Tired, Worried, Fearful, Crying, Rolling Eyes (here is a list) and tape them to the walls around the room. Kids turn around and face a wall and move towards that emoji, exhibiting the movement quality of that emotion. Repeat until they’ve tried on several different emotions. For an added challenge, try it with partners!

The Emotion Party: The previous exercise could segue into this one, or it can be done on its own. Use flashcards with emotions or emojis written on them, and have each kid pick a card. Alternatively, ask the kids to think of an emotion on their own (maybe it’s how they feel today, the opposite of how they feel, or how they want to feel). The game begins with five people in the center of the room, and the rest of the children in a line against the wall. The five people in the center are guests at the Emotion Party. As each kid gets to the front of the line, they ring the doorbell (announcing “Ding Dong!”) and enter the party, moving in a way that exemplifies their emotion of choice. Whatever emotion the new guest is exhibiting influences the whole party.  The whole room can move together through sadness, happiness, tiredness, anger, or any other state!

Dance Baseball: Place Baseball bases around the sides of the room (if you don’t have bases, simply write “HOME” “1” “2” and “3” on paper and tape them to the floor). Have the kids line up behind Home Base in a single-file line. Assign movements to each base. It could be a movement quality (i.e. smooth on home base, sharp on first, bouncy on second, underwater on third), or a specific eight counts of choreography for each base.  The teacher is the “Pitcher” and begins by throwing the ball to the batter at Home Base. The student hits the ball and runs as fast as they can to first base, then does their eight counts of movement. When the next student runs to first base, the runner on first proceeds to second, etc. When a student gets a home run, they get a high-five from their teammates!

Pass the Part: This game is done in a circle. One person begins by doing eight counts of movement with one body part only (feet, knees, hips, shoulders, head, face) then “passes” it to the student to their left. That person does their own eight counts of creative movement exploration with the same body part, then “passes” it on again. When the circle is complete, pick a new body part and begin again.

Duck, Duck, Dance: This is a fun variation on the age-old favorite, Duck Duck Goose. Begin sitting in a circle. You can use movement flashcards (with words such as “Skip, Gallop, Shimmy, Shake, Slide, etc.), or have the kids choose their own movement prior to their turn. One person walks around the circle tapping each student’s head while saying “Duck, duck, duck….” then chose one student to “Dance!” (with a larger group, you may want to institute a one-repetition maximum – after walking around the circle one full time, you must say “Dance!” in the next repetition). The dancer who is picked chases the first student around the circle in the specified movement style. The goal is to steal their seat before they tag you!

Ladders: Ladders is a great partner game that allows kids to show off their own dance moves! Begin by assigning partners and giving a prompt for each duo to come up with their own short, non-locomotor movement phrase. It could be anything - a cool high-five, stepping/stomping, 8 counts of dance moves, or any movement quality. Put a line of tape along the floor and have the students sit on the opposite side as their partner, feet-to-feet. This is your ladder! Each duo is assigned a number or name. When their number is called, they stand up and carefully “climb” to the top of the ladder while stepping over the other children’s feet. When they get to the top, they skip to the bottom of the ladder and “climb” back up. When they get to their original spot, they do their dance in place while the other duos cheer them on, then sit back down. For a challenge, call out multiple duos at once!

Handshakes: This is a fun way to encourage teamwork and connection, and also a great memory and focusing exercise. Begin in a circle, and have the students turn to face a partner next to them. Together, that duo creates a 1-count handshake (encourage them to get creative – they can do a handshake, high-five, low-five, one-handed, fist-bump, use a different body part like an elbow, add a snap, clap or sound effect). Then, the partner on the left stands up and rotates counter-clockwise to a new partner in the circle. The new partners teach each other their high-fives, and decide how to combine them: now they have a 2-count high five.  If the group is small, continue until the partners have rotated through the whole circle (larger groups, stick to 2-4 rotations). At the end, have a few partners perform their creation. Ask the other dancers to raise their hand if they saw their handshake (if you did a full rotation, everyone’s handshake will be represented in the final product)!

El Capitan: Stand in a circle and choose one student to be “it.” That student goes outside of the room, or hides their eyes, while you choose “El Capitan” from one of the students in the circle. El Capitan will begin doing any movement (encourage them to try big movements, and change their moves often). Everyone else in the circle mimics El Capitan – but tries not to look directly at them! When the student who is “it” comes back in the room, they stand in the middle of the circle. They have three guesses to decide who is El Capitan. If they guess correctly, El Capitan has to be “it” next.

Have you tried any of these movement games with your students?  How did it go? Comment below!