Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Dance Activities That Help to Nurture Delaying Gratification and Impulse Control in Children

Happy Thanksgiving!     

There are so many benefits of creative movement for young children!  One of the most important is the fostering of social and emotional learning (SEL) in young children.  I have written about these benefits in earlier blog posts.  Some of these SEL skills include:

  • Self–Awareness (body awareness, spatial awareness, control of one’s speed, and control of one’s direction in space)
  • Understanding Personal Space vs. Shared Space
  • Group Cooperation
  • Self-Control and Delaying Gratification
  • Listening, Understanding, and Responding to Instructions
  • Reasoning and Problem-Solving Skills (individually or in a group)
  • Self-Expression

Today I am writing about one of these:  the importance of nurturing a child’s ability to delay gratification and strengthen self-control.  This generation of children is growing up in a world where they have instant access to information, technology, and media.  Structured activities can help counteract this frenzy of stimuli, and help children slow down, tune into their bodies and surroundings, and learn that sometimes waiting and anticipating an outcome can be fun and rewarding.

Lauren Tamm, writing for the University of Cincinnati website Kids Activities Blog ( asks this question:

What if I told you holding your boundary firm and making your child wait was the single most important skill you can teach your child. . .

Tamm continues: Research shows that children with worse self-control (less persistence, more impulsivity and poor attention regulation) at ages 3-11 tend to have worse health, earn less, and commit more crimes 30 years later than those with better self-control as children. (Source: the book Zero to Five, by Tracy Cutchlow).

Sarah Ramirez, writing for the website A Fine Parent (, says her article 5 Easy Ways to Teach Kids Self-Control outlines some more of the reasons it is so important to nurture this trait in children:

  • Better emotional coping skills
  • Higher rates of educational attainment
  • Higher SAT scores
  • Lower BMI
  • Lower divorce rates
  • Lower rates of addiction

WOW!  Amazing.  And yes, research shows that children can be taught to delay gratification.

Ramirez explains that the above conclusions are the result of long-term follow-up research from the famous “marshmallow test” conducted by psychologist Walter Mischel and other researchers in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s at Stanford University:

One by one, 4-year-old children were presented with a marshmallow and informed that they could either eat a marshmallow now, or wait 15 minutes and receive two marshmallows. Some children gobbled the marshmallow immediately, while others managed to wait the full 15 minutes and receive the reward of a second marshmallow.

The researchers continued to follow up with the children for the next several decades.  They found that the 4-year-olds who had successfully waited for 15 minutes differed in significant ways from the children who couldn’t wait . . . Walter Mischel concluded that ‘preschoolers tended to wait longer when they were given effective strategies.’  In other words, self-control and delayed gratification are essential life skills – but they can be learned.


I have taken ideas from the marshmallow test, Sarah Ramirez, and Lauren Tamm's University of Cincinnati Kids Activities Blog, and created four simple movement activities, along with some ideas for variations:  


This activity is a type of follow-the-leader game, which helps children listen and respond to instructions. They will need to watch carefully for their movement cues. It also allows children to practice controlling their body movements, and become aware of the speed and direction of these movements.  

Explain to the children that when they watch you, they will do the same things you are doing, by imagining they were looking into a mirror. Practice a few easy movements with your arm or leg, making sure they use the corresponding mirror-image arm or leg. Put on some fun music, and, starting out slowly, move as the children mirror your movements.

You can begin by trying the game sitting on the floor and using upper-body movements while the children get the hang of the mirror game.  Then progress to standing.  Challenge the children by turning, moving side-to-side, and trying balancing shapes on one leg.
Follow me while we are standing up!
Look into the mirror and follow me!


The wonderful thing about dance/freeze activities is that they are easy and accessible (all you need is music!), children love them, and they are great for helping them to practice following instructions, listening, and body and impulse control.  Here are two simple dance/freeze games.

  Stop Sign Dance and Freeze

For this activity, choose a musical selection that the children like.  Use a homemade or purchased stop sign.  Ask the children what it is, and what the word on it means.  Explain that when you hold up the stop sign,
Watch for the stop sign!
they should freeze:  Don't move a muscle until I put the stop sign down. You may dance when the stop sign is down, but each time I hold up the stop sign, you freeze.  

Expand the game with different ideas for the freeze, for example: freeze in a twisty shape, or an upside down shape, or a shape with only one hand and one foot touching the floor.

Here is a variation with additional practice for the children to control the speed at which they are moving: 

  Traffic Signals Dance and Freeze

Instead of a stop sign, cut out three large circles of construction paper or cardboard, one green, one yellow, and one red.  Use a lively musical selection.

Explain to the children:  When I hold up the green light, you may dance as fast as you like.  When I hold up the yellow light, you will dance slowly, like a slow-motion action scene in a movie.  When I hold up the red light, freeze, and don't move a muscle!

Green means go!


Helping children to master the skill of waiting for their turn lends itself easily to movement activities.  Here is a simple lesson that also gives children the opportunity to practice large motor skills.

Start with the children in a line or gathered on one side of a space.  They will go across the space one by one.  Ask each child to name an animal, and then to move across the space like that animal. 

Free Dance:  Once the activity has been accomplished, and all of the children have waited their turns to go across, ask them what their favorite animal is.  Play some music, and allow them to dance freely about animals.


Have animal names written on file cards, and when it is a child's turn to go across, he picks a card at random and moves like that animal.

Hop like a bunny!


Calm an energetic class at the end of the day with a game about settling down, helping children to tune into their bodies, be aware of their senses (sight, smell, hearing) and relax.

This can also be used as a transitional activity, to quiet children down before moving on to something else.   

Say to the children:

Have you ever been camping in the woods? Did you sit around a campfire?  Let’s imagine we are spending the night in the woods.  It is a cold, clear fall night.  Let’s build a campfire to get warm!  We will build it in the center of our circle.

Continue with the following movement prompts:

Let’s imagine we are gathering wood.  Bring it to this spot in the center of the room.

Put the small pieces in, and I will pretend to light our fire.  Now let’s put some big logs on the fire! 

Let's sit near the fire and warm up our hands and feet.  Do you smell the wood fire?  Do you smell pine needles and leaves in the forest?  What else?

Let's lie back and climb into our sleeping bags.  Look up at the sky.  What do you see in the night sky?  Be very quiet.  What sounds do you hear in the forest at night? Be aware of your breathing, and try to feel your heartbeat.

*Lesson from: One, Two, What Can I Do?  Dance and Music for the Whole Day, Dow, Redleaf Press, 2011

Keep on Dancin',


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Montessori-Inspired Bear Activities Using Free Printables

By Deb Chitwood from Living Montessori Now 

Bear themes are so much fun, whether they're Brown Bear, Brown Bear themed, Teddy bear themed, or featuring any of the beloved bear characters from literature. But a real bear unit can be fun, too. Kids are generally fascinated by bears, and hibernation is a great theme for fall and winter. 

At Living Montessori Now, I have a list of free bear printables featuring real bears. The free printables include my latest subscriber freebie (a Montessori-inspired bear pack). Here, I'm sharing ideas for using free bear printables to create Montessori-inspired activities. 

You'll find many activities for preschoolers through first graders throughout the year along with presentation ideas in my previous posts at PreK + K Sharing. You'll also find ideas for using free printables to create activity trays here: How to Use Printables to Create Montessori-Inspired Activities. At Living Montessori Now, I have a post with resource links of Free Printables for Montessori Homeschools and Preschools

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links (at no cost to you). 

Montessori Shelves with Bear-Themed Activities

Montessori Shelves with Bear-Themed Activities  

My shelves with bear-themed activities include a free bear culture card designed by The Montessori Company. You’ll also find Montessori-inspired bear numbers, letters, spinners, and and more (part of my subscriber freebie pack, so just sign up for my email to get the link and password … or check the bottom of your latest newsletter if you’re already a subscriber) 

I always have related books available throughout a unit. I absolutely adore the National Geographic animal books. There are a number of awesome National Geographic bear books to choose from. I included  Bears: Polar Bears, Black Bears and Grizzly Bears (Kids Can Press Wildlife Series) on my introductory bear shelf. I have lots of fictional bear books in our book baskets and on our book shelves. 

My 4-year-old granddaughter, Zoey, loves puzzles, so I have a giant world foam puzzle with 54 pieces in a large basket (not shown in my photos). That's great for using with Safari Ltd. or Schleich animals. 

When Zoey was younger, I used the puzzle that I have displayed for  animal geography. I don't think it's available any longer. For home use, I don't use the Montessori continent puzzle, which is a bit too large and impractical. I like to get world puzzles that are less expensive and can be changed according to Zoey's developmental level. 

I have a few Schleich bears as an introduction. (I'm collecting Schleich animals for my two grandbabies who will be born in the next few months!) 

You could mix your bear-themed activities among your shelves according to curriculum area. Or you could have a special bear-themed area something like the one pictured. My shelves this month have a mixture of skill levels. Many of the activities can be adapted for a variety of levels. If you’re a homeschooler, just choose the activities that work for your child’s interests and ability levels. If you don’t have room for all the activities you’d like to do, simply rotate them.

Bear Culture Card (on Shelf Introducing the Bear Theme)

Bear Culture Card with Bears Are Curious Book and Schleich Black Bear  

I'm happy to share with you this awesome hand-painted bear culture card from The Montessori Company. You can use it on your shelves to introduce a bear unit. I’m hosting the free printable as an instant download at Living Montessori Now. You can always access the free bear culture card here

The description says: “Bears are omnivores that eat berries, honey, nuts, fish and other mammals. In the winter they dig holes to hibernate in.” I displayed the card with a Schleich North America sloth bear and Bears Are Curious book (especially good for toddlers, young preschoolers, and beginning readers).

Matching Animals of North America Cards with Safari Ltd. Animals Animals of North America Cards with Safari Ltd Animal Figures Free Printable: North American Mammal Cards from Welcome to Mommyhood 

I used mainly animals from the Safari Ltd. North American Wildlife TOOB. I just used a bamboo paper plate holder for the materials.  Bamboo paper plate holders are inexpensive and work well for a number of activities. 

Matching North American Animal Silhouettes with Animal Pictures Matching Silhouettes to Animals of North America  

Free Printable: North American Animal Silhouettes from Imagine Our Life 

This couldn't be much easier to prepare. I just printed it, cut it out (rather than having the child draw lines to match the animal and silhouette), and put it in a Montessori Services basket. 

Letter Z Object Basket with Mystery Bag and Blindfold Letter B Object Basket with Mystery Bag and Blindfold  
Free Printables: Bear Letters for Letter B Object Basket (part of my subscriber freebie pack, so just sign up for my email to get the link and password … or check the bottom of your latest newsletter if you’re already a subscriber) 

Using the Letter B Mystery Bag and Blindfold to Identify Objects Starting with the /b/ Sound

We used a Montessori mystery bag and blindfold for interest and to work on the stereognostic sense. I got the basket, mystery bag, and blindfold from Montessori Services. I don't put this out each unit, and Zoey loves when I do use it. 

Letter B Sand Tray 

Free Printables: /b/ is for bear in manuscript, D'Nealian, or Cursive for Letter B Sand Writing Tray (part of my subscriber freebie pack, so just sign up for my email to get the link and password … or check the bottom of your latest newsletter if you’re already a subscriber) 

For the tray, I used the wooden tray from the Melissa & Doug Lace and Trace Shapes. You can use whatever tray or container work best for you, though. I added a Safari Ltd. bear for interest. 

Tray for Making an Animals That Hibernate Mini-Book Tray for Making an Animals That Hibernate Mini-Book  

Free Printable: Little Book of Animals That Hibernate from Lil’ Country Librarian 

I just used a Multicraft tray and a few office supplies for the book. Zoey was very drawn to this work and loved the book she made. 

Bear Puzzles Bear Puzzles  

Free Printable: 4 Bear Puzzles from Polar Bear Pack (now a subscriber freebie) from Blessed and Happy Home 

You'll also find some free bear puzzles on Teachers Pay Teachers. 

These are simple puzzles that work well for a young preschooler. For Zoey, I mixed up four puzzles in the Montessori Services baskett so that she can sort them out before putting them together. 

Matching Numerals with Miniature Bears and Bead Bars Matching Numerals with Miniature Bears and Bead Bars  

Free Printable: Bear Numbers (part of my subscriber freebie pack, so just sign up for my email to get the link and password … or check the bottom of your latest newsletter if you’re already a subscriber) 

This activity uses a piece of felt for a table mat and bead bars from the decanomial box in a Multicraft tray and a Bambu condiment cup (what I used here) or  Montessori Services basket. (My bead bars, which I love, are from Alison’s Montessori. You can get bead bars on Amazon, although I haven’t personally used materials from those companies.) 

I also added 20 Safari Ltd. Good Luck Mini black bears. I was lucky to find them at a great price in an outlet store. I would also have been happy using fish (something bears like to eat) for the counters. I still have the silver fish from our penguin theme, so I would have used those.

Layout for Bear Number Cards, Miniature Bears, and Bead Bars

You could make a game using one of the spinners from our subscriber freebie or you could play it like a card game. I like to mix the cards up, turn them over, and have the child draw a card.  The mini bears are laid out and then the bead bars to represent the number drawn. 

Hibernation, Migration, and Adaptation Activity Hibernation, Migration, and Adaptation Activity

Free Printable: Animals in Winter: Migration, Hibernation, and Adaptation (subscriber freebie) from The Natural Homeschool 

This was another super-easy activity to prepare. It just requires the printables and some office supplies. Hibernation, migration, and adaptation are great concepts for children to understand. 

More Free Bear Printables 

Go to my post at Living Montessori Now for links to free bear printables from around the blogosphere: Free Bear Printables and Montessori-Inspired Bear Activities. And be sure to subscribe to my email list if you'd like to get an exclusive free printable each month (plus two more awesome freebies right away): Free Printables.


Montessori at Home or School - How to Teach Grace and Courtesy eBook

If you'd like to focus on manners with children, please check out my eBook Montessori at Home or School: How to Teach Grace and Courtesy! It's written for anyone who'd like to feel comfortable teaching manners to children ages 2-12. I'm also one of the coauthors of the book Learn with Play – 150+ Activities for Year-round Fun & Learning!

Have a great rest of the month!
Deb - Siganture
Deb Chitwood
Deb Chitwood is a certified Montessori teacher with a master’s degree in Early Childhood Studies from Sheffield Hallam University in Sheffield, England. Deb taught in Montessori schools in Iowa and Arizona before becoming owner/director/teacher of her own Montessori school in South Dakota. Later, she homeschooled her two children through high school. Deb is now a Montessori writer who lives in San Diego with her husband of 42 years (and lives in the city where her kids, kids-in-law, and 3-year-old granddaughter live). She blogs at Living Montessori Now.

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