Sing and Dance that Stress Away

Music and movement stress

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Stress. We all deal with it from time to time….and friends, so do our kids. Don’t forget – we have a lifetime of experience in managing stress – and even then we can have a hard time with it. Our kids deal with stress, too…and they are stress novices. It’s up to us to help them develop the skills and methods to cope with stress in their young lives. As it turns out, and this is in no way by accident, music and movement, the very things at which we are experts, are fantastic ways to alleviate stress. Science lights the way. Let’s check it out!


You Can’t Protect Them from Stress – But You Can Help Them Manage It

It’s going to happen. We want to be the shield that blocks out every negative thing in the world for our kids – but this is an emotional response. We hate to see them struggle. Remember, you aren’t always going to be there. So providing tools to manage stress when it crops up is incredibly important.

Encourage your child to name the stressor out loud – to label it. When you take time to listen, listen to understand rather than to respond. A child will sense that how they are feeling is important to you and will be more likely to share those feelings. The very fact that you are listening will have a positive effect on the child’s stress level.

But what about movement and music? How does that impact stress levels?[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Dance Lowers Cortisol Levels and Increases Endorphins

Here’s the science: dancing actually lowers levels of cortisol in the body. While cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, does many other things for us, it is associated with stress. High stress leads to high levels of cortisol which can lead to reduced immune system function. So…dancing can reduce the presence of cortisol in the system that otherwise might negatively impact your ability to fight off a cold or fight infection.

Dancing also causes the body to produce endorphins, which basically run interference with pain receptors and cause feelings of euphoria, reducing both physical and emotional pain. It’s our body’s way of self-regulating. Kids can get their own body on their side in dealing with stress levels – literally by dancing the stress away (or at the very least reducing its negative effects).[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Sing and Dance that Stress Away
Kindermusik kids movin’ and groovin’!


Dancing with Others = Added Benefits

Guess what? When you dance, it feels good. When you dance with others, the benefits increase. The University of Oxford recently conducted a study about dancing in groups verses dancing alone. The results were quite interesting:

So when the volunteers were taught the same dance moves and heard the same songs as the others, their movements synchronized on the dance floor. Now, afterwards, these volunteers were able to withstand significantly more pain. Their threshold for pain increased.

By contrast, the volunteers who heard different songs or were taught different dance moves to the same music didn’t synchronize their movements. These volunteers experienced either no change in their pain perception or an increase in their pain perception. They actually felt more pain than they did before…

As a social species, being part of a group has survival value. Evolution also may have adapted the brain to experience a sense of reward when we did things with and for other people. Dancing together, especially in the synchrony, can signal that you are actually simpatico with lots of other people. The researchers think this is why so many cultures have synchronized dancing and why it might have health benefits.

NPR: Steve Inskeep’s Interview with social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam

So – when you dance with a group – to the same music, these benefits really show themselves. Another study from West Chester University of Pennsylvania has shown that dance and music programs significantly lower cortisol levels in children from low-income families and “alleviate the impact of poverty on children’s physiological functioning.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

And How Does Music Fit In?

As it turns out – singing and dancing are twins. They are both art forms that are temporal, meaning they unfold and reveal their beauty over time. They are dynamic. They change. They engage the entire body and mind. They both require conscious control over the breath. The breath must be purposeful to have enough fuel to do the task at hand. All the mental health benefits of dance can be found in singing – increased endorphins and lower cortisol levels among them. When making music with a group, empathy for those around you increases and heartbeats become synchronized (a really amazing phenomenon called biological entrainment – we’ll talk about that some other time!). We talk about this often; here’s a breakdown from a previous Minds on Music post:

The Combination of Movement and Music develops:

  • The Vestibular System.

A well-developed vestibular system provides emotional security, good muscle tone, develops auditory language processing, visual-spatial processing, and reduced cortisol levels.

  • Neural Pathways.

Moving in a variety of ways gives your child a chance to ‘see the world’ from many perspectives, thus strengthening neural pathways, which carry messages from your child’s mind, guiding her senses and motor skills.

  • Fine Motor Skills.

During the first part of life, we’re learning to walk, so gross motor activities dominate the child’s movement. Now she can focus on activities that encourage the development of fine muscles, so she can increase skills that require finger and hand movements such as putting together a simple puzzle, painting with a paintbrush, turning a page of a book or stringing beads.

  • Physical Confidence.

Body awareness is important in the development of the child’s physical confidence. This developmental goal may be met by engaging in movement activities which focus on body part movement, whole body movement in one place, and whole body movement while traveling in space.

  • Creativity and Imagination.

Listening and responding to music and movement activities helps develop pretend play skills while also helping your child assimilate music and movement concepts such as fast, slow, loud, quiet, bumpy, smooth, straight and curvy.

  • Thinking Skills.

While in motion, the brain acts like a flight simulator, constantly inventing, moving mental models to project onto a changing world. This is an extraordinary mentally complex operation which builds thinking skills.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]A child that can express herself when dealing with stress, and then have an outlet to safely and physically work that stress out, encouraging the body to self-regulate, is a happier child. A child that has the opportunity to sing and dance with others develops empathic skills that allow him to see the world from the perspective of his friends. To put this in the simplest terms, a dancing and singing child is a healthier child, a child who deals with stress much more effectively.

And by the way…this applies to us, too, my friends. Sing and dance with your child! You might even laugh a bit…and that’s healthy, too![/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]


For more info on dance and stress, check out Yami Joshi’s TEDTalk on Dance and Stress.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=””][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Don’t just sit there – MOVE!


[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]At a time when it seems there is so much pressure on kids to perform academically, more and more research about the social, emotional, cognitive, and health benefits of movement and play is coming to the forefront. The recent consensus of a group of researchers who studied the evidential links between moving, playing, and learning was overwhelmingly definitive – taking time to move and play actually improves academic performance. So…don’t just sit there…MOVE![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]And why is this? Simply put, movement wakes up our brains and primes the brain for learning. As one writer stated, “movement isn’t a break from learning; movement is learning.” Professor Emily Cross sums it up this way:

“New neuroscience research…shows that active learning—‘where the learner is doing, moving, acting, and interacting’—can change the way the brain works and can accelerate kids’ learning process.”

That’s pretty compelling evidence, if you ask me, and we’ve only scratched the surface of the myriad of sources, studies, research, and analysis that could have been cited.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]It should come as no surprise then, that as the world’s leader in music and movement education, Kindermusik International has long been an advocate for the power of movement and play, especially with music in the mix. For over 30 years, the Kindermusik curricula have been based on the premise that movement is key to learning.  That is both the success and the joy of the Kindermusik classroom experience.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]movement[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

So how can you ensure that your child is getting enough time for moving and playing?

1. Make sure that your child has time every day to just play.
2. Play music regularly. Most children respond very naturally to music with movement.
3. Inspire imagination, play, and movement by encouraging your child to be outdoors.
4. Take time for physical activity yourself. Your example is a powerful model for your child.
5. Enroll in a Kindermusik class. (Okay, we couldn’t resist!)

You’ll not only enjoy lots of movement and play in class, but your Home Materials will also inspire you with more musical play and movement at home all week long.

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Contributed by Theresa Case whose award-winning Kindermusik program at Piano Central Studios in upstate South Carolina has been inspiring children and families to move, play, and make music together for over 20 years now.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Movement and Music: Hop, Wiggle, Squirm, and Sing!

Babies movement smiles

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Lisa Sempsey, Kodály Educator

Kids have boundless energy! That statement is no surprise if you’re a parent, caregiver, or teacher to a child. There are times that you may look at the children under your care and think, “they may not need a nap, but I do!” or, “how do they just keep going?” Well, movement: touching, rolling, skipping, jumping, wiggling…it’s just part of how a child explores her world. It’s also how their brain/body develops “must have” connections to grow up in a healthy way. Movement is key! But, traditional sports or dance classes are not the only way to keep children moving. Don’t get me wrong, organized athletics and dance programs have an important impact in the world, but there are also other ways to keep your little ones on the move and having fun![/vc_column_text][blockquote cite=”Ralph Waldo Emerson”]It is a happy talent to know how to play.[/blockquote][vc_column_text]Music and movement have a natural connection. Think about it, when you sing to an infant, you rock them. Squirmy toddler? You’ll probably bounce that little guy on your knee as you recite a traditional rhyme to him. Is your kindergartner having a birthday party? Then, you might organize a round of musical chairs. All of these examples have a music-movement connection. But, they just scratch the surface. There are hundreds of “old” movement games that children still love to play, plus, new ideas on how children can explore movement, and often, music at the same time.

Not sure where to start? There are many websites and online libraries that are treasure troves for kid-friendly and parent/teacher approved, movement rich activities. I used to use them with my own child. (He’s twelve now!) I use them for planning activities at summer camps, and school lessons with many age levels, pre-school through high school. Try out the two online resources below. Take a look. Explore and see how much fun you and your children can have![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Music and Movement Resources

  • What a fun website! Sign up for free, create a monster, click on an activity, and let the fun begin. Whether it’s yoga with Maximo, Zumba for Kids, silly movement with Koo Koo Kachoo, or one of the many other choices. Kids are engaged, challenged, and most likely giggling!
  • This is an online library for folk songs, inspired by the Kodaly philosophy of music education. While I have many, MANY song sources for my classroom, this is my go-to resource when I’m in a pinch. Click on “search the collection” to look for song material that meets your needs. Looking for a movement activity? Scroll all the way to the bottom to the “game type” drop-down box. Choose a genre and you’ll get many songs with the game or dance directions written out for you. Some songs even have field recordings that you can listen to.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][blockquote cite=”Zoltán Kodály”]Singing connected with movements and action is a much more ancient, and, at the same time, more complex phenomenon than is a simple song.[/blockquote][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Want even more ideas?  Looking to integrate movement into a group setting with children?  There are many books with music and movement ideas together.  Some of my favorites are:

Music and movement are a natural fit at home and in school.  Those wiggly kids will sing, play, move, and laugh their way through great games and dances both old and new!

Lisa Sempsey
Lisa Sempsey

Mrs. Sempsey is an active clinician and workshop presenter in south-central Pennsylvania covering topics including classroom management, choral reading sessions, technology in the music classroom, movement and music curricular connections, Kodaly philosophy, curriculum development, and lesson planning, and Orff-Schulwerk philosophy, curriculum development, and lesson planning.


Mrs. Sempsey has taught kindergarten through sixth grade general music, elementary choruses, as well as elementary and middle school strings in Lower Dauphin and Conestoga Valley School Districts, as well as been the Artistic Director and Prelude Choir Director for the Children’s Choir of Lancaster from 2005-2012.  Currently, Mrs. Sempsey teaches kindergarten through sixth grade general music, choruses, and Orff & Drum Ensembles in Columbia Borough School District.   She is also the K-12 Art & Music Curriculum Coordinator.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Get the wiggles out and keep the learning in

thinking and learning are anchored by movementA recent article in the Washington Post highlighted a growing concern for parents and educators:  more and more kids are having trouble sitting still in school. The root of the problem is that kids are being expected to sit still for longer periods of time. Recesses are shorter, and often kids aren’t running, jumping, and playing outside even once they get home.
Our bodies are wired to move. In fact, it is through movement that the brain becomes activated for learning. This is often why kids get wiggly and fidgety – their bodies are trying to wake up their brains! It is also through movement that kids develop core strength, increase their coordination and balance, stimulate their vestibular systems, and improve gross motor skills – among other things.
In this Kindermusik video, expressive movement is helping these young children gain a greater understanding of a poem about a train as they visualize and act out the words through movement. Notice how the children hear the words (aural), see the words represented in the movement (visual), and act them out (kinesthetic). Even though the children are doing the movements while seated, they are working out some of their wiggles and sealing in the learning – all at the same time!
Learn more about how children benefit from the powerful combination of music and movement at

Jump for joy: Busy bodies and second language learning

This video demonstrates the Total Physical Response approach to second language learning and shows a parent and child at home using one of the recorded activities from ABC English & Me.

It all started with movement. When James Asher, a professor of psychology at San Jose State University in California, started asking why young children were dropping out of school, he found a link to second language acquisition:

“The most difficult learning task for both children and adults may be the attempt to acquire a second language in school. A number of studies have shown that few students – often less than 5% who start in a second language – continue to proficiency. This lack of success is striking when compared to the language achievement of most six-year-olds, who without schooling have mastered all the essential parts of the individual’s native language.”

Searching for a solution, Asher started looking at why some young learners developed a second language skill and why others didn’t. The link was movement. What he found is that children who could hear a movement word, and demonstrate comprehension of that movement word by doing it – such as jump, dance, or run – were better able to learn and retain the new information over a period of time.

He developed a method for second language learning centered on movement and wrote a book about it, Learning Another Language Through Actions: The Complete Teacher’s Guidebook.

Asher called this physical approach to teaching a second language: total physical response or TPR.

In study after study for 25 years, laboratory experiments and classroom observations have demonstrated results that were extremely positive. When the instructor skillfully uses the target language to direct the student’s behavior, understanding of the utterance is transparent, often in only one exposure. Also, the understanding is achieved without stress and then retained for weeks, months, and even years. Language-body communications is a fascinating and powerful principle of learning. It seems to be a universal principle that holds true for language including sign language for the deaf. It seems to hold true for an age group that has been studied from children to senior citizens.

This approach is an essential part of the ABC English & Me program. And we were so delighted to watch a parent and child share the joy of learning – and moving – at home.

It’s the kind of learning that makes you jump for joy.

Would you like to know more about the research-based approach of ABC English & Me? Click here for more information. We’d love to show you how it works.