On a recent day at preschool, we weren’t able to go outside due to air quality issues from wildfire smoke, so I pulled an item out of our music/group time cabinet for some fun large motor music time. My co-teacher said she had no idea what the item was or what it was for, so I thought I’d write a quick post on it and how it works.
Ours is just a red elastic band loop – the elastic is maybe 1 – 1.5″ and about 12 feet in diameter. The products I see on Amazon are called stretchy bands, and look like they would work in a similar way. Or you can purchase from Bear Paw Creek. Or Elastablast from Let’s Play Together (they offer a booklet of ideas with a companion CD). On a 12 foot band, you could fit up to 8 adults or up to 16 children. On an 18 foot, you could fit up to 11 adults or up to 22 children. You can also find DIY instructions, including info on how to make one from pantyhose.
The basic idea is that children take hold of the band in a big circle, and then they move it up and down together or in and out together. It’s a little like how they use the parachute in parachute play but without all the extra fabric to get tangled up it can be easier for younger children (toddlers) to manage.
See a video of a stretchy band in action:
Or this stretchy band song shows how children can all work together as they raise it up and lower it, go side to side, and more. (I would do a simpler, shorter song for younger children!)
What makes this an interesting activity is that everyone works together. They are all encouraged to do the same thing at the same time, and they can tell if it’s working if they’re doing the same thing and the band is going the same way for them as it is for everyone else. Tuneful Teaching points out that this is helpful when you have a child who has a hard time keeping a beat – put them between two children who have mastered that skill, and the band moving in rhythm will give them the sensory experience of the beat.
There are lots of activities you can do with the band – many parachute play activities and rhythm activities can be adapted to work with it. But here are some specific suggestions:
Start when they’re sitting in a circle – tell them you’ll put something in front of them but don’t touch yet – and then lay out the band in a circle. Or lay it out in a circle BEFORE they come into the room. Then they sit around it and pick it up.
Have them raise it up, lower it down, go up, go down. Do that several times. Go in and out. Shake it fast and slow. You could do a wave where when you point at them, they raise the band – go around the circle where one raises, then the next, then the next. Play a game where if you play/sing a high note, they raise it high. If they hear a low note, they hold it down low.
Walk around the circle to Sousa march music or the Nutcracker March. Or to Mulberry Bush, where when you get to the “pop” part, everyone quickly lifts the band high and lowers it. Or to Ring Around the Rosey, where everyone falls down, still holding onto the band. Or I sing “Let’s go round and round the circle, go round and round the circle, go round and round the circle as we have done before. Go in and out the circle…”
Do a counting song – like 5 little monkeys if you have five children – at the beginning, all are standing and holding it and moving it up and down in rhythm to the music. When you say “one fell off”, you tell them which child should let go and sit down. They have a visceral sense then of how four is different than 5. And so on down. (Idea from Music and Movement Products.)
- sing Sing Row Row Row Your Boat while making a rowing motion with the band. (Video)
- Wheels on the Bus go round and round (rowing motion); wipers go swish (back and forth); driver says move on back (lean back), people on the bus go up and down. (Idea from Pre-K and K Sharing.)
- Play a piece of classical music, and have them move the band to match it (might be slow and gentle waves, or fast and marching, depending on the music!)
- Say “trot trot to Boston, trot trot to Dover, watch out baby or you might fall over” having children move hands up and down (trotting) and then fall / lean backward while holding onto the band.
Keeping the beat. Count together as you move the band 1-2-3-4. Once they get the hang of the rhythm, go around the circle saying each child’s name on the first beat. Peter-2-3-4, Ben-2-3-4, Isabel-2-3-4. Or do animal names or colors or shapes or whatever.
If you have a multi-colored band, then you can do things like “everyone who is holding onto blue, lift it up. Everyone who is holding yellow lean back to stretch it out.”
Stretchy Band Train: make one person the engine, and one the caboose. They walk around with the band stretched between them to make a train car – other kids can board the train car and walk with them. Watch this video.
Use it as a resistance band to stretch out and away from each other – the children can face outward and put it around their bellies, or face inward with it around their backs as they back away. (See pictures on Music Therapy Moves.) Try this pattern: Holding the band from the outside of the circle: Take four steps out, take four steps in. Then get inside the circle, facing out and wrap the band around their bellies. Take four steps out to stretch the band. Take four steps in (going backwards).
Find more ideas:
- Sing, Play, Create: https://www.singplaycreate.com/2016/01/stretching-learning-with-stretchy-bands.html
- Make Moments Matter video: https://www.facebook.com/makemomentsmattermusiced/videos/1948644511874163/
- 21 ways to use a stretchy band is a PDF from Music and Movement Products.
- Improvising with a Stretchy Band to folk dance music – this video shows adults experimenting – going round the circle, up and down, etc. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qx67rTsH0FQ