Any teacher who works with little ones knows that props can make class time run much more smoothly. That said, it's often difficult to find the right mix of tools that will both capture a child's attention and are manageable enough to carry around from one location to another—or pack up and store easily. Anything too big or too heavy is out, and some of the props you love to use with little ones may not be the most practical choice if you're a freelance teacher traveling to multiple studios throughout the week.
We asked two experienced teachers to share a couple of their favorite tips for easy-travel props for those who teach young ones. Here are five solid suggestions you can choose from, to incorporate into your overall teaching plans.
The Airy Loofah
Maria Hanley is an early childhood dance educator in Cleveland, Ohio, and she loves using loofahs to explore movement in her classes. "With little ones, I guide them to paint polka dots all over their body," she says, adding, "it's great for tactile movement." Hanley packs 15 to 20 in a small mesh laundry bag and tosses them in her tote. "They are light and easy to travel with," she says.
String is an inexpensive and easy-to-transport item that Hanley also employs in her classes with small children. She points out that it's a versatile tool to use with little ones because they can dance with it, use it to practice jumps and leaps, and do many other things. "I cut string up into pieces and place into a zip-lock bag," she explains, saying, "it's easy to pass out from there, and light to carry in your bag."
Colorful Ribbon Rings
Charlotte Foster Williamson is the founder and studio director at Atlanta Dance Central and she suggests trying out "ribbon rings" as a catchy, easy-store prop for small children's classes. "They're simple, plastic rings with ribbons attached," she says, adding, "they're fun, celebratory and light!"
Flat Mat Shapes
Another prop they use at Atlanta Dance Central is something Williamson originally purchased but has also thought about making herself—flat, yoga mat–like material shapes in a range of different colors. "I use them to mark a spot where a child should go," she says. You can use different colors to mean different things, such as red for stop. The material is flat, and it doesn't weigh much, so the shapes can be tossed in a bag or easily stored at a studio.
Hanley also recommends using a packing cube to keep props together. It makes it very easy to locate items quickly during a class. She explains, "It zips up on the inside and then zips closed as a cube," adding, "you can switch out the props when needed, but I always keep the staples in the cube, such as a drum, ribbons, short cones and tape." This tip also helps keep props organized for fast packing—before or after class.