Whether you are a school teacher needing exciting and engaging ways to begin a dance class, a parent wanting to play some fun dance games at your kid’s next birthday party, or a homeschooling mom needing to take a movement brain break without screens we’ve got you covered!
The following 10 warm-up games for dance class will surely give you some inspiration and ideas to make dance class the lesson all the kids look forward to!
Get ready to rock your next dance class, as well as be warm. We’ll also be exploring the importance of a warm-up, as well as what type of stretches you should be implementing as well into your routine.
What does it mean to warm-up and why is it important when exercising?
To warm up basically means to raise our heart rate in a healthy way. To raise your heart rate means that blood is pumping throughout your body more quickly, flowing through the muscles and organs getting oxygen to all parts of the body in an efficient way!
I know you just want to read about the activities, but when we as teachers and parents understand the reason behind why we do things, rather than just doing them we can pass this knowledge onto our kids not only in our words but through our actions.
The most important reason we warm up our bodies is to prevent any type of injury from happening.
I am a huge believer in fun warm-ups, as long as they are effective. If they are indeed effective methods, then I see them being a benefit to training. Not only can it break up monotonous training methods, but it can also put you in a better mood as well before working out.
Of course, dance classes are always generally fun, but anything can become tiring, so mixing up your warm-ups is always a great idea and is something I highly recommend doing from time to time.
How Long Should a Warm-Up Last?
Well, to put this in a specific timeframe, I’d say a solid warm-up should last from around 5-15 minutes. It doesn’t need to be extremely long, as it is all about how effective the warm-up is, not how long it lasts.
For example, if you are focused on your warm-up and get through it with your goal on your mind the entire time, executing all movements properly, and it only takes you 9 minutes, then that is fine. However, if you start slow and you aren’t putting your full effort into it, and you find you’ve spent 20 minutes warming up, then it isn’t near as effective.
At the end of the day, it isn’t really about time in terms of the warm-up, but rather how effective it is and how warmed up the body feels as a result!
Can These Games Replace Normal Warm-Ups?
For kids especially – YES
But before any type of physical activity, I always recommend doing some type of stretching on top of actually getting the blood moving quickly throughout the body.
For example, if you go straight into teaching a routine where you want to do a front kick if you haven’t stretched those muscles you could end up tearing a hamstring.
How Often Should You Mix up the Warm-Up?
We have more than 12 suggestions here – so should you use a new one for each class?
No! Kids need time to learn through repetition to really gain the benefits of anything! The first few times they do something they are only just learning the how of it and should be given the chance to improve and be able to get into some flow rather than having to be in their head just trying to get the activity right!
But just as with anything, mixing up their routine is important in order to continue to develop and learn. In terms of warm-ups, you will naturally feel when things become a bit stagnant and not as fresh – basically, you will start to see the kids become disinterested, complain, be more talkative, or even misbehave.
However, if you are looking for a timeframe, it is hard to gauge, but I’d say every 1-3 weeks would be nice and allow kids to adapt to new movements and such, which is quite important.
As you may notice in this list, not all warm-ups are centered around dancing. Some of this is to do with keeping interested high for children but also it is based in cross-training theory too!
Cross-training for any type of athlete is a great idea, and for dancers, this is no different. Cross-training can open up new paths for various opportunities, give you the ability to learn new movements, and much more.
What warm up movements should dance instructors focus on?
For dance class – it is good to think about some of the important elements in dance that you will be working on in a class. As a class usually goes for 45-60minutes for children, tying in what is being learned during the warm-up to the rest of the class can help you really drill in learning in that short amount of time.
Therefore to help you determine which kind of warm-up you will start with. Here is a quick breakdown of some important elements in dance to help you:
Balance- This is important as you’ll need to be able to stay in certain positions and have complete control of your body.
Coordination- Ask a child to move their left foot and right arm in certain ways at the same time and you will see the thinking behind this coordination on their faces. Being able to quickly send messages from the brain to the body to coordinate it all together is crucial in dance.
Technique – Technique is how you are teaching the students to execute the movement. In ballet, in particular, the movements require a specific technique that takes years to master. Therefore in a warm-up, you might focus on keeping legs turned out with feet in ballet positions if you were focusing on ballet that class for example.
Memory– Memory is needed to remember a series of movements, which can oftentimes be the hardest part of dancing for beginners.
Flexibility– All dancers need to be supple and flexible to be able to execute dance moves.
Timing & Rhythm- Being able to dance to the beat is important in dance. More advanced dancers learn to dance to the downbeat as well as the melody or specific instruments of a piece of music.
After breaking down several crucial elements to dancing, I’d then look for similar elements in various sports and such to see if I can find what matches the best. For example, I believe that ice skating and yoga would be fantastic for dancers to do.
However, at the end of the day, it is up to as to what cross-training you want to do, and to be honest, practically anything can give you some type of benefit, so make sure that you are keeping an open mind throughout it.
10 Fun Warm-Up Games for Dance Class
And finally here are the games for you to read about and choose from as your dance or ballet class warm-up!
Just to mention – these are games and generally, when you play a game there is a winner and a loser, so keep in mind that swapping partners and teams often may be needed to give all kids a chance to have even matches and win as well as lose just enough to keep them challenged and engaged!
1. Mirror Game
The mirror game is quite simple, and you need two people to be able to do it.
The duo first decides who is going to be the leader. They then face each other and the leader starts to move. The other person is required to copy what the leader is doing as if they were their mirror reflection.
For dance, you can ask the lead students to move in certain ways such as doing plies in three different positions of the feet or more simple actions such as moving like a tree in the wind. Ask them to do actions close to the ground, or on their tiptoes.
It is a great way to gently get kids moving and sets the tone for a fun class where the students will be asked to work with others.
2. Dance Card Game
The Dance Card Game is where you create a certain number of cards, and there is no specific number, and on these cards are various movements or even shapes or verbs (doing words such as run, skip etc… )
You can use these cards in numerous ways.
One idea would be for each person to take a turn pulling out a card and then leading the class in that movement.
Another would be to shuffle the deck and to pull out 4-8 cards and to place them on the floor or tacked to a wall in a line and then for the class to follow these movements to perform their warm-up.
You could also do the last suggestion in groups or place the cards around certain areas of the room and ask students to move from one to the next in time with the music.
This is a great way to do a warm-up as it is fun, unpredictable, and can be used in any class, no matter the skill level.
Simple Ideas for Warm-Up Movements on your cards
Of course, there are several great traditional warming up methods that I feel should be included here. Not only can you mix these into games, but you can also do them before the game to make sure that you are that much looser before starting class.
Jumping jacks are absolutely one of my favorite warmups to do for anything, considering how well they can increase your heart rate, but you can also break a nice sweat as well with this.
Arm and Shoulder Circles
To perform them, simply stick your arms both out horizontally and rotate your shoulders in a circular motion while keeping your arm straight. You can also have a variety of how you can do the arm circles, such as a small range to a large range.
Another great stretch you should really consider doing before any dance class is ankle circles. These are a great way to bring mobility to your ankles and feet, which are arguably one of the most important pieces of your body for dance classes.
One of my personal favorite exercises to do in terms of legs are lunges. These do a fantastic job of firing the hamstrings and legs as a whole.
High Knees/Butt Kicks
You may not traditionally put these exercises with a dance class. However, high knees and butt kicks are another great way to get your legs working. I love these two warm-ups, as they are fantastic for increasing your heart rate and getting your legs to become loose.
3. Cone Race
A great, small warm-up you can do is a cone race. No, this is not a single race to a cone but starts off with a bit of a reaction drill.
Place students again in pairs, each pair gets a cone that they place on the floor and stand on either side of.
The instructor should be calling out warm-up movements such as jogging on the spot, jumping jacks, or even stretches. At a random time, they will call “cone” in which the first person to grab the cone is declared the winner.
Kids will love this if they are matched with someone where they both win at different times. It is always good to try and change partners several times so they get to experience this at some point!
4. Outlast the Circuit Race
Another fantastic warm-up game is a circuit race. A circuit is a set of activities or movements located at different points in the room or even just in a line that your dancers need to get through. When you make it a race your dancers need to finish all the activities the quickest to get to the end.
The thing is – you don’t want dancers trying to finish as quickly as possible, so the difference here is trying to find the group who can take the longest doing the activities.
This means that you tell each group to win – they need to outlast all the others – basically, the last group with all their team members still going.
So for example if the first circuit a team goes to is simple jumping jacks they need to keep going until someone in their team says I have to stop. The whole team has to stop and move on to the next activity.
Tag is a classic, timeless game that kids love. But don’t just think this is a run and tag game there are so many variations of this game and here are just a few.
- when someone is tagged, they may have to do something like a certain number of jumping jacks, push-ups, a balance, jumps etc..
- Everyone has to move in certain ways such as doing ballet walks or skipping, galloping, sliding, on tip toe etc… and you can change this during the game.
- When tagged you have to do a stretch such as a split and you can try and tag others who come too close to you whilst in this stretch
6. Warm up Freeze Game
This is the classic Party game but changed for a dance class warm-up.
You may ask the students to do certain warm-up movements to music such as jumping jacks or high knees or this can be done with a warm-up you routinely do with the class, but this time you choose to stop the music and when you do the students need to freeze.
As this is a warm-up I would never ask kids to then sit out. You may instead have two sides of the room – a practice area for kids who got out to continue to practice their freeze skills until you have a winner and start the game again!
7. Stage Left
There is a classic game where a caller yells out directions such as starboard or to port for example, or climb the ladder and scrub the deck. It is a thinking and coordination game. if you know it – you could play this with your students or you can change it to using stage directions.
Stage left is a dancer’s right, and stage right is a dancer’s left! There is upstage and downstage, and other directions that you can call out and have your dancers move to in a game to not only teach them their stage directions but also to get them warmed up!
You don’t have to get them to move their whole bodies to a stage left location either. You could simply show a stretch and the ask stage left and they would have to do the stretch towards that direction – similar to the photo!
8. Online Dance Class
On the Move Dance Learn youtube channel there are lots of classes that are less than 20minutes long. This might be a bit too long for a warm-up – but the class does include a game at the end – after watching a few you could even modify the game for your students.
Check out the youtube channel and classes here!
9. Freestyle Dancing Competition
This may be an obvious idea, but freestyle dancing is a great way to get students to warm themselves up for dance class. Young kids especially relish being able to dance their own way and so this allows them to express their creativity in this department as well.
What I would suggest is having a selection of different styles of music available, fast, slow, modern, classical, country, jazz etc so the dancers can be inspired by the music and really move their bodies in different ways.
You can also add in suggestions such as make your movement low to the ground or adding in some leaps etc…
You can then give prizes or places for the most creative or those you thought put in the most effort for example into their warm-up freestyle dancing!
Although a regular board game, typically used for a family game night, twister can be a great game idea for dancers to warm up. The reason behind this is that it is a game that requires quite a bit of flexibility, just like dancing.
A way to include doing some cardiovascular movement is to play the game a little differently.
Get the students to firstly do a burst of star jumps or high knees. Then instead of spinning to choose the colors – tell them they all then need to put their right hand on the blue and left foot on the green and left hand on red and to hold that for ten seconds. Then they can again do another burst of activity.
For flexible dancers, you could ask them to try and make interesting shapes with their bodies when placing them onto the colors to make it even more interesting!
Let Us Know Which One You Used!
I would love to hear if you used one of these activities to warm up for dance! Connect with us on Social Media or use the contact form in the footer to let us know how you warmed up!
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