Hints and Tips for SCD - Dancing with children

This page gives hints, tips and pointers on dancing with children and running children's events.

Really young (3-5)

I hope you'll have parents there to help! In our experience of that age group it works best if there's approximately one adult (or at least person who can understand and follow instructions) per child. Although we have run ceilidhs exclusively for children 4 and below with parents (at least that's how it's turned out) we would recommend getting older children as well if possible. They provide an example and inspiration to the younger ones and give more of a sense of success and achievement to everyone.

First of all - keep it simple. If you have one adult per child, make sure they are paired up that way - it definitely helps if they can guide the child. Older children can pair up with each other (and will probably want to dance with their friends of the same sex).

Circassian Circle (the ceilidh version) is probably a reasonable bet (particularly if you don't have a lot of adults). If you're feeling confident you can try the one partner go into the middle and then the other, but you're probably better just leaving it as everyone going in and out 4 times. The turning and promenade ought to be okay - at 8 bars each it gives them time to get their head round changing what they're doing.

We do the Gay Gordons - it's fine if you've got adults. Not so sure if you haven't. You could maybe do a simplified version which doesn't have the backwards bit - walk forwards for 4 bars along line of dance, turn around and walk back the way you came for 4 bars. Hold both hands and jump up and down for 4 bars then turn.

You could try "A Trip to Balamory" - one my wife came up with (adapted from The Riverside Polka) when calling for a children's ceilidh in early 2006.

Couples around the room facing partners (one with back to centre, one facing centre).

Steady 4/4 Pipe March

1-2: Clap right hands
3-4: Clap left hands
5-6: Clap both of partner's hands
7-8: Clap own knees
9-12: Slipstep round in a little circle of two with partner
13-16: Slipstep (both hands joined) along line of dance (ACW)

If you've got enough adults for at least one per line of 3, you could try a simplified version of The Dashing White Sergeant. Circle round and back, turn right partner, left partner, right partner, left partner (or you can be ambitious and try doing the set and turn first time, but my 3-year old daughter got a bit confused by that), advance and retire and go under the arch AND KEEP FACING THE SAME WAY (don't know why you've always got to stress that, but you do, even with adults).

When running a children's ceilidh we usually have a session of musical bumps (helps having a live musician who can play fragments and change tunes easily, but shouldn’t be too difficult with a CD). We don't have any winning or losing, just sit down when the music stops, then jump up again and start dancing when it starts again. That works with smaller children too - my 2-year-old son loves it.

If in doubt, adapt or make something up. Don't try anything that needs footwork (that's why I don't suggest the Military Twostep). Give them plenty of time for each movement - it will probably take them a couple of bars to realise they're supposed to change, so if they've got 8 bars of it that gives them time to get into it. Don't try sending different people in different directions (as in The Canadian Barn Dance). If you've got adults, things which have the adults and children together all the time work best.

See also the other hints and tips sections:
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This page is maintained by Ian Brockbank
Edinburgh, Scotland