Family Dance Party!

This fall I started a monthly program called Family Dance Party. Inspired by the success of my Silly Songs Dance Party over the summer, this program is all about movement and music. Here’s my rationale behind the program:

  • Music programs promote our audio collection – both online streaming and Audio CDs – a part of our collection that is underused.
  • Dancing is a great form of physical activity and appeals to the kids who struggle with being still for long amounts of time. It’s important to offer programs that target multiple different ways of learning.
  • It’s intergenerational – little kids, big kids, aunts, uncles, grandparents – everyone is welcome!
  • And pretty much every single reason listed in this article: The Importance of Music for Children (I never thought I’d link to a Barnes and Noble article but they really hit the nail on the head).

The program lasts for one hour and is a combination of free dance, guided dancing, and musical games. I hold the program in our meeting room and clear everything out except for a table with books and CDs and some chairs in case an adult needs to take a rest. Here’s what we got up to – some of it is the same as my Silly Songs Dance Party, but I’ve added lots of new stuff after listening to over 50 children’s music CDs.

lets all dancelauriecaspar

Body Talk by Greg and Steve on Kids in Motion
This is a great song to begin with because it is slow paced and has the kids go through each of their body parts and warm them up.

Shake My Sillies Out by Raffi on More Singable Songs

Let’s All Dance by Will Stroet on Let’s All Dance
If you have never listened to Will Stroet’s music, stop everything and go listen. A fellow Vancouverite, he is an award-winning bilingual musician who is so flipping awesome. I love using this song because it has simple directions and it includes English, French, and Spanish.

Dance Break: Play Simon Says with Dance Moves
Be as ridiculous as possible. For example, I say things like, “Simon says do the worm” or “Simon says do the sprinkler.” I ask for a few kid volunteers to be Simon and their dance moves are usually LOL worthy.

I’m Gonna Catch You by The Laurie Berkner Band on The Best of the Laurie Berkner Band
What kid doesn’t like being chased?Β  This can get kind of crazy with a large group, but so far it’s been a huge hit as has everything by Laurie Berkner.

I Wanna Dance by Will Stroet on Let’s All Dance
This song goes through a series of children’s names, giving them the chance to show off their dance moves. I just shout the names of the kids at my program and give them a chance to bust a move.

Jump Up! by The Imagination Movers on For Those About to Hop
A high energy, quick song with lots of jumping and turning around.

All the Fish by Caspar Babypants on I Found You
I like this song because each animal swims a different way and we pretend to be each one. We also make the bubbles pop over our heads, though I could definitely see using this song with a bubble wand or bubble gun.


Dance Break: Musical Chairs
I always have extra songs on my playlist that I use for this game. I love playing music from the 1950s and 1960s. Some of my favourites are “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Rock Around the Clock,” and “Rockin’ Robbin.”

The Freeze by Greg and Steve on Kids in Motion
There are lots of freeze-type songs out there but this is the one I like the best. A huge shout out to Angie for exposing me to Greg and Steve!

Jump Up, Turn Around by Jim Gill on Jim Gill Sings Moving Rhymes for Modern Times
At this point it’s nice to offer a more mellow song that lets you catch your breath. This tune has simple actions so all the kids have to do is follow along.

Shaker Songs:
Time for some egg shakers! After passing out them out we do these three songs:

Shake it to the East by Kathy Reid-Naiman on Reaching for the Stars
Let’s Shake by Dan Zanes on Catch That Train!
Let’s Shake by Will Stroet on My Backyard

Free Dance:
After we have sufficiently shaked, I play a series of free dance songs. People are free to take a break if they need to or grab one of the music themed books on display. I keep dancing with the kids who are still full of energy. Here are some of my go-to songs:

I Really Love to Dance by The Laurie Berkner Band on The Best of the Laurie Berkner Band
I Love It by Eric Litwin
and Michael Levine on Rockin’ Red
Happy by Pharrell Williams on Girl
Horns to Toes by Adam Bryant and Sandra Boynton on Rhinoceros Tap
You Make Me Feel Like Dancing by The Wiggles on Hot Potatoes: The Best of the Wiggles

And that’s it! Right now the only prop I have is egg shakers, but as soon as I get scarves and rhythm sticks I will definitely be adding those into the mix.

Have you ever held a dance party at your library?Β  Let me know your favourite songs to play!

38 thoughts on “Family Dance Party!

  1. Silly Dance Contest by Jim Gill. My favorite song to use for story time and toddler time programs. I use bells, shakers, scarves…..just about anything.

    1. Love that one! Pretty sure I could do an entire dance party with Jim Gill and Laurie Berkner music. Thanks for sharing!

  2. An hour long dance party? I am impressed! I was winded after doing The Freeze in storytime yesterday (it was very embarrassing). Kudos to you! And, hey, you get your work out in for the day!

    1. Ya, it is definitely a work out! That’s why I added in the games between songs so we aren’t dancing the whole time. And the last 15 minutes is free dance, so people can take a rest – but ya I usually end up dancing that whole time! I learned very quickly to wear comfortable clothes and to bring deodorant to work πŸ™‚

      1. Needing deodorant at work after running children’s programs is the story of my life!

  3. I second “Silly Dance Contest” but we also love the “Hokey Pokey” and “Walking, Walking” off the album Songs for Wiggleworms and “Can’t Sit Still” by Greg & Steve. When we have dance parties at our library I also like to throw in some books that are danceable like Is Everyone Ready for Fun? or Can You Make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas. Aaaaand in addition to shakers, scarves, and rhythm sticks we like to be silly with some bean bag activities and dances, too. πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks for those song suggestions – I’ll definitely check them out. My library has ordered scarves and rhythm sticks and I can’t wait to incorporate them! I think I have a set of bean bags but I’ve never known how to use them in a storytime/dance party setting. What bean bag activities do you do? I’d love to learn!

      1. Well, there are two sets of fun bean bag activities on the album Body Bingo–the kids particularly like the toss & catch set. There are also two songs on the album Action Songs for Preschoolers by Georgiana Stewart called “Bean Bag Rock” and “Pass the Bean Bag.” She also has two albums called Bean Bag Rock & Roll and Bean Bag Activities and Coordination Skills but I’ve never tried them in a story time setting. I’ve also played Hot Potato with a bean bag or have the kids toss up the bean bags and catch it with a body part other than their hands. I also always use this silly song when doing bean bag or scarf activities: (Sung to the tune of “This Old Man”) “On my head I wear a hat (or scarf or bean bag), it is such a silly hat that my head will wibble, wobble to and fro. Where else can my silly hat go?” I draw out the word “go” while I fly my “hat” to a different body part then sing the song again. The kids get a kick out of the song and the wiggling! Sorry this is so long. Hopefully, some of it will work for you!

        1. Thank you so much!!! I can’t wait to try out your suggestions.

      2. I realize this is an old post so you may have already heard of it, but Greg and Steve’s the Beanie Bag Dance is my favorite.

        1. I haven’t actually! I’m always looking for new songs to use with props so thank you for the recommendation.

        2. There are two versions. The best one is on their Kids in Action CD.

      3. After reading, Caps For Sale, or Ten Apples Up On Top, get out the bean bags and stack them on your head!

  4. What’s the age group for your Dance Party? Do you require adults with the kids? How did you advertise – sign-up or drop-in?

    1. Originally I intended the audience to be school-age children, but I quickly realized two things – toddlers and preschoolers love to dance AND families are looking for things to do as a whole family. So I was very flexible with the age range. If the kids were interested and wanted to join then I didn’t turn anyone away. Adults are required to stay with children under 8 as a library policy, and some of them danced along. I didn’t put any requirements on it though, you know? I just wanted it to be a fun time with whatever comfort level they were at. This was a drop-in program. We find requiring registration to these types of programs can be a barrier and we’ve never had an issue with space. It’s a community-based decision though.

  5. We have had a few Toddler Dance Parties and the kids also respond well to Kathy Reid-Naiman’s Baby Bear Waltz. Besides this, it gives the adults who struggle with free style some prescribed movement. And, it’s the most adorable thing EVER!

    1. I love Kathy Reid-Naiman’s songs for storytime so I’ll have to check that one out. I love using songs with directions for toddlers because you can include an early literacy tip about the importance of learning how to follow simple directions. Thanks for your comment!

  6. Thanks for the song suggestions. A few other great artists not mentioned Carole Peterson, Mr. Gym, Johnette Downing has a great scarves CD, Run Baby Run by Caspar Babypants.

    1. Thanks for sharing! I’m always looking for new music to try out.

  7. I’m putting together a DANCE storytime for a visiting playgroup. I’m definitely going to use a lot of these suggestions! Did you change CD’s that often or do you play them on a device? Or did you burn them to a disc?

    Thanks for the suggestions!

    1. At the time I burned them all to a disc. If you have a subscription service like Google Music or Spotify you could create a playlist that way though. Glad this was helpful to you πŸ™‚

  8. I have a family dance party planned for this summer and I have big pieces of bubble wrap that I plan to tape to the floor for the kids to dance on.

    1. Ooo, this is a great idea! The kids will absolutely love the sensory experience.

  9. You may have heard of these, too but I love: Lizzie Spins by Joanie Leeds, Up and Down by Miss Nina, and Dance with Me by the Not Its!

    1. I haven’t! Also, The Not Its is such a great name for a children’s music group.

  10. I’m doing a March Break Toddler Dance Party tomorrow (first time!). We have scarves, shakers, animals puppets and masks, a little bubble machine and a disco light! I hadn’t even thought about dance games as I wanted it to be a really relaxed, go-with-the-flow event where people can come and go as they please and freestyle their way through it. I totally get the organize dportion of it but I think with the little ones we’ll be getting, following instructions isn’t exactly going to happen. I can picture the ‘freeze dance’ working okay though!

    I am SUPER excited about this as I always have dance parties at home with my 18-month old nephew and I feel like I’ve built up both my stamina and song selection / repertoire. haha
    My guy would honestly be happy with The Kiboomers’ “Freeze Dance” songs on repeat all day, but here are some fun pop songs I added to the playlist that have kid-friendly lyrics but that adults can groove along to as well:

    – Can’t Stop the Feeling by Justin Timberlake (from Trolls)
    – September by Earth Wind & Fire, feat. J.T. and Anna Kendrick (also from Trolls)
    – Happy by Pharrell (mentioned above)
    – Red Balloon by Charlie XCX
    – One More Time by Daft Punk
    – They Don’t Know by Ariana Grande (also from Trolls)
    – Come and Get Your Love by Redbone
    – Send Me On My Way by Rusted Root (Matilda and Ice Age Soundtracks)
    – Celebration by Kool & the Gang
    – Twist and Shout by The Beatles
    – I Got You (I Feel Good) by James Brown & The Famous Flames
    – Lollipop by The Chordettes
    – Little Bitty Pretty One by Thurston Harris
    – Splish Splash by Bobby Darin
    – Land of 1000 Dances by Wilson Pickett

    I have to admit, Baby Shark is also on there. I’m mostly worried about the inevitable “again, again!” that will please some but maybe not others if complied with. Also, once you play it again, can you ever really stop without some tears??? Help!

    1. Haha, well kids have to learn that all good things come to an end πŸ™‚ Thanks so much for sharing this song list – it’s a perfect refresh to the one I shared years ago. It sounds like you are going to have a blast!

  11. How long did you allot for this dance program? I’m interested in getting one going (we did one in the winter that was a hit, but it was VERY seat of my pants and not organized well), but I can’t seem to land on an appropriate amount of time.

    1. This program went for one hour. I think it’s totally fine to mix in some read alouds about music and dance to break up the dancing and give yourself and kids a chance to rest.

  12. Hi, Lindsey!
    First…Thank you for taking the time (all these years) to share your resources, songs, stories, thoughts, and reflections! You and Dana totally changed my library life for the better. I worked at an elementary school for 4 years and moved to a public library last year with a preschool storytime. I had absolutely no idea what to do, and then I discovered Jbrary. THANK YOU!

    Next… the questions I’m replying for! Did you find your community staying engaged with a monthly dance program? Is there anything you would do differently if you did it again?

    Thank you! And… seriously… Thank. You. For everything!!

    1. Hi Becky – thank you so much for your kind words! I’m so glad Jbrary has been a good resource for you. I haven’t done a dance party program in a long time actually! It ended up catering to a much younger crowd than I anticipated. Lots of preschoolers with caregivers. Fewer older kids, not surprisingly. If I had to do it again I would continue it as a series, maybe even weekly to get it off the ground and I would open it up to all ages. That might mean making the program shorter as one hour is a really long time to dance even with a few picture books thrown in. If you can incorporate games that involve team work that would also be an added social emotional learning opportunity. It’s a super fun program either way and you definitely get a work out πŸ™‚

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