Scarves: Floating Fun for ages 0-5

My pick for the week is scarves.  No this post isn't about fashion trends for spring, although I do love how a scarf can add a dash of fun color to any outfit. Scarves are one of my must have toys! I love toys that:

  • have a wide variety of uses,
  • can be used for many ages,
  • are inexpensive,
  • gender neutral,
  • encourage creative play.

I have yet to find a child who does not love to play with a scarf. They provide a great multi-scensory exerience! The colors, the way they catch the eye as they float through the air or sweep across the ground, the way they feel on hands, toes, faces, etc. I have yet to discover a child in my classes who is not thrilled when I bring out the scarves. Even they shyest child can be encouraged to move and explore with a scarf in hand.

Here are some tips on purchaing scarves:

  • Look for scaves that are made out of silk or chiffon. They will float very nicely and are light weight enough for the smallest dancer.
  • Try to buy a variety of colors and opacities.
  • See if they are machine washable. Be sure to wash in a delicates bag and hang to dry. Or use a natural disinfectant like Benefect in between uses to avoid the transfer of germs.
  • For younger children (0-3) look for scarves that are smaller (about 1ft x1ft) so they are easy to handle and don't become a tripping hazard. For older children try a variety of shapes and sizes to explore with.
  • Scarves can be bought from dance supply and education supply stores. You can also find them in department stores. Or try raiding Grandma's house!

Scarves provide hours of fun for imaginative play. Super hero caps, butterfly or bird wings, snakes, baby blankets, blind folds, wash cloths (a mother can dream can't she), there doesn't seem to be anything my girls can't turn their scarves into. Here are some fun activities I love to use in studio and at home to illustrate how scarves can also be used in structured play from ages 0-5:

Babies 0-12 months:

Eye tracking: Scarves are a fabulous way to practice eye tracking with your baby. With baby laying on their back or stomach or sitting try moving your scarf side to side and up and down in front of your baby. For babies 3 months and under make your movement slow so they have time to track the movement. With older babies movements can be faster and directions more varied.

Peek-a-boo: Use your scarf to play this all time favorite game. Peek-a-boo is a great game for helping to develop object permanence. And really nothing is cuter then the smiles and squeals from a surprised baby. Try putting the scarf over your face, wait a moment, take it off quickly and say peek-a-boo! After a few times try putting the scarf over your baby's face, take it off and say peek-a-boo. With babies around 12 months try giving them a scarf and see if they will copy you.

Dance with your Baby: Pick up your baby and your scarf and whirl and twirl around the room to the music. Your baby will love the combination of watching the scarf and feeling the movement you provide.

Gentle Tug of War/Row row row your Boat: While your baby is in side lying position engage her with a light soft toy or scarf. Watch as your baby reaches for the scarf, extending her top arm and leg while the other side grounds her to the floor. Once she seems to have found her balance bring the prop close enough for her to grasp. Then gently tug on the prop providing a slight shift in balance. How does your baby react?

Once she seems very comfortable sing Row, row, row your Boat while gently pulling and releasing the prop providing a dynamic balance experience.

Row, row, row, your boat

Gently down the stream.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

Life is but a dream!

Toddlers 1-2.5 years:

* Toddlers will still enjoy many of the games above varied for their greater ability level. You will notice they will be more active participants in the games. Also try adding the following activities.

Hide and Seek: Place a few items under a scarf (e.g. a small book, teddy, and a sock). Ask your tot to give you the teddy, then lift up the scarf, and see if your tot will identify the correct object. This game can be used to help develop color, shape, animal, and letter identification.

Siesta/ Fiesta: Put on slow music and tuck your tot in under the scarf for a short siesta (nap in spanish). Then switch to upbeat music and encourage your tot to get up and fiesta (party) and dance with their scarf. Continue to switch back and forth. Toddlers enjoy this simple music and movement identification game. 

Preschoolers 2.5-5 years

Throwing and catching: Scarves are an excellent way to introduce throwing and catching skills. Little hands have a much easier time handling and manipulating soft scarves then balls. Because they float slowly as they return to the ground preschoolers are able to easily combine hand-eye coordination. Another bonus is they do not have the same risk of damaging the house while playing indoors. 

What's Missing?: Show your preschooler a series of objects (e.g. a small book, teddy, and a sock). Cover the objects with the scarf and without your preschooler seeing take one object away. Lift the scarf and ask your preschooler what is missing? This game is great for short term memory development and retention skills. 

Dance and Balance: Turn on some music and dance with your scarves. Pause the music at intervals and call out a body part for your preschooler to balance their scarf on. Discuss which body parts were easy to balance the scarf on and which were trickier.