Jessica's Picks

Thu, 03/15/2012 - 5:47pm

Drawing has been the go-to activity in our house lately. As I shared in my last post, Simon Says Draw, drawing is something I find a bit daunting. Doodling, on the other hand, is a completely different story. 

I LOVE to doodle. In school my notebooks were always filled with doodles. When I talk on the phone you will generally find me doodling on scraps of paper. I don't draw anything specific, I mostly create designs or sketch out ideas. There is something about doodling that calms my ADD tendencies and allows me to focus. 

In December I realized I needed to find some more "me" space in my life. I am so passionate about my career, dance education, and my family sometimes I starts to lose parts of myself. I was looking for some activities I could do that would allow me short "escapes" during the week. I have been reading novel like they are going out of style but I have also started doodling with purpose. 

For Christmas I found Bria the Usborne Book of Drawing, Doodling and Colouring. Bria draws morning, noon, and night so I thought she'd really enjoy the variety of drawing prompts on each page. She did! Much of her Christmas break was spent exploring the different ideas on each page. One set of pages she particuarly enjoys has rows upon rows of blank faces. She adores creating all sorts of characters and making up stories about them. I should probably start writing down some of these storie as they can be quite funny. 

Another picture Bria insisted I show you is the robot page. The book gives you examples of robots on small grid paper and then encourages you to draw your own. 

Back to my "me" space. For Christmas, Chris bought me a set of sketching pens and a blank sketch book to help get me started on my purposeful doodling. I have used it a bit but found the blank pages a bit daunting. I would enviously watch Bria working on her doodles and wish they made an adult doodle book I could work on. 

Last weekend I took Malia on a "Mommy-Mimi date" to the book store to pick up some new reads for the girls for Spring break. One for each girl and one to share. When I got up to the cashier, she informed me it was buy 3 books get the 4th free! I knew exactly what book I was going to get! The Usborne book of Drawing, Doodling and Colouring!

Sure it might be a book geared towards kids but there are so many fabulously fun designs and prompts for people of all ages! As soon as I got home I started working on a page I have been eyeing in Bria's book for a while. I worked for an hour (with both girls leaning over my shoulder cheering me on) and had such a good time. 

Bria and I plan on taking our doodle books on holidays with us! I think some doodling on the beach with a nice "mommy" drink in hand will be the perfect RnR!

What are your plans for Spring Break? 

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Mon, 03/12/2012 - 10:00pm

As a dance teacher my music collection is very eclectic. I am always on the hunt for different pieces that will inspire my dancers, young and old, to move their bodies in different ways. One of the reasons I love teaching the Fiesta Family program at J'Adore Dance is creating playlists that take our families on journeys to new exciting places, even if it is only in our imaginations!

World music has so many wonderful benefits for children. It peeks curiosity and gives us an opportunity to teach children about the diversity of cultures in our world. It trains young ears to hear differences in instrumentation, tonal, and rhythmic patterns. It reminds us that despite our differences music and movement are a global language we can all enjoy!

Song: Battu

Artist/Album: Angelique Kidjo/ African Playground

Where to Buy: J'Adore Dance/ Putumayo Kids

Why I love it: African music is all about the drumming, the beat, more specifically the rhythms of the people! Nothing gets people moving like this feel good song. Babies rock to the rhythm, toddlers bounce along to the beat and I have heard from many grandparents after class that this was their favourite song of the day. I love the spirit of the song as well. The english translation reads " We may have no money, we may have no food but we know our pride!"

Song: A Mover La Colita

Artist: La Sonora Diminita

Where to Buy: iTunes

Why I love it: A mover la colita is spanish for move your tail (a.k.a shake your bum)! This Latin song has a great cha cha rhythm that get feet moving to the beat. The strong, steady tempo is wonderful for helping young children find the beat, develop rhythmic pattern skills, and explore with percussion instruments. I also love to use it when we play limbo, trying different ways of moving our body parts or animal parts under and over the limbo stick to the beat. 

Song: Tik Tik Tak

Artist/Album: Glykeria/ World Playground

Where to Buy: J'Adore Dance/ iTunes/ Putumayo Kids

Why I love it: I have a secret love of folk dances. While not as glamorous and flashy as other genres of dance, folk and circle dances have been central parts of culture and celebrations for hundreds of years. Folk dances are simple enough for generations of families and communities to enjoy together. The Greek are renowned for their love of music, dance and celebration and Tik Tik Tak exemplifies this experience. Little ones love moving in and out of circle formations with simple foot patterns and hand clapping and shouting out " Tik Tik Tak!"

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Sun, 01/22/2012 - 6:36pm

If you live in a climate similar to my hometown, Edmonton Alberta, the winter season is looonnnngggg. It can feel even longer when the days are too cold for your little ones to go outside and play. Stir crazy doesn't even begin to describe it some days. Kids need to MOVE! Thank goodness for music!

Dance parties have been my saving grace the last few weeks when the temperatures have plumetted leaving us house bound far too often. While structured dance activities can provide lots of learning opportunities, sometimes the best memories and moments come from simply busting a move. Here are some songs that are sure to encourage you and your kids to shake your groove thing!

Song: Party Rock Anthem

Album/Artist: Chipwrecked/ Alivin and the Chipmunks

Where to Buy: iTunes

Why I love it: Young and old, something happens when the beats in this song start pumping. People MOVE! Or rather "Shake that" ;) If you have concerns about music being child appropriate (like I do) this version by the Chipmunks is sure to make you and your kids smile. My girls love to show me their break dance moves while I'm "shufflin'" beside them. The whole Chipwrecked album is full of fun covers of popular dance songs including Bad Romance, Hello (Malia's favorite), Club Can't Handle Me, and Whip My Hair (or as the Chippettes sing it "I whip my tail back and forth!"

Song: Shout!

Album/Artist: Radio Disney: Move it!/ The Isley Brothers

Where to Buy: iTunes

Why I love it: "You know you make me want to SHOUT!" Kick my heels up and SHOUT!" This classic rock and roll song is what dance parties are all about! Kick up your heels and just dance! Kids love to jump whenever the word Shout is sung! Twist, wiggle, and shake along! Don't be surprised if you're breatheless by the end of the song! 

Song: La Marmotteuse 

Album/ Artist: World Playground 2/ Barachois

Where to Buy: Putumayo

Why I love it: One of the first gross motor dance steps young children can master on their own is galloping. This French Canadian jig is sure to send your little ones galloping, skipping, jumping and clapping around your living room. Have a drum, rhythm sticks, or shakers? La Marmotteuse is a fabulous play along song!

Song: ABC

Artist: The Jackson 5

Why I love it: Everybody loves a little Jackson in their life. Even before he was the king of pop, Micheal know how to get people off thier feet. Your little ones will love the simple beat and singing the chorus "ABC! It's easy as 1,2 ,3!". This is a great compromise song for after you've listend to the Chipmunks a few (hundred) times ;)

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Wed, 12/21/2011 - 10:06pm

When Bria was born I needed an outlet. I needed to work out. I needed some time to feel like the person I was before I became a mom. I needed to DANCE!

But I also needed to have my baby with me. I couldn't bare the idea of leaving her even for an hour. And despite my numerous attempts, my preemie baby despised the stroller fitness classes at our neighborhood recreation centre. She pretty much hated anytime I wasn't available to hold her. So what did we do? We danced!
Mom and baby dance programs just seemed like a natural fit for us. My daughter was happy to sway along to the music cuddled against my chest. I got to feel like myself again as I moved my body to the beat. Together we got to experience the bonding power of dance and music. Five years later I have shared my love of dancing with my babies (I started with Malia as soon as she was 6 weeks old!) with thousands of moms through our postnatal dance programs at J'Adore Dance. 
While programs like Salsa Mama and Pump and Groove Mama are relatively new by historical standards, the practice of dancing with your baby is a safe and beneficial activity that has been practiced across culture and history. It is also a practice that is considered safe by current scientific research. 
Women have been wearing their babies for hundreds of years. While recently the benefits surrounding baby wearing as a parenting practice have focused mainly on emotional development and relationship between mom and baby, in earlier periods baby wearing was a practical method that allowed mothers to continue with their day to day activities needed for survival while tending to infants and toddlers. Babies accompanied mothers as they cooked, cleaned, farmed, tended to older children and participated in community activities and celebrations carried in a variety of different positions and carriers depending on the geographical location and period in time. Dance being a large part of many celebrations, babies also learned about their culture by actively being included, strengthening their understanding of their environment. 
Here is a link to a video that shows a group of women in Benin, celebrating their babies immunizations with a dance:
In cultures where babies and children are exposed to dance on a regular basis as a normal part of life, they become very good dancers at a very young age. Here is another  favorite video of mine featuring a Brazilian baby dancing an excellent Samba:
Babies who are worn while dancing are in the quiet alert state (a state of alertness in which babies are primarily focused on receiving information about the world around them) or active alert state (a state of alertness in which babies are primarily focused on responding to their environment), allowing them to learn about and react to the world around them from a perspective they can not engage in on their own. While a baby may not be able to move their bodies to a salsa rhythm on their own, their brains develop and respond to the aural and kinesthetic (physical) stimulation they receive while dancing with a parent. 
Here is a link to a video and article looking at how babies engage in active alert state when they are exposed to rhythmic music:
Many babies are so soothed by the similarity of being worn while dancing to their experience in the womb, that they fall into the sleeping state. My experience has been this is particularly common of babies who are under 6 months of age. 
There is also more and more research pointing to the many benefits of babies being exposed to movement. An educator and mother whose work I find truly inspirational is Seattle's Creative Dance Centre Founder and Artistic Director Anne Green Gilbert. I had the opportunity to study under Gilbert at her summer dance institute on Brain Compatible Dance Education. Here is a link for an article she has written on the importance of dance for babies:
Safety is also a very important factor when dancing with your baby. Baby wearing is a very personal decision for mom and baby. It is important to choose a carrier and position you feel comfortable and confident with. Think about what activities you will be using it for and what period of time. Also be sure to check your carrier for signs of damage and wear according to the manufacturer's guidelines.
A few basic guidelines:
  • Babies should be worn facing in chest to chest or piggy back style on your back with head support provided.
  • Parents should always be aware that baby's airway is not blocked and their head should be upright. If their chin is resting on their chest this can cause airway obstruction. A baby that cannot support it's own head again should be worn face in with head support.
  • Carriers should fit parents snuggly to provide the greatest support for both baby and wearer. 

Dancing with your baby is a safe, low impact fitness option for moms that helps to fight a pressing and epidemic health issues facing many women, obesity and mental illness. In the article Preventing Postpartum Weight Retention, (American Family Physician, Aug. 1/02), the author demonstrates the correlation between increased obesity and the postpartum period, and the importance of exercise in postpartum weight loss.
The Mood Disorder Society of Canada claims that 15-20% of women suffer from Postpartum Depression (PPD). Common suggestions for women suffering from PPD are exercise, creating a support network, avoiding isolation, and taking time for themselves (www. Dancing with baby encourages moms to engage in a  fitness regime that encourages the benefits of babywearing, bond with their baby, create a social network with other moms, and take the steps needed to be a fulfilled woman, in addition to being a mom.
For myself, dancing with my girls will always be some of the most precious memories I have of my girls first 2 years. It gave me a chance to share my passion for dance, music and culture from an early age. I believe through the classes my girls have attended they have seen the strength of community that women can share that sometimes I feel is lost in our western culture. I am hoping that one day my girls will dance with their own babies and continue this tradition. And you know what? I'll probably try to sneak in some grandma and grandbaby dancing time too! 
Happy dancing!
** Originally posted July 2, 2010 on the J'Adore Dance Blog
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Mon, 10/24/2011 - 10:30am

Halloween is just a week away! Costumes, decorations, candy and trick or treating! Want to add some musical fun to your Halloween celebrations? Here are 3 songs your kids are sure to get your kiddos howling!

Song: Halloween Dance

Artist: Christopher "Zondaflex" Tyler

Where to Buy: iTunes

Why I love it: Mr. Chris is back with a fun Hip Hop Halloween song your kids are sure to love! For any of my readers that are elementary/Jr.High teachers this would be a great song to use for a Halloween Line Dance in your physical education classes (see the video below). The steps could also be modified for preschool aged kids (definitely one I will be pulling out at J'Adore Dance!). Again Mr.Chris takes the Hip Hop beats your kids love but writes lyrical content that is kid/parent friendly (and not too scary!). 

Hosting a Halloween Party? Throw this one on, get everyone in a circle and one at a time let the kids go in the middle to show off their best dance moves!

Songs: This is Halloween

Album: The Nightmare Before Christmas Soundtrack

Where to Buy: iTunes

Why I love it: My little brother was obsessed with this movie when it first came out (he is an artist and LOVED the animation). While I found the movie itself a bit creepy ( and still do), I loved the soundtrack! This song is from the opening and has so much characterization! As a musical theatre lover it is so fun to hear all the different Halloween creatures and characters vocalizations. I've included the video but be warned it may be too scary for some little ones. The song itself is lots of fun for dressed up little ones to march around while chanting along "This is Halloween! This is Halloween!". 

Song: Skeleton Dance (Dem Bones)

Artist: Super Simple Songs

Where to Buy:

Why I Love it: Halloween can sometimes be frightening for little ones. This catchy song (and video) takes the Boo-factor out of Mr. Skeleton and teaches toddlers and preschoolers about the different bones in their body. A great song for body part identification and daily dance parties at home!

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