Enabling Children to Act with Props

Embellishing a Story’s Dramatization with Animal Props

Children who are typically shy to act in a storytelling dramatization, tend to overcome their self-consciousness when holding a character prop.

I believe that by holding a prop, the children’s focus shifts from themselves to the prop, allowing them to act out the character freely.

In one example, I used animal props to go along with song lyrics created for a storytelling dramatization of the book Carolinda Clatter by Mordicai Gerstein.

The lyrics are as follows:

Mountain, Forest, Meadow, River
Animals Roam Hither Thither
Tigers Come, Tigers Run, Tigers Leap, Tigers Jump
Tigers Kick and Go, Tigers Frolic to and Fro

In this song-chant, the tiger would be replaced with whatever animal the child chose from my collection. (The ones shown here are from the company, Anamalz.)

So, for this child, I would have said,

Crocodiles Come, Crocodiles Run, Crocodiles Leap, Crocodiles Jump
Crocodiles Kick and Go, Crocodiles Frolic to and Fro

The child, while holding the crocodile, would then run, leap, jump, kick and frolic (…even though you don’t think of crocodiles jumping, kicking, or frolicking – they probably do – just in their own way.)

The green fabric in the photo represented the meadow. I had also put out other cloth and pillows to represent the mountain, forest, and river in the song.

What I found is that the children were quite ready to act out the lines of the song when they had their animal prop in their hands – almost as if it were their honored responsibility to give expression to the animal.

Sometimes I demonstrated for the children possible actions when they looked confused by the meaning of words (like for “frolic to and fro”). But on the whole, they acted it out by themselves without help – at first dutifully following the lyrics exactly.

I just kept repeating the song/chant again and again. After some time, the kids got really into it and started improvising!

A Bit of Fabric Sparks the Imagination: Adding Costumes to Songs

Children Take Flight as Birds

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This very simple costume idea was inspired by a dreamy folk song that I adapted for the children. The song has quite a bit of bird imagery which we first acted out together without the costumes.

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These are the child-friendly lyrics we used adapted from the original (Buckeye Jim):

Way Up Yonder Above The Sky
A Bluebird Lived In A Jaybirds Eye

Refrain:
Darling One, Let Us Go
We’ll Skip and Run In the Moonlight’s Glow
I Love You So

More Stanzas:

Way Up Yonder Above The Moon
A Songbird Nests In A Silver Spoon

Way Down Yonder In A Hollow Log
A Red Bird Danced With A Green Bullfrog

Way Up Yonder In The Quiet Night
A Blackbird Sang In The Pink Moonlight

 

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The effects of adding a simple costume element are quite remarkable. The children became the birds and were fully caught up in the song imagery.

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We simply took long lengths of chiffon fabric in different colors, pleating them and knotting them at the back. We also safety pinned them to create arm holes. No cutting, stitching or sewing.

After adorning them with fabric, the children immediately took flight.bird7.jpg

Some birds were dreamier than others.bird9.jpg

Later parents held up long strips of blue fabric to represent the waves of the ocean and the sky.

This added another layer of interest as we sang the song in the background. bird3.jpg

Children took turns holding up and waving the blue fabric while the birdies ducked in and out of the flowing material.Screen Shot 2017-03-18 at 2.29.06 PM.png

A very simple activity, but very sweet.

What are your costuming experiences and ideas? Please share them with us.

 

 

Props: Give your Stories & Songs a little Pizzazz

When props are added to either stories or songs, they provide both a visual interest and new opportunities for movement and imaginative play when children interact with them.

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This prop, representing the moon, was used to enhance a song I wrote in connection with the children’s picture-book story, Carolinda Clatter, by Mordicai Gerstein.

I often like to challenge myself when making props to use items that I already have on hand, rather than going out and buying new things. I usually feel rather pleased with myself when I am resourceful in this way!

Moon Tambourine

This particular prop was made out of a tambourine covered in wax paper to represent the moon. I stuck it on a broom stick and drew a moon’s face on the wax paper. The gold and blue cloth was added to symbolize the moon’s rays and the night sky.

Screen Shot 2017-03-18 at 3.09.37 PM.pngThe multiple streamers also gave children an opportunity to interact with the prop all together at one time.

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This prop was made for a song – a lullaby … to a giant. The lullaby assures the giant that the moon, whom he is in love with, truly loves him too. I know… it’s complicated! But the children had already heard the story once through before the prop was introduced as part of a retelling.

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The song lyrics are:

Sleep Gentle Giant
The Moon is Smiling At You
Sleep Gentle Giant
The Moon is Smiling At You

I Sing This Song Now
A Song That is True
The Moon is Shining Sweetly
And She’s Shining on You

I’ll add the audio sometime for you to hear …

 

When adding props, movement possibilities expand tremendously. With this prop, for example, children can flutter the cloth in different ways, walk under it, walk it around in a circle, walk it in and out, etc.

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Modeling the various movements is one way to present it, creating a choreographed activity is another, and simply letting the children explore different possibilities on their own is also recommended. I usually like to do a bit of all of these: modeling, choreographing, and exploring.

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Props are especially useful for mixed age groups where the littlest ones may not be ready to digest or comprehend the story images, but can interact with the prop on par with the older children.

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Adding props also allows you to spend more time on a song than you would be able to otherwise.

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By repeating the song many times, children are better able to absorb and integrate the music, the lyrics, and the song images in their minds.

Please share your story prop ideas with us!