Always on the look out for new loose materials to use for active play, I am totally in love with Discount School Supply’s “Excellerations Let’s Move Batons.” The six 10” long batons are made of sturdy clear plastic tubes with bright ribbon streamers inside that extend 13” from each end. They are easy to grip for small hands and user friendly for the toddler and the preschooler. The minute you see them, you want to pick them up—one for each hand!
Start the music and bodies start moving. With a baton in their hand, encourage the children to dance and move about freely in the open space. Suggest to the children that they move or shake the baton fast, slow, high, low, side to side, and all around. Tell them that when the music stops, they are to stop and freeze (stand motionless like a statue). When the music starts again, children resume dancing. Ask children to follow along as you move the baton across the front of your body, circle the baton in front of your body like a Ferris wheel or circle it over your head like a helicopter blade. Try to trick the dancers by starting and stopping the music quickly. They love the element of surprise! Use all different types of music: fast, slow, classical, rock, salsa. When playing a slow song, suggest the children twirl, leap and float to the music.
Crossing the Midline (Cross Lateral Movements)
Put on some music and have children, with a baton in each hand, follow along as you cross left hand to the right side of your body, right hand to the left side of your body. Continue by crossing over and touching feet, etc. Now with only one baton, have children follow along as you make figure eights in the air, circle the baton around your body, wave it high, swing it low, and so forth.
Follow the Leader
Each child is given a baton. Children line up horizontally next to each other with a baton’s distance between them. One child is chosen as the leader and stands in front of and facing the line. Play begins with the leader making a movement with the baton and the children imitate the movement with the baton they are holding. Direct the leader to make each movement slowly giving the group enough time to follow.
The Show-and-Tell Baton
The baton is a great piece of equipment to use at Circle Time for sharing and show-and-tell. The baton is passed from child to child sitting at Circle Time. A child who has something to share with the group, holds the baton and has the opportunity to speak about something that is important to them or share an item they brought from home and tell the group why it is special. The other children in the circle listen and can ask questions. The baton is passed around again and the next person in the circle holding the baton has a turn to share. A child has the option to pass the baton and not speak. Circle Time sharing and show-and-tell is complete when everyone has had a chance to hold the baton. In this activity, children build self-confidence and practice turn taking, listening, and speaking.
Drum Major or Majorette of Marching Band
Have children pick a rhythm instrument (tambourine, shakers, maracas, rhythm sticks or claves, cymbals, bells, triangle, drum, etc.) of their choice and line up behind the leader of the band—the drum major or majorette. The drum major or majorette leads the marching band, moving the baton up and down to the beat of the music while the children follow behind playing their instruments. Everybody loves a parade!
Split group of children into teams and have them stand in a single-file line behind the starting line. Give the leader of each team a baton. To play, the leader runs with the baton in hand from the starting line to a turnaround point (i.e., cone, etc.) and back again, passing the baton to the next person in line. The game continues until each person of each team has had a turn to run with the baton.
Playing and using the baton promotes and develops…
- Gross motor development—using the large muscles of the arms, legs and trunk
- Fine motor skill (or dexterity)—coordination of small muscle movements, usually involving the synchronization of hands and fingers with the eyes
- Hand-eye coordination—eyes and hands working together smoothly to meet a challenge
- Spatial awareness—coordinated movement in relationship to other objects in the environment
- Directionality—the inner sense and knowledge of where things are in relation to the body
- Cross lateral movements—arm and leg movements that cross over from one side of the body to the other
- Balance—being able to hold the position of the body through the interaction of muscles working together (maintaining body equilibrium) whether the body is stationary (static balance) or moving (dynamic balance)
- Creative movement—a joyful way for children to explore movement through music, develop physical skills, channel energy, stimulate imagination and promote creativity
- Cooperation and teamwork—2 or more people working and playing together rather than against one another, just for the fun of it
- Fun— playful actions providing amusement and enjoyment
- Listening skills—ability to follow verbal directions