• Children will develop gross-motor and listening skills.
• parachute or large, flat sheet (queen-size works best)
• battery-operated tape recorder or CD player
• blank cassette or CD
• selection of instrumental music of different tempos and styles
• fabric paint (optional)
Set Up and Prepare
Record about 30 minutes of instrumental music on the cassette or CD. Be sure to alternate fast and slow tempos and leave a few seconds between selections to give children time to adjust. Also, locate a safe, roomy, grassy area for different gross-motor activities.
Gather outdoors with the parachute or sheet, music, and cassette or CD player. Set the cassette or CD player in a safe place.
Spread out the parachute and invite everyone to sit around it. (It’s best if adults are strategically placed to provide guidance and control.)
Ask everyone to hold onto a piece of the parachute and stand up. Remind children that they must hold on very tight. One adult can lead the activity and say, “Let’s lift the parachute up. Lift it as high as you can!” Then, after it’s up say, “Now let’s bring it down to the ground.”
Repeat movements up and down, describing your actions as you do. After children have had fun with this activity for a while, play the music and begin to coordinate your movements to its rhythm. Encourage children to bend at the waist and knees when they go down and to reach high and jump when they go up.
Next, invite children to lift the parachute while one child in the group runs under it before children bring it down to the ground again. Repeat this activity until each child in the group has had an opportunity to run under the parachute. Now play some lively music and have children take turns hopping or skipping under the parachute to the music. Again, have children pace their movements so that they can move from one side of the parachute to the other before the children bring it back to the ground again.
Later, play different musical recordings and see if children can invent their own movements as they take turns moving under the parachute. You might also have children choose a partner, moving under the parachute in pairs.
Remember: Allow children to move and express themselves freely.
Another time, you might introduce new movements, such as shaking the parachute. Or call out children’s names and invite them to run under the parachute as it goes up. (An adult might need to demonstrate this while holding a child’s hand.) Try changing the action by saying, “Let’s stop and walk in a circle.” The walking can become marching or running as the tempo changes.
Come On, Rain
by Karen Hesse
(Scholastic, 1999; $17)
Feel the Wind
by Arthur Dorros
(HarperCollins, 1990; $6)
The Paper Princess Flies Again
by Elisa Kleven
(Ten Speed Press, 2005; $16)