• Dance Exploration Preschool Classes incorporate the use of many different types of props. Utilizing props has many purposes besides making dance class more FUN! Props can also help with a child’s sensory development. Sensory Development refers to the process of touch. As children touch and play with objects of different textures, weights, and pliability, they are enhancing their learning through hands-on activities that stimulate their senses. This is a great way for them to explore the world they live in! Sensory play supports language development, cognitive growth, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving skills, and social interaction.


  • A Prop that seems to make it’s appearance in nearly every Dance Exploration Preschool class is the hula hoop. We love the hula hoop for many reasons: 

    #1- It’s light and easy to carry to multiple locations
    #2- They come in different sizes 
    #3- They are versatile

    Although the hula hoop makes it’s appearance in so many classes, we never actually use it for it’s intended purpose – a toy hoop that is twirled around the waist, limbs or neck. So how do we incorporate the hula hoop into our dance classes? 

  • #1 Indicates the End of the Story Dance Pathway™

    One way we incorporate the hula hoop in a Dance Exploration Preschool Class, is placing it at the end of each of our Story Dance Pathway™ Activities. A Story Dance Pathway™ is an imaginative obstacle course with the purpose of teaching a sequence, story, or timeline through a series of dance movements. Each movement is indicated with a new prop or object within the pathway. At the end of each pathway we place a hula hoop where the dancers must perform a movement or series of movements (like a pirouette or curtsy, or balance ie: arabesque, passé or the like, or a combination of the two). 

  • #2 Teaching Spatial and Locational Directions

    The hula hoop is a great way to teach children spatial and locational directions. Spatial and locational directions can include concepts such as inside, outside, around, and through. You can use the concept of inside with a hula hoop by having the student stand inside the hoop (as pictured). You can then have the student perform a movement outside the hoop by standing on the outer rim. One move that is seen frequently in the Dance Exploration Preschool classes is a toe tap (piqué) performed while standing outside the hoop while the toe taps inside the hoop. Then the dancer performs a twirl inside the hoop with the foot they were tapping (piqué turn). 

    The hula hoop is also a great way to teach the concept of around. Moving in a circle can be a hard concept to grasp for preschool agers. Recently we read the Dance Me a Story™ book Florrie’s Frozen Adventure where Florrie Flamingo and Swanhilda Swan ice skate en manège (in a circle) around the ice skating rink. For this activity we used a hula hoop as the ice skating rink and instructed the dancers to practice their movements en manège (around) the hoop. 

    The last locational direction the hula hoop is great for, is teaching the concept of through. Having a teacher, or fellow dancer, holding the hoop up right, you can have dancers practice crawling through the hoop. 



  • #3 Dancer Spots

    If you happen to be a dance teacher, and have a smaller class (and the right number of hoops) you can use your hula hoops as dancer spots to help with spatial issues. It’s very important that preschool aged dancers are provided with a “spot” in class that is their own to complete warm ups, standing exercises and choreography. If you don’t, you may find dancers hitting each other, stepping on each other or worse, falling on each other. Many times, spots may be made with tape, stickers or plastic dots however, a hula hoop offers a larger, and more exciting option for spatial placement of dancers in your studio. Dancers may need a larger boundary to remind them where they need to exist in space. A hula hoop is a perfect (and FUN) reminder of where their spot is in class. They can stand inside, outside, around, under or over the hoop as needed to continue with spatial and directional learning. Added tip: give each dancer their own color so they know which hoop is theirs and where they need to be in class. 

  • #4 Self Space Vs General Space

    A concept that dancers have a hard time learning without the help of props, including our Elementary aged dancers, is  the concept of self space versus general space. If you’ve ever asked your students to spread out and make a line and they stand, crammed shoulder to shoulder; pull out your hula hoops and have them each stand in the middle of a hoop. When they stand in their hoop, they are standing in self space. As soon as they step out of the hoop they are standing in general space. A fun game to play to help dancers explore this concept is a game of Night at the Museum freeze dance. Each hula hoop represents the dancers on display at the museum. As soon as the museum closes they come to life and can dance wherever they want in the museum (general space). As soon as the museum opens again they must be back on display as frozen statues in their hoop (self space). 

  • #5 Sizes

    Hula Hoops are fun a way to teach the concept of size. Using three different sizes (small, medium and large) you can build a snowman with your dancers using the hoops. Ask them which part of the snowman should be built first? Why does the largest size need to be on the bottom? Then add the middle sized hoop for the middle and the smallest sized hoop for the head. You can also add buttons, eyes, a carrot nose and sticks for arms.

    After your snowman is complete invite each dancer to practice building the snowman with their port de bras (arm movements). Each position should be performed in the hula hoop of the same size. For example, en bas is the bottom of the arms therefore is performed in the largest hoop. First position is the middle arm movement and should be performed in the middle hula hoop and high fifth represents the head and should be performed in the smallest hula hoop! 

  • #6 Jumps

    Hula hoops can be placed in a pathway that resembles a hopscotch path. Dancers can then practice their jumps or sautés through a series of hoops. One hoop can be a sauté in first position while two hoops can be a sauté in second position. For advanced dancers a skip can be performed in one hoop and an echappé in the two hoops. 

    Hula hoops can be a great tool to teach an echappé (a jump similar to a jumping jack where the feet start together and jump to separate). Echappé means to escape, therefore our feet escape from first position to second position and then get caught again when they come back to first. Using the hula hoop our feet start in first position inside the hoop where they are trapped. They escape to the outside of the hoop where their feet land in 2nd position then they get caught again inside the hoop. 

    #7 Pathways

    Hula hoops are a great way to create pathways for obstacle courses. You can explore straight pathways by placing hula hoops in a straight line and having dancers perform dance movements in each hoop. You can also place hula hoops in a zigzag pattern to challenge the students. You can set up two rows of hula hoops and have two dancers perform at the same time inside the hoops, or separate the two rows and have dancers perform dance moves through the middle of the two rows. 

  • A fun game using hula hoops and pathways is during Dance Exploration’s Back to School Back to Dance Theme in August. We play the “Wheels on the Bus” song and play follow the leader. One dancer gets to drive the bus, using a hula hoop as the steering wheel, the other dancers hold on to the shoulders waist of the person in front as the bus travels along. The road is set up with the dancers traveling through two rows of hula hoops doing the dance moves called out by the drive of the bus. It gets harder once our road starts curving and zigzagging. 

  • #8 Somewhere Over the Rainbow

    You can continue the spatial and directional studies with a hula hoop by studying the concepts over and under. In the month of April, Dance Exploration Preschool Dance Theme will be “April Showers bring May Flowers.” One of the weeks is dedicated to studying the formation of rainbows. As dancers complete a sequenced Story Dance Pathway™ focused on how a rainbow is made, the dancers end their obstacle course by holding a hula hoop (decorated with a rainbow of ribbons) over their heads while twirling under the hoop. 

  • #9 Three Ring Circus

    The Dance Exploration March Theme is “Let them Read and Let them Dance.” The month is all about reading popular children’s stories that entice movement and excite the imagination. One story we read this year was “Olivia Saves the Circus.” We found Hula Hoops especially useful as we needed a three ring circus for our Queen of the Trampoline, Ribbon Dancing and Madame Olivia’s trained pups. If you have a circus theme on your schedule, hula hoops are definitely an easy and affordable way to create your three ringed big top. If moving in your circus, have each hula hoop dedicated to one movement or activity. 

  • #10 The Butterfly Net

    If you teach a theme or conceptual based curriculum like the Dance to Learn® Curriculum we use in the Dance Exploration Preschool program, you can incorporate your props and use them in a different way each and every month. For example: April we use our hula hoops as a rainbow dancing over and under the rainbow, yet in May we follow the “May Flowers” theme. In this theme we use our hula hoops in a completely different way. When exploring “May Flowers” in the Dance to Learn® Curriculum we also explore the different bugs that may help flowers grow (ie: butterflies and bumblebees). Therefore our hula hoops in May become butterfly/bumble bee nets. At the end of class during our Dance to Create℠ portion of class, we may play a round of free dancing where we allow our dancers to create their own dance movements following the theme (ie: dance like a butterfly) etc. The Dance Educator will circle the room with their net (hula hoop) and if they turn around and catch a butterfly or bumble bee moving, they will be caught inside the hula hoop for the next round. 

    In the same month, the hula hoop can also be utilized to teach an entirely new concept. The concept of on while continuing to teach about butterflies and bumblebees. In the following week Dance Exploration preschool students will dance as butterflies and bumble bees that land on the flower (stand inside the hula hoop) and sip honey (practice a balance on one leg).

  • Do you use hula hoops in your classroom or studio? How do you use them? Let us know in the comments! Will you be utilizing any of our hula hoop concepts in your dance classes? Which one’s are your favorite?


    ©Curriculum is copyright and property of the Dance to Learn®! Curriculum. Any unauthorized reproduction without written permission is strictly prohibited.
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Read Across America – Cat in the HatApril Showers: Dancing the Rainbow

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