Animal Dance Party!

06/01/2012 at 9:19 am | Posted in just plain fun | 2 Comments

father and daughters

Say hello to my pal Matt. He’s dad to three darling little girls, and he loves making up fun games to play with them. Games that fire their imaginations and encourage movement.

The other day, he told me about one called “How Long is a Blue Whale?” and it sounded perfect for Lily. And then I got to thinking, other parents (and grandparents, aunts and uncles, babysitters, etc.) would love this game too. Then Matt rattled off a list of other games he’s invented, and my mind started spinning.

So here we are! This is the first in a series of posts written by Matt about creative games to play with your kids.

I really think you guys are going to dig this.


On a recent Saturday morning, I had to deal – in quick succession – with roaring lions, dinosaurs and bears. It was pandemonium. After a few minutes I called out, “Okay, now we’re all animals that fly!” I was suddenly surrounded by butterflies. Much less threatening.

I was playing a game called Animal Dance Party with my daughters. I came up with Animal Dance Party as a fun way to get my kids to exercise their imaginations and their bodies. Getting young kids to do anything for more than five minutes is a challenge – and it’s nearly impossible if it’s not something fun.

Animal Dance Party is pretty simple. I describe a type of animal, such as “animals that fly,” my kids take turns naming different animals that fit that description and we all imitate them. When one of my girls calls out “butterfly,” for example, everyone runs in circles and flaps their wings. Acting like a pteranodon involves running in circles and looking for fish. Running in circles, apparently, is an important part of the flying process.

To keep things moving (and other kids from pouting), I use my watch to make sure each turn is only one minute long – then it’s time for the next kid to pick an animal. Sometimes, when attention spans are particularly short, the turns will only be 30 seconds each. Before the kids can get bored with flying animals, I switch to animals that roar (lions), or stomp (elephants), or run very fast (horses). On a good day, Animal Dance Party can last for almost an hour. On a bad day, it peters out after a few minutes. Either way, it gets them moving.

My kids are pretty active, but I am constantly trying to find new ways to engage with them. I want to create games and activities that encourage them to be creative, to learn new things and (hopefully) to get some of their energy out. If I have to choose, I focus on getting their energy out (seeing which kid can jump up and down the longest is a favorite).

I want my kids to engage in active play because it makes them happy, and easier to put to bed. But I also encourage them to play because I’m a worrier. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimate that 17 percent of kids in the U.S. are obese. For kids between the ages of 6 and 11, that estimate rises to a staggering 19.6 percent – that’s one out of every five American kids.

And let’s be clear here. We’re not just talking about kids who are a little husky, we’re talking about obesity. Among other health problems, that can mean asthma and joint pain in the short-term, and type 2 diabetes and hypertension in the long-term. Nobody wants that for their children.

Not everyone has the time or money to enroll their kids in dance classes, sports teams or organized exercise activities. And, while they can be great for kids, you don’t need them. If you use your imagination, and tap into your children’s imagination, you can find a way to get your kids moving.

If you can play these games with your kids – great! If it inspires you to make up your own games, even better! Please share your experiences with us in the comments.



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  1. I LOVE this idea (and agree that Matt is awesome and clever). My son is full of energy and as the NC summer heats up, I’m always looking for ways to burn off his energy inside. One thing we do is have him do the “whatever” dance. For example, if he wants to color, we ask him to do the “Crayon Dance” and cue 30 seconds of hysterical toddler dancing.

  2. […] Animal Dance Party? Here’s the second in a series of guest posts about creative games to play with your kids. […]

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