Sometimes when singing a song or chanting a nursery rhyme, a simple piece of fabric waving over my baby's head makes such a remarkable focal point for his attention. My toddler enjoys playing the co-captain and moving the fabric over her little brother, and we take turns being in control of how to move the cloth, or what song we want to sing. It also serves as a great way to help my toddler become more attuned to the way the baby is reacting to her movement and volume.
If you've been to an infant or toddler class or a preschool "circle time," chances are, you've experienced the magic of the parachute. It's often a large, lightweight, round piece of fabric with handles all around for easier handling, and is most often used during a music-based activity - we used it in one of our songs in this week's corresponding podcast episode, A Community Sings: 25th Episode Celebration. Parachute play is wonderfully open-ended, and can create an interactive play opportunity for any age - all you need is an adult and a piece of fabric - a table cloth, a large scarf, a sheet, a large piece of fabric like the one we used in our DIY Cloud Bed For Movement, a baby blanket.
The inclusion of the parachute as a play prop creates a multi-sensory experience - not only is the little one able to focus in on the visual aspects (the movement, the colors, etc.), but also the feel of the air as it moves under and through the fabric, the feel and texture of it as it brushes against his skin or as he assists in the control its movement. The speed of the movement and type of auditory experience you choose to add to your parachute play also influences the type of sensory input you give your little one(s), and can create a wild and excited activity as well as a calming lullaby. Our corresponding episode features a slower lullaby-type song, which you can watch in the video below as it is performed in a Strength In Words workshop.
The parachute becomes a vehicle for movement, social/emotional bonding, and communication activities... how would you choose or have you chosen how to deliver the experience with your own family? Answer in the comment section below!
- A piece of fabric - a table cloth, a large scarf, a sheet, a large piece of fabric
- An adult or two, or an adult and small child (depending on how large the fabric is, it may be much easier for two to manipulate - this has the added benefit, of course, of adding voices to the fun!)
- Take the fabric securely in your hands and wave it above your little one, using a song or chant to guide you
- Simulate a weather event (like a thunderstorm), natural occurrence (such as leaves falling, waves rolling/crashing), or simply alternate or move to the rhythm of a song or chant
- Very young infants can enjoy the colors and movement of a soft object moving above or beside them, and will undoubtedly enjoy simply hearing your voice
- Mobile infants and toddlers can move around, touch, or catch the fabric as it moves
- Infants and toddlers alike can enjoy playing peek-a-boo games using the fabric
- Toddlers can help move the fabric and sing with you (or fill in certain words of songs when you pause, using the cloze procedure), enjoy playing underneath, touching, catching or kicking the fabric, or making decisions about how the fabric should move.
- Toddlers can also be guided to watch how younger siblings react to the movement of the fabric, helping them to understand more about cause and effect, as well as "theory of mind" and how their actions affect others around them
Just a reminder that this week's corresponding podcast episode is a celebratory musical episode - so if you're looking for a great opportunity to sit, listen and sing with your little one(s), go ahead and have a listen (or four!)
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