Book to Boogie is a monthly series that pairs picture books with dance and movement activities for preschool story time. The series is curated by Kerry Aradhya of Picture Books & Pirouettes and written by a different guest writer each month. We hope that children’s librarians, as well as classroom teachers and dance educators, will find these activities useful and fun! 

by Jill Randall

The recently published board book So Many Feet by Nichole Mara and Alexander Vidal is a joyful new addition to our growing book collections about feet — and about dancing feet in particular!

Warming Up: Body Parts  

If possible in your story time room, encourage the group to take their shoes and socks off for the following activities, since you will be exploring feet. Children have more motor control with bare feet, although socks are still an option (especially if you are on carpet).

Gather the group together and sit in a circle. Lead the group in a simple body part warm-up from head to toe, keeping everyone on the ground to begin. You can also use Eric Carle’s book From Head to Toe for a body part warm-up.

If leading the warm-up without Eric Carle’s book, ask the group to follow the leader (i.e., you):

  • Head: circling, shaking “yes,” shaking “no,” tilting, swinging the chin forward and to the side
  • Shoulders: up and down, circling, shimmying, lifting and lowering one shoulder at a time
  • Arms: reaching, folding, circling, shaking, curving, waving, straightening
  • Legs: leaning back on your arms so that you can kick, circle, shake, stretch, sit in a V
  • Feet: stretching your legs out in front; playing with pointing and flexing, toes to the ceiling, toes to the wall (while you turn out your legs)
  • “Today we are going to focus on this last body part – FEET!”

Exploring: Obstacle Course

Depending on the size of your room, the size of your group, and the equipment that is easily available, one possibility is to set up a simple obstacle course (i.e., loop) of activities for families to cycle through for about five minutes. The goal is to get everyone’s feet moving in a variety of ways. Have students explore walking, jumping, tiptoeing, zigzagging, balancing on their backs with feet in the air, and more.

Props can include:

  • Yoga mats
  • Gymnastic mats
  • Hula hoops
  • Poly spots
  • A small balance beam
  • Blue painters tape
  • A roll of bubble wrap
  • Cut-out footprints (e.g., tracing your foot)

Even with a roll of blue painters tape, you can imaginatively create a balance beam, river to jump over, zigzag lines to follow, hopscotch, a puddle to jump in, and more.

Ideally, set up the obstacle course prior to the group arriving. When the group arrives, explain and demonstrate the ways to move through the obstacle course. Then it is their turn. Provide families with about five minutes to go through the stations; the parents/caregivers will move through the course along with their children.

(Dance educator Sheila Kogan writes about obstacle courses in her book Step by Step: A Complete Movement Education Curriculum if you would like to read more about them.)

Reading and Dancing: So Many Feet   

Ask the group to sit back down for the main story. Read the story in its entirety.

So Many Feet describes 16 ways to move your feet, with a different animal to help express each idea and action. Some of the words include thumping feet, glue feet, soft feet, and scratchy feet.

Next, ask the group to stand back up and spread out around the room. You will narrate the story — starting from the beginning again. You can coach from the side and offer suggestions for each new page. Encourage the group to improvise and experiment with each new idea.

Prior to the day of your story time, make a playlist on your laptop to have a different song (i.e., a different feeling and tempo) for each way you will be moving our feet. As the group moves and improvises, you will end up using the first 30-60 seconds of each song. No need to edit the music; simply head to the next track as you turn the page to the next idea. Here is a list of music suggestions:

  • High feet: “Biei (Ethereal Flow)” – by Kodo
  • Slow feet: “You Are My Sunshine” – version with Bill Frisell, Ron Carter, and Paul Motian
  • Fast feet: “Flight of the Bumblebee” – version with Bobby McFerrin and Yo-Yo Ma
  • Snow feet: Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, “Winter Part 3. Allegro”
  • Dancing feet: “Mali Cuba” – from the album Afrocubism
  • Jumping feet: “Bird Island” – by Kodo
  • Hanging feet: “Epigram” – by Tycho
  • Thumping feet: “Flashlight” – by Bonobo
  • Wet feet: “Water Drums 1” – by the Baka Forest People
  • Glue feet: “In 5” – by Another Fine Day
  • Soft feet: “Andante” – version with Bobby McFerrin and Yo-Yo Ma
  • Blue feet: “Thum Nyatiti” – by Ayub Ogada
  • Dirty feet: “Animals” – by Bonobo
  • Scratchy feet: “Hens and Roosters” – from Carnival of the Animals
  • Picky feet: “Fossils” – from Carnival of the Animals
  • Snatchy feet: “Brace Brace” – by Bonobo

Talking and Creating: “What can YOUR FEET do?” 

Posed on the last page of the book is the question “What can YOUR FEET do?” Ask each group (adults and children) to take a moment to talk and come up with another way to move their feet. Encourage them to try it out in their own bodies. Then ask for a few people to share their ideas and show their moves!

Expanding and Further Reading: More Foot Books

There are three other great titles to check out to further explore the theme of feet:

Jill Randall is the artistic director of Shawl-Anderson Dance Center in Berkeley and has taught children of all ages for over 20 years. Her blog, Dancing Words, explores books on dance and books that can be springboards for dance projects with young children.

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