It only took once to get my toddler hooked. We read the book Ella Bella Ballerina and Swan Lake, and my kid became spellbound with all things swan princesses and ballet. Not only have we read the book more times than I care to share, but we’ve spent the past couple of weeks doing some Swan Lake inspired learning activities.
We’ve done crafts, games, videos, music, and even a science experiment with a Swan Lake ballet twist. Here are some of our favorite Swan Lake ballet inspired educational activities for toddlers.
Introductory Media Picks
Usually I include a list of books, music, and videos at the end of my post, but our Swan Lake theme really lends itself to more media introduction than our other themes. A book peaked her interest, but I feel that you have to watch the ballet to truly understand and appreciate the art. So here are our top media picks for our Swan Lake theme.
- Ella Bella Ballerina and Swan Lake by James Mayhew provides an imaginative introduction for young children into the dance and story lines of popular ballets.
- While playing, crafting, and dancing, we listened to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake music on Amazon Prime. You may even find a copy of the CD at your local library.
- Initially, I showed my toddler some clips of the ballet on YouTube to show her the dance and costumes. We talked about how the ballerinas dance on their toes and move their arms/bodies to resemble swans. But my little one wanted to watch more and more, so I found the complete ballet (about 2 hours long). I thought that she would get tired of watching it, but she’s begged me to watch it with her, and we finished it over the course of a few of days. As a heads up, the American Ballet Company has a dark ending in which both the princess and princess commit suicide by diving into the lake rather than live without one another (tho, my little one just things that the evil soccer was “cast aside” and everyone lived happily ever after). Instead, I recommend this happier version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LKyWPmtX7Y
Swan Paper Plate Craft
This easy craft marked one of our favorites, and you probably have these materials on hand.
- Paper Plate
- Paint brush (optional)
- White Tissue Paper or Coffee Filters
- Foam shapes or construction paper or google eyes (for beak and eyes)
First, cut the paper plate to resemble a swan’s shape. Then, tear the tissue paper and glue it on the paper plate. (My toddler likes to paint, so we used a paint brush to spread the glue on the paper plate and pressed the tissue paper on top.) Flatten the tissue paper out along the swan’s neck, and fluff it up along its wing/body area. Finally, make an eye, beak, and crown (our crown didn’t make it) out of googly eyes, foam shapes, or construction paper. Glue on those pieces, and set your swan aside to dry.
Science Demonstration – Wings and Flight
I found a short, easy experiment by Hawk Quest that illustrates how the shape of a bird’s wing helps it to fly. Basically, you use their free printable to create a wing shape and a blow dryer to show how the shape changes the air flow and causes the wing to rise (fly).
I also let my little one aim the blow dryer at some of her circular pom poms to illustrate how their shape moves forward with the wind rather than upward.
You can find the experiment as well as a free printable wing template here. Scroll to the third page and look for the Wing Lift Experiment. Explain that the shape of a swan’s wings helps them fly and the ballerinas mimic the swan’s wings with their arms.
Feathery Hair Clip Craft
So, we tried to make some feathery masks, but my toddler got distracted. I finished making one and it scared her. So, I went back to the drawing board and came up with a feathery clip for her hair (similar to the ones the swan maidens wear in the ballet). Not only was it super easy, but she loved it! Here’s how we made it:
- Bobby Pin
- Small, round piece of poster board or cardstock (about the size of your palm)
- Paintbrush (optional)
First, make two holes in your poster board and thread your bobby pin in one and out the other. Then, paint glue onto the poster board. Affix a few feathers. Let it dry. Once dry, slide it into your kid’s hair and gush over how beautiful your little one looks. She may even need a tutu.
Tutus & Twirls Pretend Play
Speaking of tutus, we dressed up and danced around our living room with the swan maidens. (And when we watched Cinderella ballet, I gave my little one her fairy wings to put on, so she could dance like a fairy.) Toddlers love pretend play, and I believe it’s important to encourage pretend play and dress up to foster their imagination.
Costumes play an important role in any theatrical show. As we watched the ballet, I talked with my little one about the various attire and costumes. I pointed out that ballerinas where certain shoes to help them walk on their toes and that their tutu’s showed off their legs and technique as they danced. Additionally, while the ballerinas pretended to be swans, they wore feathers in their hair and on their costumes.
Swan Lake Inspired Sensory Bin
What is it about feathers that kids love so much? I literally dumped a bunch of colorful feathers (we didn’t have white) into a bin with some ribbon (cause why not), bowls, and tongs. Simple, and it kept my toddler busy for a while.
For this bin, as well as some of our other bins, I like to place the tub on a blanket. The rule is that all the feathers (and other stuff) must stay on the blanket. That way, she can take it out of the bin or let the feathers flutter down around her.
Over the past week or so, she’s gone back to her bin to explore. She’s added farm animals, sorted the feathers by color, and added wooden shapes. As long as the feathers stay on the blanket (and she’s not doing with something dangerous), I let her creativity roam wherever it takes her.
Ballet Dance Positions
Ballet offers a great opportunity to get kids moving while working on balance, strength, and following directions. I found two ballet DVDs in the Children’s Section at our local library, which we’ve watched a little, but they don’t really encourage my toddler to dance. She’d rather just sit and watch.
Surprisingly, this free, printable coloring page by Super Coloring of the five positions inspires my toddler to dance and acts as a reference point for her.
To be clear, my toddler is not doing all of these positions. But she is interested in them. She studies (yes, actually studies) the printout so much so that I taped it up in her room. She mimics the arm or leg positions, and while her legs and arms move rigidly and independent of one another, she’s very proud of herself. It’s really cute to see, and I love that her mind is concentrating on a diagram, and she moves her body in an effort to mimic the picture.
It’s really incredible what kids will teach themselves given the opportunity.
Ballet Barrier Game (free printable)
Barrier games are great for not only speech therapy but to practice language and listening skills for young kids. To play the game, print out two copies (or more) of the stage and ballerinas from And Next Comes L.
You and your kid(s) sit across from each other with some sort of barrier (think cereal box fort) so that you can’t see each other’s stage. One person acts as the director/choreographer and tells the others how they are setting up their dancers. At the end, take down the barrier and see how closely your stages match each other.
More Educational Resources
Looking for more ballet inspired learning activities? Check out the Maestro Classic’s website. This is how I found the wing lift experiment, and they have tons of learning materials and ideas (especially for homeschooling). Think ballet themed activities on geography, math, language skill, and much more!