Do We All Need A “Dance Tidy” In Our Lives?

Since September, we have made many changes to our classroom routines to help better meet the needs of students. One of these changes involves the continuation and extension of play, even during my prep coverage. Reducing transitions and extending blocks of play … 

  • have allowed children to better settle into play. 
  • have allowed us to dig deeper into inquiry topics and work more with smaller groups of children.
  • have helped to create a calmer classroom environment with a more consistent routine. 

I share all of this though because these changes mean that children are playing for about four hours a day. (I know that this seems like a long time, and it is, but as I explained in this previous post, there’s a lot more to it than that.) As you can imagine though and likely see in our daily blog posts, four hours of play equates to a big mess on the floor. Tidy up time is definitely not my favourite time of the day!

Yesterday, my teaching partner, Paula, and I were talking about this clean up time. I think that we were both feeling stressed after the day’s clean up experience. 

  • Why did it take so long?
  • Why was it such a challenge?
  • What could we do to make clean up time less stressful?

Paula said that maybe we had to go back to a “Dance Tidy” to increase the incentive for tidying up. I replied, “I wonder if a Dance Tidy is actually better, or if it just makes us feel better, which creates a better experience overall.”

Let me explain this Dance Tidy to you. Paula introduced me to it this year. Basically, she picks a student that is tidying up, and they request a song for us to play. We play the song over the sound system in our room. When that song ends, Paula picks another child that chooses another song. These songs are not of the nursery rhyme variety that I was accustomed to back in Kindergarten. They’re usually variations of popular music, and they all keep us moving. 

I’ll admit that I was initially skeptical when I heard of a Dance Tidy. 

  • Will the songs be too loud? Will they dysregulate students?
  • Will children actually clean up?
  • Aren’t we supposed to try and encourage silent cleaning?

But for a variety of possible reasons, this tidying up option works really well at the end of the day. 

  • Maybe it gives students the energy they need to move and clean at a time of the day when we’re all sleepier.
  • Maybe it makes a mundane task (cleaning up) more exciting.
  • Maybe it makes us feel better, which changes how we respond to children at a time of the day that can be stressful.

Today we tried our Dance Tidy again. Yes, there were still children that didn’t clean up. Yes, there were still children that needed more support to tidy up. Yes, it still took us a long time to clean. But Paula and I were both still smiling at the end of the clean up, and the classroom looked marvellous. I think there’s something worth celebrating here.

Then tonight, just as I’m about to write this post, I see this tweet from Lisa Cranston that was part of tonight’s #TMCTalks.

I’d also like to add here that “a teacher whose limbic alarm is firing, can’t facilitate tidying up.” But how often do we try to do so? I wonder if a Dance Tidy helps quiet our limbic alarm. What else might work? How do you remain calm so that clean up time ends on a good note? I’d love it if we could all share strategies that work.


8 thoughts on “Do We All Need A “Dance Tidy” In Our Lives?

  1. Thanks! My daughter used to work after school at a child care centre and they played The Beatles “All Together Now” at tidy up time. The song gets faster and faster as it goes along and the kids loved it. They looked forward to tidy up time and racing the song to tidy up. It made an unpleasant task into a fun tradition that everybody loved. I know I like playing music when I have to clean. Turns cleaning day into dance party!

    • Thanks Lisa! Such a great point. Now that I think of it, I like to play loud, fast music as I clean up as well. I never really thought about dancing to it, but it does make cleaning up more exciting. I think there’s something to be said for that. It looks like our Dance Tidy is here to stay.


  2. I always have music or a podcast or something going on while I tidy my house. Tidying is no fun to do without something to keep the mind from thinking about how boring it is. If I, an adult, theoretically grown up, struggle to tidy without music, why should we expect different from kids? But as I type this, it has occurred to me that we don’t dance tidy in my room either. Maybe we should. Maybe that would help us transition to getting ready for gym. Thanks for this.

    • Thanks for your comment, Melanie! That’s such an interesting observation about music and tidying up, and it’s so true. Even at home, I blare the music when cleaning. I’d be curious to know if a dance tidy works for your students. I hope it does!


      • I never got a chance to tidy dance because I never got a moment where they were settled enough to do it. I did put on music during silent ball when we had to have gym in our classroom. It was great to start but then they got too excited, and it had to be shut off so that they could settle themselves back down. I will try to keep it in my head, though, for the next time it may come in handy.

        • Thanks for sharing, Melanie! I wonder if they would settle better for cleaning up if you started with the dance tidy. What if you got someone to select a song prior to the beginning, and then continued from there? It sounds like “silent ball” might be an activity where you want calm, but for cleaning up, a little extra energy might help with the cleaning process. We tend to end on a quieter song, which also tends to calm things down. I’d love to find out if this works for other grades/classes!


          • I did think about that when looking at the dance tidy option. For most groups, I think this would be the case, but with the group that I had, my gut says that it would have ended poorly. Anecdotally, I have seen some other grades do something similar where they have music going and end with a quieter song to calm at the end, and it usually works really well, especially if they know that there is a particular song that serves as the cue to calm.

            As an aside, remarkably, the music did have a calming effect during silent ball for the first 1/2 to 3/4 of the time. They were more quiet and more focused than usual. The only problems occurred as students were eliminated, a phenomenon that happened without the music sometimes as well.

          • Thanks for your reply, Melanie! Routines really help with Self-Reg. Maybe having the same “quiet song” to end the tidy-up helps establish this routine. You can also try playing with the volume of the music: I find this can make a difference.

            That’s interesting about when the problems occurred during Silent Ball. Was the problem the music then? I wonder if there’s a way to avoid this elimination or replace the elimination with another job/task for students to do. Non-elimination games are really popular in primary for exactly the reason that you discussed here.


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