Oct 04, 2013


This Creative Dance and Movement Program is an intervention that is intended to improve preschool children’s social competence and reduce behavior problems through instruction in creative dance/movement.  A randomized control study found that the intervention was effective in improving social competence and decreasing both externalizing and internalizing behaviors among a group of low-income, immigrant children attending a Head Start program in a large metropolitan area.


Target population: Low-income preschool children

The intervention consists of bi-weekly 35 minute sessions for 8 weeks. Sessions focus on six different dance concepts (body, movement, space, time, force, and form) and are intended to provide children with structured movement opportunities to allow them to invent their own movements.  Each session is divided into 5 sections (greeting, warm-up, center, short story, dance improvisation and cool-down).  Activities during the “center” section of the class generally consist of high-energy exercises. Dance improvisation is based on the poem or short story that was presented by the instructor during the short story section of the class.  Children initially imitate instructors during the first several classes but are given fewer instructions over time.  Various instruments and props are introduced based on the theme of the session.  The dance curriculum is available from the first author.


Lobo, Y.B., & Winsler, A. (2006). The effects of a creative dance and movement program on the social competence of Head Start preschoolers. Social Development, 15(3), 501-519.

Evaluated population: A total of 40 children between the ages of 39 and 62 months were recruited from 3 classrooms in a Head Start program serving an ethnically and linguistically diverse population in a large metropolitan area.  Approximately half of the children were female (48 percent), two-thirds of the children were Hispanic/Latino, 16 percent African-American, 7 percent Arabic, 5 percent Asian, and 5 percent Caucasian/other. Eighty-eight percent of the children were foreign-born.  Slightly over half of the households reported speaking Spanish at home (56 percent), 17 percent English, 12 percent Arabic, 5 percent Vietnamese, and 10 percent reported speaking both English and Spanish. Median family income was $15,000 and 18 percent of parents reported being unemployed.  Twenty-one children were assigned to the intervention group and 19 to the control group.

Approach: The goal of the evaluation was to understand whether the intervention impacted children’s externalizing and internalizing behaviors.  Children were assigned either to the dance intervention or to an active control group where they were allowed to play together with a variety of general curriculum activities and toys in a small group setting. The experimenter remained in the room with the control group to observe, assist and play with the children. Teachers and parents were blinded as to the group membership of each child.  Parents and teachers completed the Social Competence Behavior Evaluation: Preschool Edition (SCBE) at baseline and post-intervention, reporting on children’s social competence as well as externalizing and internalizing problems.  Parents were allowed to complete the assessment in English or Spanish; all teachers completed an English version.

Results:  An analysis of baseline measures indicated that children randomly assigned to the intervention group received lower overall ratings on social competence and had higher levels of internalizing and externalizing behaviors than those in the control group.  The multivariate analysis found that children in the intervention group made significantly greater gains on all three outcomes (social competence, internalizing problems, externalizing problems) compared with children in the control group. These gains did not differ by gender.

These findings may not be generalizable to other populations.  The authors note that the use of dance and music is likely to have a greater impact of children from limited English-proficient families because it provides them with a non-verbal means of expression to communicate their ideas, thoughts, emotions, and feelings.  Similar results might not be seen among children from predominantly English-speaking households.



Lobo, Y.B., & Winsler, A. (2006). The effects of a creative dance and movement program on the social competence of Head Start preschoolers. Social Development, 15(3), 501-519.

Website: n/a

KEYWORDS: Toddlers, Children, Preschool, Males and Females, High-Risk, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Urban, Skills Training, Conduct/Disruptive Disorders, Early Childhood Education, Social Skills/Life Skills

Program information last updated 10/4/13