EASY ACTIVITIES TO BUILD YOUNG BRAINS: MAKE SIMPLE BUTTON CASTANETS.

Simple button castanets are a delightfully easy way to bring a little spanish culture into your home.

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Ask your tot to choose 2 large buttons.

Give them some elastic to thread through the holes.

Tie off the back of the elastic and attach to fingers.

This takes just a few moments, then they’ll want to make a set for the other hand!

We then held a little dance performance where each child showed us their moves. What we intended as a simple fine motor skills activity with some cultural background (making the castanets) turned into a full body improvisation of spanish dance and the kids couldn’t have loved it more! (Even Anica, who typically shys away from any performance, allowed her whole body to become a proud spanish dancer – see her take the stage with gusto below!)

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Allowing children to act (and excell) out of their usual comfort zone allows those parts of the brain that are rarely accessed to get more of a look in and build stronger connections for other areas of their life. What triggers this will be different for each child, just as will the skills that are outside their comfort zone! Anica in this instance showed all the traits of a percussive, passionate, extravert in her Spanish solo – where as previously she has told me she is the best at ‘staying in the middle and not being seen’! Anica is likely to always be a little more shy than her outgoing sister, and we don’t want to change this about her, but the more she has the opportunity to choose to venture outside her comfort zone, the more she will be able to function with her whole brain in day to day life.

Without getting carried away talking about the plasticity of the brain, this applies to a variety of what we deem to be inbuilt ‘personality traits’ – Our brain changes to physically become stronger at what we are told we are and what we are allowed to do. As parents, carers and educators we have a huge responsibility to the young ones around us to explore all the possibilities of who they could be, rather than predict or label their personality and limit their ability to grow into the well rounded adults we all want to see in our future!

As an ex-dance teacher I was also delighted to see how this simple prop changed the way the children moved from a technical movement point of view. Having watched a video as part of our research last week (that showed some spanish dancing) the children instantly changed their default flowing movement (influenced by their friends mimicking ballet) into a staccato passionate movement that they had seen in the flamenco dance. Their feet stomped, their arms held power and their little castanets went wild!

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