Our Senior Dance Artist, Caroline Burnside has worked on the Me and You project since it started in 2016. In the following blog, Caroline tells us how the project uses movement and creative play to enhance the bond between young parents and their children, the challenges of such a project and the impact the project has had on the participants.
I’m Caroline Burnside and I am a Senior Dance Artist with YDance (Scottish Youth Dance), the award-winning national dance organisation for children and young people in Scotland.
It has been my pleasure to work for the company for almost 15 years, during which time I have gained many experiences and skills from working on a broad range of projects, including Me and You.
Me and You
Me and You is a project that primarily uses movement and creative play to enhance bond and attachment between young parents and their children (0-4 years). Each session is based around a theme such as: The Circus, Transport, The Park, Outer Space etc. We take the participants on an imaginary journey using props, songs, movement and fun in order to explore the world through little eyes. Parent and child move together to reinforce relationships, enhance key motor skills, and support movement development and essentials skills. Me and You is delivered in sessions of around 45 minutes and has been delivered in partnership with organisations who support and work with young, vulnerable parents.
Planning and delivery
As a parent I have attended many fun sessions with my own children, but it was vital for Me and You that I kept movement/dance at the forefront and ensure I was reinforcing the relationship between parent and child, encouraging them to move together, to relax and have fun! In my research, I was blown away by the importance of development through movement in the crucial very early years of a child’s life.
Very early on I discovered that settling into a structure/ framework was what the sessions needed. The parents and babies loved to anticipate what was next. It took me some time to understand that play/interaction doesn’t come naturally to all parents and so this continuity helped developed their confidence. My content involves: tummy time, physical play, time upside down, social awareness, body awareness, eye tracking, facial expression and spatial awareness. I try to strike a good balance between remaining on the spot, moving through pathways and of course introducing props and other stimuli. I begin with a theme and explore all related ideas then link with movement using basic components of dance. For example, using action words such as “swinging” or “sliding” with different levels/speeds/directions etc. allows me to begin creating content for a session related to a trip to the park. As the parents come from vulnerable groups most of the content and ideas come from me. As a leader of this session it is my role to facilitate an experience that can be shared between parent and their little one. Encouraging parents to be moving on the same level, encouraging eye contact, touch, smiles, copying and noticing each other.
What is learned
Through each session, the following skills are developed and strengthened: motor development, communication, language, physical development, personal, social and emotional skills, literacy, numeracy, understanding the world (through interaction/sharing) and self-expression (through imagination/creativity).
I’ve been faced with many challenges during this project:
- What has happened that day/week before the participants come to class
- Low self-esteem, confidence and not wanting to look silly
- Breaking down expectations of what dance is
- Working with two vulnerable groups at the same time – teenage girls (young mums) and babies
- Unsure of how to play or lack of imagination
- Not paying much attention to their own child
I really believe that building relationships is the key. If I am able to build a rapport with the young parents relatively quickly after meeting them, I believe I can lead and inspire them to try lots of new things and develop their own confidence.
The impact of this project surpasses my expectations, not only on the participants but also on myself as a dance artist. In 2018, I was awarded the Time to Shine award for Arts and Creativity at the National Youth Work Awards which was a huge honour.
Here are quotes from some of our participants:
“Great experience – we love spending time with other children and parents doing things we wouldn’t normally do. Using the different props and materials Caroline brings every week makes it exciting for my son as we don’t know what to expect as the theme changes from week to week. The group has taught my son to share and take turns and taught him to make choices. It has also encouraged him to build friendships with other children in the group.”
“The group has allowed us both to feel free and relaxed and has encouraged me to dance to music with my son and realise he loves doing this. I now don’t feel awkward doing this and we will continue dancing together. The group has encouraged us to be expressive and have fun together.”
“My son has learned so much attending YDance Me and You – sitting, clapping, rolling – he has become more social with other babies and cuddles me more at home.”
“I feel more confident participating in song and action in front of people. I make my movement bigger and I have more ideas. I have met other mums and I feel able to give my son the chance to come to a good class because usually I have no money.”
“Me and my son have honestly really been enjoying YDance. He absolutely loves all the silly actions and taking part with all his friends. I feel like I know more about what he needs. I feel confident about having fun! I play and move with him in a way I never have before.”
“Being a young mum is hard, I battled with post-natal depression; feeling like I couldn’t do it and I can! Attending Caroline’s class has given me so much confidence. It has been amazing. At Me & You I have made friends for life. Caroline was always so supportive and encouraging she helped me know how to have fun with my child at home. I never knew how important moving around with each other was.”