Musically Montessori:#3 Let's Begin With Walking On "The Line" & Add Some Challenges!


***©Carolyn Lucento 2015. You are warmly welcome to use any of the ideas I have posted here, however, the content & photos are copyrighted and may not be reproduced without my permission.

This is the third article in my series: "Musically Montessori, A Sequential Curriculum for Everyday Music." You can read the 2 previous articles here's #1 and here's #2.

All photos are by Carolyn @ Magical Movement Company unless otherwise indicated

In the very beginning....
There are some simple exercises of movement on the line that are first presented to the children in the Montessori environment. Usually, these are presented without musical accompaniment so that the children focus on the movement without attempting to keep a beat that would be heard in musical accompaniment. In the beginning, the child is encouraged to walk naturally around the outside of the line without trying to keep the feet on the line, and gradually the child becomes more accomplished and is able to walk on the line itself and even carry a dry sponge, or a little bean bag, and then onto more difficult objects. There is more to read about "The Line" in Montessori at this post: Musically Montessori: Maria Montessori & Maria Maccheroni.

You can set up a little "Basket of Objects for Carrying on the Line" that is kept on a shelf nearby.

The children can start with a small empty tray. Then a small, empty plastic cup can be added to be carried on the tray while walking along the line.

4-yr old carrying a tray with a glass while walking on "The Montessori Line"

After much practice, the child can be shown how to fill the cup with water, place it on the little tray and carry it while walking on the line.

Eventually, the children will carry a small glass cup (breakable!) on the little tray while walking along the line. 

As you can see, these activities help to gradually build the child’s confidence in his/her body coordination skills. 
Over time, I have added such things as a small wine glass, (then, later, two wine glasses) a ceramic tea cup & its saucer, and even a miniature tea set with 4 tiny tea cups and a tea pot. The children always start by carrying these objects without any water in them and the children greatly enjoy these challenges even when the vessels are empty. 
It’s important that the teacher provide trays that have sturdy handles and that are the correct size for the objects being carried. For some groups I have started with plastic flat-bottomed baskets (instead of trays) that have higher sides to them than a tray would have. You can observe with how much ease the children can perform these little exercises and adjust the objects or the trays to make the activity easier or more challenging, depending on your group.

A NOTE ABOUT CREATING THE LINE: I use masking tape for a temporary "line" because you can easily pull up the tape at the end of the day. I pull up the tape at the end of the day, so that it doesn't become more permanently attached to the rug or floor. (Then it is very hard to remove!) If your environment allows, you can place a permanent taped "line"  in an open space that the children have access for moving along at any time of day. I like the cloth tape from Montessori Services, however, keep in mind that it is permanent. Chalk is another way to create a temporary line that will more or less disappear by the end of the day!

Of the variety of activities that children performed on “The Line” in Maria Montessori's first "Casa dei Bambini", many are well-suited to musical accompaniment. Children enjoy marching with miniature flags while listening to any number of cd s of marching songs, including national anthems from around the world. 

One of the favorites for my groups has been The King's March from Shenanigan's album “Children’s Dances of Terra del Zur #1”. Here's the link for their wonderful website: Shenanigans Music. You can also download their music from iTunes.
Preschool children marching with flags to "The King's March" music

There are some really fun music oriented activities that children will enjoy in their explorations of movement on “The Line,” and I have written about them in the following lesson plans. These are designed to be presented at a  group circle and then the children can usually practice with these lessons on an individual basis during work time or free choice periods in the classroom environment.

LESSON TITLE:  “Don’t Let the Bell Ring!”

  • Body Coordination
  • Focused Listening
  • Concentration 
  • Open space for movement
  • 1/2 inch “Line” made of masking tape, chalk, or semi-permanent cloth tape placed on the floor in the shape of a continuous ellipse
  • 6 to 8 inches of string or ribbon with a jingle bell attached at the end

1. PREPARE: The children greatly enjoy it when I am taping “the line” on the floor at group time. It’s a little bit of a mystery as they watch the ellipse take shape before their very eyes.

2. EXPLANATION: The idea is to walk so carefully along the line carrying the bell-on-a-string, that you don’t cause the bell to make a sound.

3. MODEL: I like to model to the children how to do this activity and they are usually quite enthralled! 

4. SAY: “I’m going to carry this bell while I walk along the ellipse. I am going to walk so carefully that I don’t ring the bell.”

5. REQUEST: Then, I ask that everyone get very quiet because I am going to need to really concentrate.

6. SHOW: Finally, I proceed to walk very deliberately along the line and try my best NOT to ring that bell!

7. INVITE: After my dramatic little presentation, I invite a child to carry the bell, walk carefully along the line, and NOT let the bell ring. Others may then have a turn, of course.

8. SHELF WORK: Later, this bell-on-the-string is set up in the "Basket of Objects for Movement on the Line" that individual children can choose to practice with during work time or free choice time. 

Objects for carrying on "The Line" Montessori-style!

It is fun to add other bells to the string, like for example:
 ~ 3 (or more!) bells at the end of the string, 
 ~ or a slightly larger size brass bell (with a handle) that is tied to the end of the string, 
 ~ or even a small wind chimes attached to the end of the string (very challenging!)

You can also change the length of the string. The longer the string, the more difficult it is to walk along without swinging the string which will cause the bell to ring. Likewise, for younger groups, the shorter the string the less likely the bell will ring while the child is walking along the line. And, instead of a string, you can attach the bell to a pipe cleaner that works really well for the very youngest children.

Of course, this activity can be embellished by providing 2 strings with bells so that the child carries one in each hand. 
I have also simply provided the little brass bell with a handle WITHOUT attaching it to a string. The child walks along the line holding the bell by the handle and takes care not to allow it to ring. Then you can also offer 2 bells again…one for each hand.

4 yr old walking on "The Line", carrying 2 bells, and NOT ringing them!

You can vary this activity by offering a maraca or a tambourine for the children to carry carefully along the line without making a sound on the instrument. Once again, giving the child 2 instruments (one in each hand) doubles the challenge!

5 yr old walking on "The Line," carrying a shaker egg, and NOT making a sound!

A simple jump rope taped along the floor can be a different version of “The Line” and immediately brings to mind the Tight Rope Walker in the circus. 

LESSON TITLE: “Tight Rope Walking Fun!”


  • Body Coordination
  • Grace & Balance
  • Focused Concentration 
  • Open space for movement
  • 6 ft. length of jump rope taped securely to the floor or rug (handles removed!)
  • Cd selection of circus music  (ex: Circus Calliope Student’s Waltz by Craig Riley OR The Cuckoo Waltz by Verne Langdon)
  • Visuals of a circus tent, tightrope walkers, circus orchestra/band, etc. (Can download from Google Images)
  • Basket or rug for the children’s shoes. Children can walk best across this rope with their shoes off (barefoot is the best, if possible in your environment)

1. PREPARE: You will be securely taping down the jump rope with masking tape and the children will be fascinated if they are present when you are doing this.

2. EXPLANATION: The children of today will benefit from nice big photos of a circus tent and a tightrope walker. I even like to include a photo of a circus orchestra or band, since this is a musically oriented activity! Then, it’s good to tell them a little about what the tightrope walker does way up in the air. Keep in mind, some children haven’t yet been to a circus or have actually seen a tightrope walker.

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

3. MODEL: I like to model to the children how to do this activity and they are usually quite enthralled! 

4. SAY: “I’m going to put on some circus music and then I’m going to pretend like I am a circus tightrope walker walking along the tightrope.” Here is where you put on your circus music cd selection (see suggestions above)

Optional: At this point,  I take off my shoes and place them on the nearby rug designated for shoes. I say “optional” here because in some settings the children are not allowed to remove their shoes because of licensing regulations. In which case, you just skip taking off shoes!

5. REQUEST: Then, I ask that everyone get very quiet because I am going to need to really concentrate. 

6. SHOW: Finally, I proceed to walk very slowly, carefully & deliberately along the “tight rope” and try my best to keep my feet from toppling off. Heel to toe works well.  I always take a theatrical bow at the end!

7. INVITE: After my dramatic little presentation, I invite a child to walk on the “tightrope” while listening to the circus music. Remind the other children to get very quiet so the tightrope walker can really concentrate! Playfully remind the child to take a bow at the end of his/her walk. Others may then have a turn, of course.

***A LITTLE NOTE HERE: This can be very challenging for a young child and some little feet may topple off the rope, or a child may even actually fall. It is good for the adult to be close by (but not hovering) and also hold the hand of any child that asks. If a child topples, it’s important to check and see if s/he is okay and then matter-of-factly go on as if nothing had happened. Just like you would do if you were really performing in a show! If other children begin to laugh, it’s important to request once again that the “audience” remain very quiet as a way of being considerate of the walking child. Then, I like to comment upon how still everyone is being…that this takes strong muscles to control their bodies and stay so still while watching!

8. SHELF WORK: Depending on your group & classroom circumstances, you might want to leave the rope taped down for the day and allow children to practice walking on the rope (one child at a time!) during work time or free choice time. For an on-going shelf work, you can have a basket for the “Tightrope Walking Work” on your music/movement shelf. This basket should have a flat cloth ribbon for the child to lay down as a substitute for the rope. The basket can also have some props like a tiny paper umbrella, bean bag, small scarves for each hand etc. (see extensions)

It is fun to add other motions and also props, like for example:
 ~ Walk along the tightrope sideways or backwards (very challenging!) 
 ~ Walk along the tightrope holding a tiny umbrella, or small scarves in each hand (something you might see in this act at the real circus) 
 ~ Walk along the rope while up on tiptoes!
 ~ Set up an individualized shelf work in which a length of flat ribbon is used instead of the rope (safer for individual exploration)
 ~ Play the song, “Tight Rope” from Frank Leto’s cd Steel Band Jamboree for children to do the various movements from the song with the regular elliptical line that is used daily for movement on “The Line.” They will be moving along in a group formation at circle time.

Available from Amazon at this link: Frank Leto Steel Band Jamboree at Amazon

In the Montessori Classroom, it is traditional to introduce the seven continents to the children through many activities from puzzle maps to art projects and much more! 
The continent of Africa is a wonderfully diverse area of study and I personally think you can spend the whole year with activities about this part of the world! 
The children so enjoy the colorful fabrics, the amazing animals, the intriguing masks, the beautiful geography...the list goes on! But, I think the most wonderful part of African Studies is the music (& dance, of course!)

LESSON TITLE: “Carry an African Basket on Your Head!”

  • Body Coordination
  • Moving to a Steady Beat

  • Open space for movement with a taped elliptical shaped “line” on the floor
  • Woven basket with a flattened bottom suitable for carrying upon the head (preferably with an African motif)
  • Cd or mp3 of traditional instrumental drumming music
  • Visuals of people from Africa carrying baskets on their heads and of people drumming.
  • Optional: Hand drum  

1. PREPARE: It is nice to start this activity by introducing the drum music of Africa and if you have an African style drum, this is a great time to show it to the children. They will enjoy having a turn to tap on the head of the drum as it is passed around the circle. 
Next, I put the African music cd on the sound system at a low volume while I show the children the visuals of African life. (see above suggestions)
***You might want to place the visuals & drum on a rug or table for the children to later explore during work time.

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

2. EXPLANATION: The idea is to walk along the line carrying the basket on the head. (Start with holding it, then later with no hands!) Next, I show the children the African basket that will be carried upon the head. 

3. MODEL: I like to model to the children how to do this activity and they are usually quite enthralled. And, I have practiced a little beforehand, too!

4. SAY: “I am going to carry this basket on top of my head while I walk along ‘the line’ today.”

5. REQUEST: Then, I ask that everyone get very quiet because I am going to need to really concentrate. 

6. SHOW: Finally, with both hands gripping the basket, I lift it up onto my head and begin to walk along the line. I keep a hold on the basket with both my hands for a bit and then I take my hands away and balance the basket as I continue to walk along the taped ellipse. (This “no hands” carrying is optional for you to do, but fun for the kids if you do choose to do it!)

7. INVITE: At this point, the children will be excited to try this activity out for themselves, and you can warmly invite them to do so. (one child at a time)

8. SHELF WORK: Next, this “Carrying a Basket on the Head” Work can be set up for the children to do individually at work time or Free Choice.

 ~ It’s fun to drum a slow walking beat on the hand drum for the children to walk to while doing this activity. (as an alternative to listening to recorded drumming music)

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

 ~ At work time, one child can play the drum while the other walks, carries & balances. Then they can take turns.

4 yr old walking on "The Montessori Line" carrying a basket on his head

 ~ If you have the resources, you can vary the basket with different sized ones over the next few days/weeks.
 ~ In Montessori’s writings, I found a reference to a “chumbal” or head ring found in India that is used to rest the basket on when carrying it upon the head. Dr. Montessori offered one of these to the children while doing this activity. I have made one of these by twisting, then tying the ends of a bandana together to form a circular little cushion. Some children find it easier to carry the basket using this little head ring.

Child using a head ring ("chumbal") to carry a basket on his head while moving on
 "The Montessori Line"

 ~ Adding swatches of African cloth for the children to wear during this activity greatly adds to the experience!

4 yr old balancing a basket on her head & dressed in African style clothing

There are more activities for African studies with young children at my past posts here: 
African inspired MUSIC STORY for Preschoolers to Enjoy

African Inspired BALANCE BEAM Fun: Cross the Bridge!

I am delighted that you have made a visit to my blog and I hope that you have gotten some fun ideas for your group. Stay tuned for upcoming posts throughout this school year in my "Musically Montessori" series. You can join my email list and have the posts delivered to your inbox too. Just click here: Magical Movement Company subscribe

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