Hosting a Heart-Mind Family Dance


How do you pull off an extraordinary event that will skyrocket a neighbourhood’s Heart-Mind well-being[1]?

A group of inspired and dedicated family center[2] staff and parent volunteers initiated a Family Dance project - but this was not just any Family Dance. This event brought together over 100 children and parents to sing, dance, craft and celebrate community connections through a singular focus of enhancing Heart-Mind well-being.

Backed by social science research that says we CAN strengthen Heart-Mind well-being in three primary ways - environments, skills, and attention to caregivers[3] - the Family Dance was designed to create an experience to both educate and connect. Here are the three key ingredients they used for success:

  1. The Environment: Prior to the event, children and families worked together to create decorations – paper chains made of slips of paper with words of gratitude. The paper chains surrounded families with positive messages of connection. The decor was simple and meaningful, and did not overwhelm.

  1. Teaching Skills: Children created art faces that expressed their feelings, and transformed them into buttons. They wore the buttons during the dance and talk about feelings and emotions. This activity provided an opportunity to focus on the specific skills of emotional awareness (recognizing and naming emotions[4]).

  1. Paying Attention to Caregivers: Along with dancing and eating and having fun, parents joined in a sing-a-long and learned simple songs about love, belonging and gratitude.

Want to do your own Heart-Mind Project?

Be intentional and explicit in a number of ways:

  1. Identify the Heart-Mind qualities your project will promote.

  2. Talk to all participants about which elements of your project will enhance Heart-Mind well-being.

  3. Identify how you will know whether or not these Heart-Mind qualities are enhanced?

  4. Over time, continue talking about what evidence you are seeing that your project is having a positive impact on Heart- Mind well-being.

  5. Celebrate your success! Share your discoveries with others.

Heart-Mind well-being refers to the balance between educating the mind and educating the heart. While there is a great focus in our society on academic achievement, research has demonstrated the positive impacts of developing our hearts - the way we "feel" and "relate to one another". In fact, heart and mind learning are interconnected.

Mount Pleasant Family Center was one of 18 participating organizations in the Vancouver Heart-Mind Initiative (2014). The purpose of the initiative was to invite Vancouver organizations who deliver services to young children and families to come together and learn about Heart-Mind well-being; engage staff, parents, caregivers and volunteers; and together, develop and implement short-term projects that captured this information and began to make positive change for young children.

Social science research tells us that we CAN strengthen Heart-Mind Well-being in three primary ways;

1.  Create caring environments and relationships so that children and youth feel loved, supported, and nurtured.

2.  Provide them with opportunities and specific skills that will foster their social and emotional competence, happiness, and well-being.

3.  Make sure adults take the time to nurture their own social and emotional competence and well-being

Follow the link to watch a video in which Author and Psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Siegel demonstrates a step-by-step approach to help a child manage strong emotions. 

  • Secure and Calm

    Secure and calm describes the ability to take part in daily activities and approach new situations without being overwhelmed with worries, sadness or anxiety. To be secure and calm also means being able to cope with stress and pressure, and to bounce back from difficulties.
  • Gets Along with Others

    Getting along with others is the ability to form positive and healthy relationships with peers and adults. Children with better abilities to regulate their emotions and behaviours have more friends and experience more positive playtime with their peers.
  • Alert and Engaged

    Being alert and engaged is the ability to manage and direct one's own feelings, thoughts and emotions. In general, the ability to be 'present' and to exercise self-control.
  • Compassionate and Kind

    Being compassionate and kind is closely related to empathy. While empathy refers more generally to the ability to take the perspective of and to feel the emotions of another person, compassion goes one step further.
  • Solves Problems Peacefully

    Managing conflict effectively is about creating an atmosphere where violence and aggression are not likely. To resolve conflict means using empathy, problem-solving skills, understanding other points of view and coming up with ways to make things right in a fair way.