A Lesson on Self-Esteem -
Giraffes Can't Dance
by Giles Andreae Illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees 

Giraffes Can't Dance is one of my favorites! It's a favorite for our granddaughter too!  This sweet book has been read to her since she was only a few months old.  It's never too early to fill children's ears, minds and hearts with the message they are special just the way they are!

It begins...

Gerald was a tall giraffe

whose neck was long and slim.

But his knees were awfully crooked

and his legs were rather thin.

Giraffes Can't Dance Summary

Gerald was awkward and this made him so sad when the time came around for the annual jungle dance.  He felt like everyone else could do what he couldn't do.  As he retreats from the other animals ridicule, he receives a bit of wise advice from a little cricket.

"Sometimes when you're different, you just need a different song."

What I love about Giraffes Can't Dance:

  • The message we're all good at different things!
  • Gerald's sudden "upturn" reminds us to look for the good; perspective matters.
  • The rhyming makes this book so much fun!
  • The introduction of a variety of dances.

How to Make the Most of the Read
(These are not meant to be done all at once though.)

Intellectual development 

  1. Fill in the rhyming word.  Older children can fill in the correct rhyming words after a few reads.  Have fun coming up with other words that rhyme with these too.
  2. Animal identification.  Little ones can learn new animals and point out the ones they already know.
  3. Vocabulary. Giraffe's Can't Dance contains several words we don't use in ordinary conversation such as "clot" and "daft."  Allow kids to guess the meaning from the text and think of synonyms which could replace them.
  4. Count the animals.  How many lions are dancing? Monkeys? etc.

Emotional development

´╗┐Interpret Gerald's facial expressions.  Use the illustrations along with the text to determine how Gerald may be feeling at that point of the story - sad, embarrassed, relieved, brave, etc.  Have fun making your own facial expressions for kids to interpret emotions.

Social development

Discuss how the other animals treated Gerald.  Think of  ways they could have treated Gerald more kindly.  Allow kids to pretend to be the characters in the book and act it out.

Have kids list things that are special about each type of animal in real life.  Then have them name things they themselves are good at along with the talents of their friends.  We need to notice, appreciate and encourage each other's talents and special traits as well as our own differences.

Physical development

Dance!  Put on some music and allow kids to move to the rhythm however they want. Learn a new dance.  Demonstrate the dances mentioned such as a waltz, tango, Scottish reel, etc. and allow kids to try.

Spiritual development

Psalm 139:14 is a wonderful Bible verse reminding kids they are each unique and special:

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

This book can take this a step further though reminding us not to compare ourselves to others.  We are each created to be unique and have different talents.

Galatians 6:4 tells us - 

"Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else,"

Gerald became discouraged when he compared himself to all the other animals' dancing.  Yet when he looked at what he could uniquely do, it turned his whole perspective around.  He made an "upturn!"

God has created us each unique to become and do what only we can do.  

More Fun Activities

  1. Watch live giraffes on the San Diego Zoo live cam!
  2. Make a dancing giraffe craft from Teaching Library.
  3. Show and Tell.  Let each demonstrate something they're good at and cheer each other on.

Read Aloud of Giraffes Can't Dance