Category Archives: music and movement activity

Take a Trip: A Song, A Graph, and Safety Talk

If you’re exploring a transportation theme, here’s a fun little ditty about transportation I found years ago.  (I didn’t write down where I found it, so if you know the original author let me know!)  It’s a fun piggy-back song, to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle:

Take a bus or take a train,

Take a boat or take a plane.

Take a bike or take a car,

May be near or may be far.

Take a rocket to the moon,

Just be sure to come back soon.

This is a fun song that the children enjoy and it gets them thinking about the different types of transportation.  I like to write the words up on chart paper and then have a picture to go with a few of the words.  I’ve attached pictures here.   As I’ve said before, I don’t offer these because I think I’m a talented artist, but because they’re done.  (Sometimes done is better than perfect!)

After getting familiar with the song, I’ll often ask the children about the rhyming words in the song.  Then we’ll talk about other words that might rhyme as well.  On another day I may ask about words that start with the same letter and sound (bike, bus, boat).  As the children become more familiar, I may remove the pictures and have them add them above the corresponding words.  Even if the children aren’t “reading” I think it’s valuable for them to make the connections between the written and spoken words and their meanings.

Now if you want to get more bang for your buck (and who doesn’t?), you can also use this song as a springboard for a math activity.  Use a few of the pictures from the song as the base pictures for a graph.  Use the post-it method or unifix cubes to count out one-to-one how many people in your group have used each type of transportation in the song (or just a few if you’re worried about attention).  If you’re working with just one or two children, have them survey people!  Create a sheet with the pictures and have them record hash marks as their respondents answer about the types of transportation they have used.  They could ask people in your own home, or make some phone calls to friends and family!

Graphing with young children not only teaches them that specific skill, but reinforces one-to-one counting (one object to one number), greater than/less than comparisons, and representational thinking.  If you’re currently working on recognizing written numbers, you could cap off your graph with the written numbers of the totals below the pictures.

And last of all, what would a unit on transportation be without a little talk about safety?  This is another activity I picked up years ago.  Place a ball or a marble inside a cup.  Tell the children that this is them inside a car.  “Drive the car around on the floor (making the requisite car noises, of course), and then make a sudden stop (and yes, you have to say, “Errrrrch”).  Thanks to Newton’s law about objects in motion staying in motion, the ball will roll out of the car.  Talk about what that could mean for them.  If they’re in a car and the car stops, they will keep moving and could fall over or even out of the car. 

Now ask who buckles up when they take a trip in the car.  Give the ball some buckles by taping it in.  Drive the car around again and make some sudden stops.  As Newton would explain, that object in motion has now been interrupted by an equal and opposite force.  The ball stays safely in the cup.  Talk with your little ones about the importance of wearing seatbelts so that they can stay safe in their cars.

Singing, literacy, math, science and safety, all in one unit!  Who says preschool is “just cute”?
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Filed under Building Readers, Fingerplay, Learning through Play and Experience, math activity, music and movement activity, science activity

Let the Music Play

I am a fan of great children’s music artists.  Hap Palmer and Raffi are a delightful mixture of musical and educational genius!  And so I hope you won’t get me wrong when I say that I don’t think that’s the only kind of music children should listen to.

Music designed for children has some great aspects, the lyrics, timing, even the key in which it is written is designed to appeal to children and encourage their participation.  But there are so many different kinds of music in the world, and children should be exposed to it!  Add to that the fact that a change of pace is often good — for the littles and the bigs as well!  As long as the lyrics are appropriate, and the children respond to it, almost every genre can have something to offer.  Here are some suggestions for “non-traditional” children’s music that have become popular with some of the littles I have worked with!

The Beatles.  They’re classic.  There’s just something universally appealing about their music.  “Here Comes the Sun” is one of my favorites to use with young children, because the lyrics contain so many early reading sight words.  It’s almost as though George Harrison were writing the song for kids!  As I taught first grade, I had a collection of laminated song charts from which the children would sing, and then they would do activities, pointing to or circling specific words and letters.  “Here Comes the Sun” was by far the favorite!

Soundtracks.  John Williams is an indisputable genius!  His soundtracks are musically rich and emotionally charged.  Try using his and other musical scores from movies for movement activities!

Jazz.  Don’t overlook this unique musical style!  Artists like Ella Fitzgerald and Louie Armstrong can have a lot to offer our little ones!  The music is creative and emotionally evocative.  The  mellow mood of many of these songs can also have a soothing effect for all its listeners!

The Great Works.  There’s been more of an emphasis in recent years on getting children exposed to the great works of composers like Vivaldi, Beethoven, and Mozart.  This movement is good, and listening to this type of music can do great things for children, though it’s not the magic pill some describe — read more about that here.  When sharing this type of music with children, focus on its beauty, on the way they can move to it, the types of instruments that are being used, and how it makes them feel.  Avoid using watered-down versions of these masterpieces.  Some albums sold as “classical music for kids” is simply an electronic version of the melody.  Part of the great benefit of listening to this type of music lies in the weaving together of a variety of instruments, parts, and dynamics.

Share Your Own Favorites.  I remember going to concerts back in college and jumping around, dancing with the crowd in the student union building as an accomplished local artist, Peter Breinholt and his band played.  Fast-forward about 15 years and that artist is now my neighbor.  I have to laugh to myself now as I watch the children from my neighborhood jump and dance like my friends and I used to “back in the day”.  Pete’s music is always family friendly and appeals to all ages.  I’ve yet to see a child who doesn’t get up and dance to his song, You Wear Flowers.  (You can listen to it –third one down on the samples here.  Find more info here.) 

I’ve been lucky that my children enjoy some of the same artists I do, along with Pete, there are many other acoustic artists like James Taylor and Jack Johnson that we can share together.  Lately my husband has been sharing some of his favorites in the classic rock category with our oldest as well. 

It’s fun to bond over some of your own favorites and talk to each other about what you like.  I know much of my own music preferences come from the fact that I listened to many of my dad’s favorites growing up.  Mama Cass, Cat Stevens, James Taylor, and CCR are still some of my favorites.

Set the Stage.  While it’s great to share a variety of musical styles with young children, keep in mind of course that the lyrics need to be appropriate for their age, but also consider the tempo and energy of the music and consider the influence it has.  Children are HUGELY responsive to the energy of music.  If you’re looking for some quiet play time, the William Tell Overture may not be the best pick!

What are some of the “non-traditional” favorites you share with your little ones?

Top photo by emr1991.
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Filed under Article, music and movement activity

Let the Seasons Move You

Fall is certainly creeping in!  Celebrate the changing seasons with this music and movement activity using Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.  (I originally posted this back in December.)

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons has always been one of my favorite musical works.  This program music is so beautiful and powerful, but also so descriptive, you can literally see in your mind and feel in your bones what Vivaldi is trying to describe with his music.  (And if you aren’t sure what he’s trying to describe, check out these sonnets Vivaldi wrote to correspond with his music.)  Because the music is so suggestive of movement, it’s perfect for a music and movement activity with children!

I usually start out with the children by mentioning that this music was written by a man named Antonio Vivaldi a long, long time ago, and that he wanted to write music that sounded like the different seasons.  Then I announce each season as the music begins and we move to the music, calling out new movements to go with the music.  For example, in the Spring segment, we start out marching, then as the music quiets we tiptoe, as it has quick runs we jump and talk about flowers blooming up out of the ground or birds jumping into flight.  For Summer, we usually pant and fan, or slowly walk or crawl looking for water, because the music is slow and hot.  Fall involves some hands as falling leaves, of course, and Winter is freezing and shivering, or perhaps a snowstorm, dancing with white scarves.  (Here’s a great YouTube clip of Winter.  You can find other clips online as well.)

Create the movements together, listening carefully to what you hear and considering what you and the children know about each season the music is representing.  Should you be moving quickly or slowly?  Will your body be down low or up high?  How could you show leaves falling/birds singing/sun shining?  You may even want to listen to the music without any dancing first, and talk about what you hear and the types of movements you might use before you begin the movement portion of the activity.  I’m not suggesting that everyone should be doing the same choreographed movements, but some discussion time to consider movement will make them more intentional. 

I don’t usually use Vivaldi’s entire movement, but enough to keep the children involved.  I may just use the Winter movements if we’re talking about that season in particular.  If I’m doing all four seasons, I may transition by saying something like, “Oh this is just way too hot here in the summer, let’s look for someplace cooler!”

This type of music and movement activity is great for exposing children to famous works of music and increasing their understanding and appreciation of it.  More importantly, it builds in them the ability to create as they internalize the music and express it again through their unique movements.  The movements also increase muscle strength and control as well as an awareness of personal space and boundaries (something you may want to address at the beginning of this endeavor).  The activity also builds active listening skills, which are important not just to music appreciation, but to learning in general.  For more information about the importance of music activities for preschoolers read here.

For more favorite fall activities, click here!

For more wintry activities, click here!

Top photo by Kerbi.
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Filed under Learning through Play and Experience, music and movement activity

Easter Eggs All Around

If you’re looking for an Easter activity to do with your children this weekend, here are a few quick ideas.

Paint Some Eggs

You can quickly cut some eggs out of your white computer paper and set the kiddos loose to decorate them.  Give them watercolors for some colorful painted eggs.  Add a white crayon to allow the children to create hidden pictures first, as the wax will resist the colored water.  You might even make the crayon designs yourself and have the children find them as they paint!

Place the paper eggs in a shoe box and add paint and a few marbles and golf balls and let the children roll them about for some fun action painted eggs.

You could also cut your eggs out of paper towels and try this great technique using markers and water.

Easter Egg Recycling


Don’t throw away those  plastic eggs after your hunt is over!  Use those extra plastic eggs to create shaky eggs!  Follow these directions to make egg shakers with your children and then let them decorate them with stickers.  Use them to dance to your favorite tune, or try I Know a Chicken by Laurie Berkner (my favorite shaky egg song)!  You could also build some auditory perception by making those egg shakers with different objects inside and playing a matching game as I explain here

Now, not everyone celebrates Easter, and those that do have many different ways to do so.  Not everyone can use the egg ideas, but these painting techniques can be used on ANY shape of paper, so make it fit your needs!  And anyone could use an egg shaker for an instrument, and with the abundance of materials right now, you could make enough to outfit an entire class or playgroup for next to nothing!

Happy Easter!

Top photo by busy_b05.

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Filed under Create, Learning through Play and Experience, music and movement activity

Do You Know This Friend of Mine?

Here’s a song the children love!  It’s perfect for reinforcing phonemic awareness and a great reminder of their classmates’ names.  I learned it way back in my university days, so I really don’t know who to credit for it.  Whoever you are, many children send an enthusiastic  “Thank you”!

(Tune: Do you know the muffin man)

Do you know this friend of mine, this friend of mine, this friend of mine?

Do you know this friend of mine, her name it rhymes with Bara?  (Tara!)

Simple, right?  If they’re beginning to grasp the concept of rhyming, they’ll go nuts for it!  Give them time to think about the answer, and they’ll shout it right out!  Enjoy!

For more mail themed activities, check out the Valentines, Friends, and Communication Unit here!

Top photo by camyam73.

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Filed under Building Readers, language activity, Learning through Play and Experience, music and movement activity

My Magic Words

If you haven’t heard of Signing Time, you should check it out.  It has an inspiring background story, and the research behind preverbal signing in hearing children can be quite compelling.  Though they are oblivious to all of that, my boys just really enjoy it, and that’s why we’ve watched many episodes at our house.  It’s a fun and dynamic mix of vocabulary, song, and sign. 

One of the songs I use most from the series is “Magic Words”.  You can download it from iTunes.  The only signs you need to know as you sing along are “please”, share”, your turn“, “my turn” (like “your turn” but pointing to self with thumb), and “thank you“.  All pretty easy signs, even for the signing inept like myself (though the way Rachel teaches the signs on the program is better than the links I gave you here).  The children love singing and signing the song.  It’s great for reinforcing the social skill of using polite words and being kind to others, while at the same time teaching about another form of communication (sign). 

I don’t know that sign language will make your children brilliant, but any time you’re reinforcing language skills and symbolic thinking (sign) there will be cognitive benefits.  And as you’ll find if you read Rachel’s amazing story, her first goal was just to give other children a working social vocabulary for when they meet someone like her daughter, Leah.  That’s a goal I can certainly get behind!

For more mail themed activities, check out the Valentines, Friends, and Communication Unit here!

Photo by dialog_.


Filed under language activity, Learning through Play and Experience, music and movement activity, social skills

Shaky Egg Sound Match


Here’s a quick, easy, and inexpensive way (music to a teacher’s ears, right?)  to create a great tool for incorporating music and auditory discernment.  Whoa, back up the truck, what was that?  “Auditory discernment” is the ability to hear the differences and similarities between two sounds.  It can be as simple as hearing the difference between a bell ringing and a horn honking, but it’s also the groundwork for hearing the difference between the sounds in words, like the short e sound and the short i sound.  Phonemic awareness is a critical reading skill, and it is completely auditory.  So building auditory skills actually paves the way for reading skills.  OK, so back to the project at hand!

You’ll be making a set of shaky eggs with different sounds to be matched by the children.  If you haven’t made shaky eggs before, you really should- they’re so easy.  I explained the process way back here.  For this little project, make six different sets of eggs by using six different fillers.  You might want bells, coins, rice, popcorn, salt, and beads – just to name six off the top of my head.  Keep in mind that the amount in the egg affects the sound as well, so make pairs exactly the same, and consider differentiating pairs by having disparate amounts (one set with just one bead each, and another set with ten, for example).  To simplify, you may want to use just two colors of eggs, so that each pair has one of each color.  That just makes it easier for the children to match the sets, knowing they only have to check against six other eggs, not eleven. 

Now that you have six sets, you have an even dozen and can use a clean egg carton for your case.  Line up one color in one row and the other color in the other row.  Have the children pick one egg, give it a shake, and listen.  Then help the children shake the eggs in the other row, one at a time, until they find the other egg with the same sound.  Once a pair is found, they can put them side by side in the same carton, or in a second egg carton to keep confusion down!

There you have it!  I told you it was easy!  It’s a great sensory matching exercise, and you can always use the eggs for music time as well!

More from the “Exploring the Arts through Our Senses” unit here!


Filed under Learning through Play and Experience, music and movement activity, sensory activity