Tag Archives: music

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

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

The Pied Piper of Hamelin

I try to fit a nursery rhyme, fable, or fairy tale into each unit.  As I’ve mentioned before, these are the literary classics of childhood!  When talking about the arts and the senses, I like to introduce the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin!

You can check out a book to read out loud, create a flannel board story, or use the coloring pages from this website.  Whatever your method, get familiar with the story and bring it to life in your storytelling.  After the story, talk about whether or not the children think it could really happen.  Probably not….at least not exactly (though the story’s historical roots are actually debated).  Nonetheless, listening to music can make us want to move in different ways, depending upon the way it sounds.  Play a few samples and have the children suggest what type of movement the music makes them think of.  Choose samples that remind you of a lullaby, a dancing tune, a quiet tip-toe song, etc.  End with a march and have the children march, parade style, to your next activity!

This activity builds language and literacy skills as well as an appreciation for, and experience with, music and movement.

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

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

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons- Don’t Just Listen, Get Up and Move!

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.


Filed under Large Motor Skills, Learning through Play and Experience, music and movement activity

Clean It Up!

broomWhile we’re on the topic of clean up time, I thought I’d mention that I use Laurie Berkner’s song, “Clean It Up” as my clean up music.  (You can find it at iTunes for just a dollar.  Though if you can get out of iTunes having only spent one dollar, my hat’s off to you!)  I give kiddos a five minute reminder before clean up time, then after five minutes I turn this sing on repeat until the task is done.  The trumpets at the beginning are great for getting everyone’s attention, and the song is fun and child-friendly without being hokey.  (That’s a trademark quality of Laurie Berkner’s music.  It’s kid appropriate, active, fun, and full of awesome musical elements and different genres-not watered down monotony.  I’m obviously a big fan.)  Sometimes, as we’re getting close to finished, I challenge the children to see if we can be done before the song is over.  They’re usually up for the race.  Music is great for signalling routine transition times such as this.  If the ‘Everybody Everywhere’ version of a clean up song is working for you, stick with it.  If you’re ready for a change, and maybe a little more musical styling, check this one out!

Photo courtesy frecuencia.


Filed under Learning through Play and Experience, music and movement activity, procedure/organization, self help skills, Transitions

Willoughby Wallaby Woo

elephantI’m sure you can find other versions of this song, but does anyone really do it better than Raffi?  Willoughby Wallaby Woo, is a great song for practicing new names in a class.  As an added benefit, it is also great for getting kiddos to laugh!  As you can hear in this YouTube clip, it’s a simple silly song, using consonant substitution (a great pre-reading skill) to fit each name into the song.  This is particularly fun if you have an elephant puppet to set above each child as you sing that child’s name.  (If the elephant reference doesn’t make sense, you need to listen to the clip!) 

You can download the song from Raffi’s Singable Songs for the Very Young album, available at iTunes.  You might as well pick up a few more Raffi classics while you’re there.  The man is a genius!

For more Welcome Week activities, click here!

Photo by gilr.

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

Make Your Own Rhythm Sticks

DSCN2302Rhythm sticks are a must-have for a preschool program!  As long as you have enough dexterity to get your two hands to come together in the same general area (a fantastic feat for very young ones) you can play this instrument!  Use them as part of a percussion band, or for specific rhythm stick activities.  They magically turn any chant or song into a fun phonological awareness building activity!  You can have children tap and count, or tap parts of the body.  Switch up old favorites, like, “If You’re Happy and You Know It” by adding the sticks (“If you’re happy….tap your toes”).  Use them with tempo songs like Hap Palmer’s Slow and Fast, or practice beating rhythm patterns (floor, floor, together…) to incorporate both music and math concepts.  Or simply explore the sounds you can make by tapping the floor, your shoes, a bell, or your other stick.  Try to sound like the rain, builders, or anything else they bring to mind!  They really are so simple, but their uses are essentially limitless.  Every time I bring them out for music time, I have a room full of excited children with eyes beaming!  In addition to their great musical and creative qualities, rhythm sticks are great for redirecting those children that just need to hit things together, or simply work out some energy.  

You can buy rhythm sticks for a lot or a little, but if you’re pinching every penny (and who isn’t these days), or if you are susceptible to sudden flashes of inspiration, requiring that you must have these fantastic instruments for tomorrow’s activity and can’t possibly wait for shipping, you can make them yourself, quickly and inexpensively. 

First off, go on down to your helpful hardware place like Home Depot, or a craft store, or even the old Wally Mart, and get wooden dowels.  (I know for sure that the Depot sells carpentry-grade hardwood dowels, I can’t vouch for the others.)  I used the 5/8″ size, which comes in a 48″ length for about $2.  You’re going to cut them into 8″ lengths, so each dowel will make about 3 pairs of sticks.  Now, when I say “you’re going to cut them”, I mean that very loosely.  If you’re not so handy with a table saw, find a friend who is and who is nice enough to help you out.  My husband happens to fit this criteria fully, and did my dirty work for me.  You may even ask around at a hardware store or lumber yard and find that they do cuts for free or for a minimal fee.  You can  make your sticks longer if you like, but I don’t think I’d go much shorter.  You can also get thicker dowels if you prefer.  Maybe make a few different sizes and see how their sounds might differ! 

After cutting the sticks, inspect the ends.  You may need to do some sanding to make sure you don’t have any splinters or rough edges.  If you’re lazy  simple like I am, leave them natural.  If you’re feeling a bit more ambitious, you can paint them or decorate them anyway you want.

So there you have it!  In less than an afternoon, and for under $1 a pair, you have a class set of rhythm sticks!  I’ve found that at the 8″ size they store very handily in an old plastic zipper case for a set of sheets I had bought, or you could easily use a shoe box or a small storage bin.  So get your sticks ready, I guarantee you’ll get your mileage out of them!

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Filed under Large Motor Skills, Learning through Play and Experience, music and movement activity, supplies