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Body Percussion for Kids: Simple Ideas and Activities

Body percussion is an important part of music education in early childhood. What is it and how can you introduce young children to it?

Here are some simple tips and ideas of body percussion for kids. 

What is Body Percussion?

Body percussion refers to the sounds which are made by body parts such as the hands, feet, fingers and mouth. The body is used like an instrument, to produce rhythmic sounds.

It may be used on its own, or along with music and dance. [source]

What are the 4 Main Body Percussion Sounds?

There are four main sounds that can be produced with body percussion:

  • Clapping and tapping 
  • Stamping (or stomping)
  • Patting and slapping
  • Snapping (or clicking)

Examples of Body Percussion

Here are some examples of body percussion sounds:

  • Clapping hands
  • Clicking fingers
  • Tapping fingers
  • Slapping knees
  • Stamping feet
  • Popping cheeks
  • Patting your head
  • Slapping thighs
  • Rubbing hands together
child rubbing hands together

What are the Benefits of Body Percussion?

There are many benefits to introducing children to body percussion. It:

How do you Teach Kids Body Percussion?

Incorporating a body percussion lesson is easy and fun to do with preschoolers, toddlers and even older children. It can also be taught at home with simple activities.

Teach kids action songs with words that tell them how to move their bodies (‘we all clap hands together…’) and choose songs that are rhythmic and have a consistent beat to them.

The examples below are common children’s songs and rhymes that your kids will already know, so it will be easy to follow along by substituting with body sounds.

Allow kids to make these sounds together, creating an ensemble so that the whole group is making the same sounds and therefore ‘making music’.

Teach kids what percussion instruments are and how our bodies make sounds similar to these instruments.

Body Percussion Songs and Activities

Here are some simple body percussion activities to try with your kids at home or at school. 

7 fun body percussion activities pinterest image

1. We All Clap Hands Together

Start introducing the body percussion basics through a simple, repetitive song such as this one. Replace any of the movements in the verses.

We all clap hands together,
We all clap hands together,
We all clap hands together,
As children like to do.

We all stamp feet together,
We all stamp feet together,
We all stamp feet together,
As children like to do.

We all slap knees together,
We all slap knees together,
We all slap knees together,
As children like to do.

We all tap fingers together,
We all tap fingers together,
We all tap fingers together,
As children like to do.

child tapping hands on face

2. This is the Way We Tap Our Fingers

This is another well-known song you can replace the words of. It is originally a song about brushing teeth, washing hands and getting ready in the morning.

This is the way we tap our fingers,
Tap our fingers, tap our fingers.
This is the way we tap our fingers,
While we sing our song.

This is the way we click our tongues, (click)
Click our tongues (click), click our tongues (click).
This is the way we click our tongues (click),
While we sing our song.

This is the way we slap our thighs,
Slap our thighs, slap our thighs.
This is the way we slap our thighs,
While we sing our song.

This is the way we snap our fingers,
Snap our fingers, snap our fingers.
This is the way we snap our fingers,
While we sing our song.

little girl dancing to music

3. If You’re Happy and You Know It

‘If you’re happy and you know it’ is a favourite among kids. Start with the original first verse and then replace the actions as you go.

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.
If you’re happy and you know it,
And you really want to show it.
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.

little boy clapping

4. The Ants Go Marching

This last song is also great for creating body percussion as it has a steady beat, which makes it good for getting a group of children to follow the beat together.

Sing the words as normal and give your kids instructions for each verse, such as tap, clap, stomp or click to the entire verse.

The ants go marching one by one,
Hurrah, hurrah.
The ants go marching one by one,
Hurrah, hurrah.
The ants go marching one by one,
The little one stops to suck his thumb,
And they all go marching down to the ground to get out of the rain.
Boom boom boom.

Here are the words to substitute for the rest of the verses:

Two by two: The little one stops to tie his shoe
Three by three: The little one stops to climb a tree
Four by four: The little one stops to shut the door
Five by five: The little one stops to take a dive
Six by six: The little one stops to pick up sticks
Seven by seven: The little one stops to pray to heaven
Eight by eight: The little one stops to roller skate
Nine by nine: The little one stops to check the time
Ten by ten: The little one stops to shout, “The End!”

5. Play Sounds to Music

Another way to teach body percussion is to listen to music and tap, click, stamp or clap along to the beat.

This is a good way to learn to follow the rhythm of the music.

Play music with different tempos so children get used to speeding up or slowing down as they make sounds with their body parts.

child clapping to the rhythm

6. Introduce Music Instruments

Many body percussion sounds closely resemble those of percussion instruments. Teach children to hear the similarities in the different sounds.

Play a musical instrument (or find the tune on YouTube if the instrument is not available), ask your kids to listen to the sound and then make that sound with their bodies. See if they can find a similar sound, then suggest one of these:

  • Triangle or finger cymbal – click fingers
  • Bang lightly on a hand drum – tap two fingers of one hand onto the palm of the other hand, or slap the knees
  • Bang on a timpani drum or listen to a gong – stamp feet
  • Hit rhythm sticks together – clap hands

If you have real instruments available, try playing an ensemble where some children play the instrument to the beat, while others use body percussion. 

Or, play a tune that has an instrument playing the beat and use the body to make sounds along with it.

Read about the many benefits of musical instruments.

7. Play Clapping Games

Clapping games are great for teaching rhythm and building a child’s coordination. 

Here are some clapping games for all levels, from preschoolers to older kids. Substitute some of the clapping with tapping and clicking to use these songs for body percussion activities.

Those are just a few ideas for incorporating percussion into music and movement for kids.

For more ideas, try these music games.

Source:

Le Roux, A. 2011. Music in Early Childhood Development and the Foundation Phase. Le Roux: Pretoria

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