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Music and Movement for Kids: 26 Fun Activities

‘Music and Movement’ is such an important part of a child’s development and the two naturally go together. It is hard to engage in a musical activity without starting to move unconsciously to the music.

Although these two types of activities can certainly be used individually with children, you see even more learning and motivation when they are combined.

Read on to find out the importance of music and movement for kids as well as 26 simple, low-prep activities you can try at home or school.

What is Music and Movement in Early Childhood?

In early childhood, music and movement are often used together in fun songs and to practise counting and learning other concepts. 

Kids are actively participating as they sing, hum and move to nursery rhymes, action songs and other music.

Beyond dance, movement includes fundamentals such as jumping, swaying, hopping, and bending.

The movement aspect makes music even more active than merely listening to or even singing along with the tunes. [source]

Music and Movement for Toddlers 

Combining music and movement should start early, as infants develop beyond the lullaby stage into toddlerhood.

Moving to music encourages brain development, vocabulary growth, social skills, and stress regulation in children. 

In addition, motor skills, spatial awareness and balance are strengthened through these types of activities.

Some ideas to incorporate include: [source]

Music and Movement for Preschoolers

Music and movement in preschool are integral aspects of the daily routine and can be incorporated easily at home, as well.

Using chanting, singing, and movement, preschoolers transition from one activity to the next, clean up their work/play spaces, and experience both lively and calm moments.

Preschool music and movement are also used to practise a wide variety of cognitive, social and motor skills, in addition to routines involving weather, calendar, letters and numbers. [source] 

What is the Importance of Music and Movement in Early Childhood? 

There are a wide variety of benefits of teaching music to preschoolers, that are then combined with movements. You can expect to see positive gains in the following areas: 

Social Skills

Music and movement activities often involve group participation. Because of this, a sense of belonging is often an outcome of taking part. 

Children make new friends, learn names and help others, thus strengthening their social skills

Little girl dancing outside

Emotional Expression and Management

Children often are unaware of feeling upset. If they express themselves through song and movement, they can get control of their emotions and learn new coping skills to be drawn upon in the future. 

In addition, regular exposure to music and movement can help kids manage their emotions, which is an important part of their emotional development.

Soothing music helps to relax children, for example, while more lively beats can energize them. 

Pre-Reading and Vocabulary Skills

Listening to and singing songs often involves pre-reading skills such as rhyming, repetition, storytelling and voice/body expression. 

Songs can be used to learn new words and to practise letter sounds, word parts and alliteration. 

Traditions, Self-Concept, and Social Studies Skills

Through music and dance, children can experience the arts of other cultures. 

They also gain a new or wider appreciation for the tunes and movements of their own cultures.

Pre-Maths Skills

Beat, rhythm and melody all relate to maths

Beat supports one-to-one correspondence and can lead to the concept of “more.” 

Rhythm also relates to one-to-one correspondence, in addition to the concept of “patterns.” 

Melody also connects to patterns, such as when sounds or words are repeated in songs. [source] 

Listening Skills

Kids learn to listen for changes in musical pitch (high/low) and tempo (slow/fast) while taking part in music and movement. 

In addition, they practise listening when learning new words or movements modelled by adults or leaders. 

Memory Skills

In order to remember and internalize words, tunes and movements, children sharpen their short- and long-term memory skills

They call upon their memories and past experiences each time they meet a new opportunity for movement and song. 

Problem Solving

Young kids sometimes have trouble expressing themselves in words. 

When asked for ideas on how to solve a problem in real life or in imaginary situations, such as in a story, they can often express their ideas more easily through movement and physical expression.

Creativity and Imagination

Music and movement are not merely singing and moving along to prescribed songs and sways.

Kids need opportunities to create their own tunes, words and moves, which can lead to sharpened imaginations in other areas, such as storytelling. 

Focus and Attention

In order to effectively learn and follow along with songs and movements, children must practise focus and how to remain attentive. This involves not only listening but also watching. 

Preschooler playing an ukulele

Cause/Effect and Predictability

Musical instruments are a wonderful way to explore cause and effect. What happens when I shake/press/strum this? 

In music and movement, children learn to predict what happens next. 

Balance, Coordination, and Rhythm

Movement and music offer practice in body control and developing a sense of rhythm. 

These include activities such as dancing, marching, skipping, leaning and bending. 

Sensory Motor Skills

Kids learn by doing. Music and movement activities give them more opportunities to combine motor skills with the senses of sight, hearing and touch.

Small Motor Skills

Small motor skills involve mainly the hands and fingers. 

Music and movement offer opportunities to enhance those strengths through activities such as playing musical instruments and taking part in finger plays

Large Motor Skills

Movement that involves the arms, legs and back strengthens kids’ large motor skills

Actions involve bending, balancing, dancing, hopping, stretching, skipping and jumping. 

26 Music and Movement Activities for Preschoolers

Music and movement in the classroom of any preschool are essential. The same types of activities and games should be used at home, as well. 

Check out the following selection of old standby music and movement songs and some other ideas of musical activities for 3-5-year-olds that may be new to you.

1. If You’re Happy

This is a somewhat different take on “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” This song combines singing, motor skills and exploration of emotions. 

2. We are the Dinosaurs

What kid could pass up the chance to stomp around the room? We are the Dinosaurs is a fun activity that combines singing, marching to rhythm, and various hand motions.

3. Little Bunny Foo Foo

An old favourite, Little Bunny Foo Foo tells a funny story in song. Kids take part by singing and adding hand movements. 

4. Scarf or Ribbon Dancing

Children hold silk scarves or long ribbons to twirl around in the air. Play relaxing classical music for them to sway to as they begin to feel calmer. 

5. Ring Around the Rosie with a Twist

After the kids sing the traditional “Ring Around the Rosie” song while turning in a circle and “falling down,” the leader chants, “The cows are in the meadow, eating buttercups; a-tishoo, a-tishoo! We all stand up.” 

This activity is good to practise sequential recall and patterns. 

Child pretending kitchen utensils are musical instruments

6. Musical Instruments

Show children how to use shakers, drums or other musical instruments in rhythm along with music. 

This can also be used in a parade format, with the kids marching and playing according to the beat. 

If you want, you can adapt the song “The Ants Go Marching,” such as “the bells go ringing,” “the sticks go tapping,” and so forth. 

7. Freeze Dance

To play freeze dance – also called musical statues – play musical favourites for the kids as they dance or move around the room as specified. 

When you stop the music, they must “freeze” in their tracks. 

8. Body Part Dancing

Turn on the music and tell children they must “dance” only with the body parts you specify. They might wiggle their fingers, swing their right legs, or twirl their left arms. 

9. Feather Dancing

Each child begins with a craft feather. Play music, fast or slow, while kids attempt to keep the feathers in the air by blowing on them. 

10. Alphabet Sounds and Actions

Kids practise sounds of the letters of the alphabet along with Dr. Jean. Singing along, they use their bodies to show the actions, such as cutting, digging and hopping. 

11. Musical Letters

Here’s how to play this variation of musical statues:

  • Place large letters of the alphabet on the floor in a circle. 
  • Each child stands on a letter and starts walking around the circle when the music begins.
  • They hurry to stand on a letter as soon as the music stops. 
  • The adult says, “Goodbye name of letter,” and then urges each child to name the letter (and possibly the letter sound) that is under their own feet. 
  • Then turn the music back on and the children resume walking. 
Preschoolers clapping to the music

12. Clapping, Snapping, or Stomping While Singing Names

Challenge kids to clap hands, snap fingers, or stomp feet for each syllable in names or other words sung/chanted. 

Ask kids to listen and find others in the group whose beats match their own.

13. Mood Music

Play different types of music samples. Ask kids to dance in ways that fit with the mood of each kind of music played.

14. Zoom, Zoom, Zoom

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom is a fun song that combines counting, hand motions and singing. Several options are presented for different groups or ages of children. 

15. Tanka Tanka Skunk! by Steve Webb

Available online, this picture book Tanka Tanka Skunk! encourages kids to tap out syllables, and there’s a refrain in which they can join in. 

Overall, the book is a great one for chanting along. The accompanying Symphony Storytime video features wonderful use of percussion

16. Tissue Dance

To do the tissue dance:

  • Each child places a tissue on their head. 
  • When the music starts, they dance around, attempting to keep the tissue in place. 
  • If it starts to fall, they can try to catch it and put it back in place on their head. 
  • They are “out” if the tissue hits the floor. 

17. Copy Me Game

Each child has a partner, and they take turns. To happy music, the first one moves, and the other child tries to copy that movement. 

Then the other person takes a turn, and so on, which often ends up in giggles.

18. The Farmer in the Dell

An old favourite, this game involves holding hands and circling around the “farmer,” singing the traditional song. Those chosen as the various characters also have a chance to pick others.

19. Animal Dancing

The leader starts some happy music and shouts out the name of an animal. Children must then dance or move, pretending to be that type of animal. 

They can also make animal noises to add to the fun. After a few minutes, a new animal is named. 

Child and family stretching together

20. Yoga Song for Kids

Combining easy yoga movements and music, Yoga Song for Kids combines stretching, music and counting. This is a great one to use for helping kids to become calm. 

21. One Potato, Two Potatoes

This chant incorporates rhythm, rhyme and counting. Kids can do this while jumping rope or as a fingerplay. 

One potato, two potatoes, three potatoes, four,
Five potatoes, six potatoes, seven potatoes, more.
Eight potatoes, nine potatoes, ten potatoes, all.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

One potato, two potatoes, three potatoes, four,
Five potatoes, six potatoes, seven potatoes, more.
Eight potatoes, nine potatoes, ten potatoes, all! 

22. Tightrope Walking

Use string, light rope, or ribbon on the ground or floor to form the “tightrope.” 

To music, kids pretend they are acrobats and practise balance and coordination while walking heel-to-toe across the rope. 

23. Shake My Sillies Out

This is a cute Raffi song for which kids join in to sing and take part in the movements. They shake, clap, jump, and finally yawn.

24. Move to the Beat

Here is a cute, repetitive movement song that can be used while children are seated. 

In Move to the Beat, they sing, take part in the various movements, and stop each one when they are directed. 

25. Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

This kids’ favourite combines singing and performing movements with both hands, and also enhances body awareness in youngsters.

26. Clean Up Song

Timed at 5 minutes, this cute Clean Up Song reminds kids about what they should be doing during clean-up time. 

The graphics count down the minutes and seconds, which also reinforces backwards counting.

A fun goal could be to finish cleaning up in less than 5 minutes so kids can gather and count down together at the end.

Teach your kids these fun songs about cleaning up as well, to shake things up when the familiar songs start to lose their power!

Mix things up in your planning to incorporate music and movement songs into your daily routine.

Touch all the bases by using activities for both small and large muscles, in addition to those that include singing the words or instrumental music in the background. 

Each day is a new beginning and adventure in music and movement!

26 easy music and movement ideas your preschooler will love.

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Sunday 23rd of April 2023

This web page is awesome! Kudos to you!!

Tanja Mcilroy

Monday 24th of April 2023

Thanks Deepti!

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