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9 Fun Music Games For Kids That Are Excellent for Development

Music is a wonderful activity for parents and teachers to engage in with a child. Did you know that it develops your child physically, intellectually, socially and emotionally?

Before we look at these nine simple music games for kids, here is a quick overview of how your children are learning during musical play.

The Benefits of Music in Early Childhood Education

The benefits of engaging in music activities and games with your preschool and kindergarten child are endless and should be a part of your daily play together.

Intellectual Development

Music has a huge impact on a child’s cognitive development in many ways.

When children sing and use actions along with the words, they develop an understanding of symbolism which leads to pretend or symbolic play, an important activity in early childhood.

Children build an understanding of concepts such as high/low, fast/slow, numbers, letters, etc., and their language skills are stimulated, leading to increased vocabulary.

They also learn about cause-effect relationships with simple movements (“If I shake this the bells make a sound”).

Engaging in music activities that are guided by a parent is a great way to improve children’s attentiveness and attention span, as well as memory, due to the repetition in songs and constant exposure to lyrics.

A simple activity such as sorting instruments can develop classification skills.

Emotional and Social Development

The best advantage of singing is that music is an activity that children always feel a sense of success with. There is no right or wrong way to do things and so the experience is always positive.

Children feel successful by singing simple songs, moving to music, playing a simple instrument such as bells, and having their name used in a song. This leads to feelings of increased worth, competence and self-esteem.

Many reserved children find they are able to come out of their shell when singing and dancing and they have a way to express their feelings in a healthy way. They show their emotions through moving, listening, singing and playing instruments.

Music is a form of creative expression which develops a child’s sense of self.

When playing together with your children they learn how to take turns and be considerate, whether sharing equipment or allowing others space and time to sing and express themselves.

kids playing a musical game

Motivational Development

Motivation comes from within a child and nurtures their urge to learn. It comes from a desire to be successful as well as a need to associate positively with others.

During music games, kids feel good about themselves, which is important to even very young children.

During a game where children are given choices, they build a sense of will by making their own decisions and choosing what to do.

They learn self-control and impulse control, which means they think before acting, and stay engaged in one activity instead of moving from one to another.

Music generally relaxes, energises and motivates children.

Motor Development

Motor development refers to how the body grows and develops. Music activities are packed with opportunities for movement, such as dancing, marching, walking, hopping, touching and moving body parts.

Action songs, dances, playing with instruments and all kinds of games are excellent opportunities to move the body. Music is seldom a static activity.

Young girl playing the game musical statues

It is important for children to learn how to execute movements correctly and in a controlled way using their whole body. They start by developing their large muscles (gross motor) and later develop their small muscles in their hand (fine motor).

Through movement in music they discover and explore their own bodies and understand what their bodies are capable of doing.

For young children, musical activities are a great way to develop body image. This is learned through songs and action rhymes that name body parts.

Hand-eye coordination is developed through simple activities such as playing instruments or using body percussion (tapping, clicking, etc).

The vestibular system (in the inner ear) is responsible for balance, eye movement and a child’s awareness of their body in space.

This awareness is called proprioception and allows a child to understand where his body is – above, below, in, out, in front of, behind, near, far, up, down, etc.

The vestibular system is critical for development and is responsible for nearly all of our motor functions and some of our sensory functions. It can be stimulated through sound (listening and auditory discrimination) and movement.

It also affects mood, activity levels and general focusing of attention. The ear, brain and sense of balance are connected through the vestibular system.

Rocking, swinging and swaying to music, walking on tiptoes, walking on a rope and hopping on one leg are examples of activities that will stimulate this important system.

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Music games are also a medium through which children can develop lateral dominance. This means having an inner awareness of the two sides of the body.

As it develops, they start to prefer using one side (of their ears, eyes, hands and legs) and this usually happens by the age of 5 or 6.

The next stage is known as midline crossing which means crossing one side of the body to the other side.

It is an important milestone and can be practised during action songs where the arms cross over the body, or when playing instruments that require crossing one arm over to the other side (e.g. hitting a drum to the left with the stick in the right hand).

By starting to cross the midline, young children improve their physical growth in both hemispheres of the brain.

Children who have control of their large muscles then start to develop the small muscles responsible for holding a pencil, cutting, tearing, threading, tying shoelaces, fastening buttons, undressing, etc.

Activities such as playing with instruments, clicking fingers or drawing to the melody can build fine motor skills, necessary to learn to hold a pencil and write later on.

Visual Development

Through music, children are able to discover their environment through their senses (seeing and listening). This is known as perceptual development and visual and auditory skills are two components of it.

Visual-motor development is the ability to execute movements as guided by the eyes. It includes eye-hand, eye-foot and eye-motor (both hands) coordination. An activity such as playing with instruments will develop eye-hand coordination.

From the age of around 5 or 6, children are able to start understanding concepts from what they see. The brain stores information in the short and long-term memory by breaking things up into smaller parts and putting them together again.

Examples of this would be completing a picture, song or rhythm.

Music activities can also develop a child’s binocular functions, which means he is able to merge the two fields of vision from the two eyes into one field of vision when he looks at something.

Attention span can be built when playing music games, which enables children to do long periods of work where their eyes have to stay focused.

Auditory Development

Auditory-motor development is the ability to execute movements as guided by the ears. It includes ear-hand, ear-foot and ear-motor (both ears) coordination.

Children who grow up listening to sounds – frogs croaking, dogs barking, planes flying overhead, poetry, stories and music – will have well-developed auditory skills.

The ear (vestibular system) plays a central role in language and movement development. The whole body is directed by the ear as the hearing organ.

When a child listens and looks attentively, he uses his whole body and is then able to focus on what is needed from the environment for his development.

Listening is a skill that children must learn in order to become aware of sounds in their environment.

It leads to better attention skills, a good listening ear for learning, and well-developed auditory discrimination skills – an important skill for learning to read.

This means children learn to perceive the sounds within words.

Young girl holding her ear and showing that she is listening to the music

Through music activities children can learn to hear similarities and differences in pitch, volume and intensity; sounds, words and sentences; numbers; rhythm and distance.

Auditory sequencing and memorizing means what is heard can be stored and recalled in a meaningful way.

This is also important for reading, as well as auditory analysis – analysing words or clapping syllables or sounds and auditory synthesis – adding sounds and syllables together to form a word or pattern.

Finally, auditory closure means children are able to process instructions in less than 4 seconds so the content is not lost.

This is a brief overview of the many benefits of music for young children. The following games will develop a combination of the above skills.

9 Music Games For Preschoolers and Kindergarteners

I have purposefully chosen 9 really simple activities that need little to no prep or fuss. They are not complicated games with lots of rules, but small activities with big educational benefits.

Here are 9 of the best preschool music games that are perfect for playing at home.

They are also great music games for the classroom.

Pinnable image - 9 music games for kids

1. Musical Statues and Musical Chairs

Musical statues/chairs is an excellent game for developing auditory discrimination. Children have to listen carefully for the difference between sound and silence and they engage their whole body during the game.

You can play musical statues alone with your child but musical chairs is best played with at least 3 or 4 family members or friends.

It is also one of the best music games for the classroom as you can involve many children.

I have listed both versions because they both work different motor skills so you should try them both out.

Musical statues is great for developing control of the body and strengthening it while “freezing” in mid-air.

Musical chairs, on the other hand, teaches children to move through things and get a sense of their position in space as they run around trying to find a chair to sit on, without bashing into others.

How to play musical statues:

  • Play music on a cd player or cell phone
  • While the music is playing, everyone dances around the room
  • Stop the music every now and then and everyone must freeze in the exact position they were dancing in when the music stopped
  • If you move, you are “out.” For young children, it is lots of fun to just keep freezing without anyone going “out”

How to play musical chairs:

  • Set out chairs around the room (one for each player)
  • Play music on a cd player or cell phone
  • While the music is playing, everyone dances around the room
  • Remove one chair while everyone is dancing
  • Stop the music every now and then and everyone must run and sit on one of the chairs
  • Whoever didn’t get to a chair in time is “out”
  • Repeat, removing a chair each time until there are two people left and the one who sits on the remaining chair first is the winner

2. Pass the Parcel

The pass the parcel game is an old favourite, traditionally played at birthday parties. Play it at home and you will get your kids moving and listening carefully. The best part is that children will be crossing the midline each time they pass the parcel along.

It can be played in two (passing back and forth), but if 3 or more play, then children will be crossing the midline as they pass from their left to their right and vice versa.

How to play Pass the parcel:

  • Wrap any object (or small gifts if it is a birthday party) into many layers of newspaper or wrapping paper. Make the layers easy to remove.
  • Play music on a cd player or cell phone
  • The parcel gets passed in a clockwise direction (teach your child this word while you’re at it!)
  • When the music stops, the person holding the parcel can remove one layer of wrapping
  • When the music continues, the parcel keeps being passed around, until the music stops again and another layer is removed
  • The person who removes the final layer to reveal the parcel is the winner
  • Change direction for each new round (clockwise to anti-clockwise)
  • Make sure the parcel is received with both hands and passed to the next person with both hands (to ensure crossing the midline)

3. One Little Elephant

Act out the song One Little Elephant. You’ll be teaching your kids to count and understand how numbers increase in value by 1 each time, and you’ll also be practising the important skill of balancing and walking in a straight line.

Here are the lyrics:

One little elephant balancing
Step by step on a piece of string
Thought it was such tremendous fun
That (insert name) called for another elephant to come

Two little elephants…
Three little elephants…

Five little elephants balancing
Step by step on a piece of string
Then the string broke and they all fell in
No more little elephants!

Listen to the tune on youTube:

How to play One Little Elephant:

  • Lay a piece of string down on the floor
  • Start the game by being the first elephant to walk along the string, and use your arms to balance.
  • Everyone sings the lyrics together
  • Pick a child to join you for the second verse and continue until all players are walking step-by-step on the string
  • For the last verse the string breaks and you all collapse on the floor

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4. How Many Instruments Do You Hear?

In this game, the object is to listen for and identify different instruments. Your child will need to have had some exposure to instruments and recognize the basic ones.

You can also play clippings of instruments on YouTube to teach your child some of them, but real-life instruments will be far more meaningful.

Here is a great set of educational instruments.

How to play, how many instruments do you hear?

  • Play a song on a cd player or cell phone
  • Any song with instruments will do (try to search on YouTube for the instrumental version of songs)
  • You and your child each have a piece of paper and must draw the instruments you hear
  • At the end of the song, compare drawings and see who heard the most instruments

5. Match the Sounds

For this activity, you will need a variety of basic instruments (or even handmade or improvised instruments).

The objective is to listen to the music and try to find appropriate instruments that match or pair well with the sound.

Some examples:

  • Hitting a triangle (or two pieces of cutlery together) for small, high sounds
  • Banging on drums or a box for a slow, deep voice
  • Banging cymbals together (or pot lids) for a loud, high voice
  • Shaking bells or a tambourine for fast music

There are no rules here. Demonstrate a song first by making suggestions about what items could match the sounds and ask for your child’s input. Then play songs and let your child freely play their choices to the music.

6. Draw the Music

In this activity children quite literally draw the music as they hear it.

Provide large pieces of paper and pencils or wax crayons and ask your child to draw what they hear.

They could draw:

  • How the music makes them feel
  • Draw wavy lines or zig-zags to represent slow, flowing music or fast, choppy music
  • Draw the beats they hear (e.g. draw short and long lines for short and long sounds)

Keep this totally open and allow your child to surprise you with how he interprets and draws the music. Draw your own interpretation at the same time and see how your pictures differ.

7. Hide and Listen

This game is about hearing the volume and making the correct associations (loud means close and soft means far).

How to play, hide and listen:

  • Blindfold your child and hide any instrument (such as a tambourine) somewhere in the room where you are playing
  • Tell your child what instrument she must find
  • Your child then searches for the instrument while you play music in the background
  • Explain that when the music gets softer he is going further from the instrument and when it gets louder he is getting closer to it

8. Dance to the song

This game involves using the whole body and using actions and props to represent the music.

How to play, dance to the song:

  • Use props such as scarves, streamers, ribbons, sticks to bang together, etc.
  • Use your body to make sounds – stamp feet, click fingers, clap hands, march, tiptoe, etc.
  • Play different types of songs – nursery rhymes, classical songs, pop songs from the radio, etc.
  • Dance freely together and let the creative juices flow by using the props
  • A classical song could work well with a scarf or ribbon, an upbeat song could be clapped to or the sticks could be banged together, a nursery rhyme could be marched to (e.g. The ants go marching), etc.
  • Demonstrate some examples and ask your child to make up some of her own examples
  • Finally, choreograph your own song together with instruments, props and movements

9. Let’s Make Up the Words

This last activity is extra challenging as you will be teaching your child about rhyme as well as rhythm.

How to play, let’s make up the words:

  • Choose a well-known nursery rhyme with a fairly easy melody, such as Baa-baa black sheep.
  • Make up a new name for the rhyme together
  • Taking turns and going line-by-line, make up new words for the song
  • Try to get the lines to rhyme in pairs
  • Try to match the rhythm of the song (e.g. My-name-is-A-me-li-a, My-bro-ther-is-much-ol-der)

And there you have it, 9 very easy music games for the classroom or your home!


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Activity Pack for preschoolers

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Rock Out Loud

Saturday 2nd of October 2021

Like all these music games ideas to help kids learn new skills! Thank you for sharing this useful post!

Tanja Mcilroy

Monday 4th of October 2021

I'm glad you enjoyed these!

adip,

Wednesday 28th of July 2021

very very god for the development of a child. thanks lots.

Tanja Mcilroy

Wednesday 28th of July 2021

Thank you, Adip!

Wageha Soltan

Thursday 14th of January 2021

I like the musical activities

Tanja Mcilroy

Friday 15th of January 2021

Thanks for your comment!

Matheus Galdino

Wednesday 30th of September 2020

Excelente content! Learning from Brazil and playing with my daughters.

Thanks!

Tanja Mcilroy

Thursday 1st of October 2020

Thank you Matheus! Enjoy trying these ideas with your daughters.

LaShawn Johnson

Tuesday 31st of March 2020

I found this article very helpful, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Parents need inexpensive activities to do at home to keep their children engaged. You incorporated lots of learning concepts while having fun with music. Thank you so much!!!!!

Tanja Mcilroy

Wednesday 1st of April 2020

You're welcome LaShawn. I hope these tips will help lots of parents during this difficult time. Enjoy!

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