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How to Play the Musical Chairs Game with Kids

The Musical Chairs game is an interactive and enjoyable game often played at birthday parties. It’s also great for any setting where you have a group of children, such as a class or group of friends on a playdate.

Find out how to play this awesome group game, why it’s actually educational, and discover some fun variations of musical chairs for kids.

Musical Chairs is sometimes referred to as the Chair Game and Trip to Jerusalem.

Kids playing musical chairs on playground. Text reads "How to play the musical chairs game with kids".

How Many Players Do You Need for Musical Chairs?

To make the game fun, it’s best to play with at least 5 to 10 children. The bigger the group, the better. 

If you’re playing with toddlers or young preschoolers, it’s ok to play with just a few so you can teach them the concept of dancing, listening for the music to stop and quickly finding a chair to sit on. 

For toddlers, it is better not to remove a chair on each round as they may not understand the concept of games with rules yet.

Musical Chairs Rules

How do you play a game of musical chairs? 

  • To play Musical Chairs, you just need children, chairs and music!
  • The chairs are placed in a circle, usually facing outwards.
  • You’ll need one chair for every child.
  • The adult plays some music which the children dance freely to, and one chair is removed from the circle.
  • When the music stops, the children have to sit on a chair as quickly as possible.
  • Whoever doesn’t find a chair is out and must wait on the side.
  • Continue the game until the last child sits on the last chair.
  • Then, start a new round.
Kids playing musical chairs on playground

Musical Chairs with a Twist

How do you make musical chairs fun? Try these Musical Chairs variations to suit different ages and play different versions.

  • Involve the children who are out – Allow the child who is out to remove one chair in the next round so that the child doesn’t have to immediately exit the game.
  • Change the rules for toddlers – Don’t remove chairs so toddlers can be involved in every round.
  • Face inwards – To get the children facing each other and therefore interacting more, face the chairs inwards and dance inside the circle.
  • Place chairs back to back – Instead of making a circle with the chairs, place them back to back in two rows.
  • Place chairs randomly – Allocate a big area for dancing and place the chairs randomly around the room so they are not as easy to find when the music stops.
  • Don’t use chairs – You can change the chairs out for paper plates, hula hoops or any other objects that you can get kids to sit on. Call the game “musical hoops” or “musical plates instead.”
  • Following instructions – Use the game to teach listening and gross motor skills by choosing an action to perform to the music for each round instead of dancing. They could march, do jumping jacks, or hop around the room. Kids have to follow the instructions and also pay attention to when the music stops so they can find a seat.
Older children playing a game of musical chairs in the park

Musical Chair Game Benefits

What do children learn from the Musical Chairs game?

There are so many benefits of music in general. Here are just a few of the benefits of playing this game:

Gross Motor Skills

Musical Chairs is a movement game, which means it will develop children’s gross motor skills.

Speed, Balance and Coordination

Kids need to react quickly and move with speed or they will not make it to a chair on time. They need balance and coordination to execute these movements.

Spatial Skills

Learning to share space with others and navigate their bodies around others – without knocking into them – is an important part of sensory development.

By playing this game, children are able to develop their understanding of their position in space as they dance, plan their route and then run to a chair.


Making it safely to a chair requires planning in advance. While dancing, kids must plan where they want to attempt to sit, as well as develop some backup plans in case the seat is taken.

It would not make sense, for example, to run to the other side of the room if a seat is taken but rather to find the next closest seat.

Concentration and Listening Skills

Kids need to listen and pay attention so they can react as soon as the music stops. It teaches quick thinking.

Social Skills

Musical Chairs is great for building social skills. Kids learn to move together, share space, avoid hurting anyone when attempting to get to a chair, and be patient. They also get to practise losing gracefully.

Children dancing together happily

Musical Chairs Music

The best songs for musical chairs are upbeat and have a nice rhythm that kids can dance to.

Favourite Nursery Rhymes

Young children will enjoy dancing to familiar, favourite nursery rhymes. 

Here is a comprehensive preschool songs list.

Popular Songs

For the most fun, play popular songs that kids and adults both enjoy. Here are a few that are always a hit.

Illustration of kids dancing to music

Musical Chairs Compilations

YouTube has many videos with music suitable for a game of Musical Chairs. These ones have stops built into them so you don’t have to stop and start the music yourself.

Games Similar to Musical Chairs

The following two games are very similar to Musical Chairs as they are both movement games that require listening to the music and taking action when the music stops.

  • Musical Statues – Also called Freeze Dance, in Musical Statues children must dance to the music and then freeze when the music stops.
  • Pass the Parcel – In this carpet game, children pass a wrapped parcel around the circle while the music is playing and when the music stops, the child who is holding the parcel must remove one layer of wrapping.

While the following games are not played to music, they are also great for developing listening skills:

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