Childcare Activities

Music Activities for Child Development

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The benefits of music activities

There are several reasons why exposure to music and music activities in early childhood is important:

  • It engages and stimulates the brain, for example boosting language learning ability and improving short-term memory function.
  • It helps with the child development of listening skills and improves concentration.
  • It supports physical and mental wellbeing, by encouraging movement and providing a means of expression.
  • It supports the child development of gross motor skills such as coordination and balance.
  • It helps children develop their social, cooperative and communication skills.
  • It fosters creativity and encourages an interest in learning (eg about different instruments and cultures).

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music activities


Singing and performing

Incorporate music making into daily nursery life as much as possible, giving the children plenty of opportunities to sing and to play instruments:

1. Songs and nursery rhymes

Sing songs during circle time (eg name songs), and have regular fun throughout the day with action songs and nursery rhymes.

2. Carnival procession

Give the children drums that they can carry, and have a carnival procession through the nursery and garden. Take it in turns to be the leader, beating out the rhythm that the others then copy.

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3. Story sound effects

Let the children choose different percussion instruments (eg drums, shakers, tambourines, bells) and read a story together, with the children providing sound effects for the different characters or actions.

4. Play a tune on bells

Invest in a set of combi-bells (and practise playing tunes together, with you conducting (ie pointing to each child when it’s their turn to ring their bell).

Listening and responding activities

As well as making music, try some music activities that involve listening and responding to music:

5. Paint what you hear

Tape some large pieces of paper to the floor and get the children to paint a giant mural while listening to some evocative music, and responding to the different sounds and moods that they hear.

6. Streamer dance

Give the children ribbons or scarves and put on some music for them to dance to with their streamers (try this activity using music of varying types and speeds).

7. Go to a concert

Weekday concerts aimed specifically at preschoolers are becoming increasingly popular, so see if there’s anything like that available near you. Alternatively, you could see if any local musicians might be able to visit your nursery and perform for the children.

Music activities

Making instruments

Get creative with the children and explore different sounds and rhythms using a range of homemade musical instruments. There are plenty of ideas online – here are just a few:

8. Shakers

Use plastic eggs (like the ones used in egg hunts), or small bottles/jars with lids, and fill them with rice or beads. Tape round the tops or edges to secure.

9. Rain sticks

Push some nails into a long, thick cardboard tube (a tin foil tube is ideal), fill the tube with large dried beans, seal both ends, cover it with paper or foil, and decorate.

10. Bell bracelets

Buy some craft bells and thread them onto pipe cleaners so that the children can wear them as jingly bracelets.

11. Paper plate tambourines

Decorate some sturdy paper plates, make holes all around the edges, and tie craft bells onto them.

12. Drums

You’ll need some balloons with their ends cut off, some tins or tubs, some tape or rubber bands, and materials to decorate. Stretch the balloons over the tins/tubs and secure with tape or rubber bands. Use wooden spoons for drumsticks.

These homemade instruments make for great music activities, however make sure you also have a good selection of other instruments for the children to play with (eg harmonicas, xylophones etc).

Enriching learning

Provide rich learning experiences for the children by looking for opportunities to use music activities as a way of exploring other subjects too:

13. Different cultures

Listen to music from around the world, explore the different rhythms and sounds, and find out about the importance of particular types of music in different cultures.

14. Identify instruments

Help the children to learn about different musical instruments by looking at pictures and listening to music; you could also ask parents to bring in instruments from home. Match the instruments to the sounds that they make.

15. Seasons, colours, animals etc

The subject matter of many songs and nursery rhymes provides a great way of teaching children about all kinds of things; embed this further through craft projects based on particular songs or rhymes.

What music activities have you found most beneficial? Do you have any more we can add to our list?

Or why not try our other activity articles:



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