Music Activities for Toddlers
Exposure to music is immensely beneficial to preschool children in all sorts of ways, from supporting their cognitive development to providing an outlet for their creativity and emotions. There are plenty of different aspects to explore, including movement, singing, rhythm, sounds, learning about instruments and making instruments; here are some of our best ideas for music activities to get you started.
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 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 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).
Some different kinds of music activities to try
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Bell bracelets – buy some craft bells and thread them onto pipe cleaners so that the children can wear them as jingly bracelets.
- Paper plate tambourines – decorate some sturdy paper plates, make holes all around the edges, and tie craft bells onto them.
- 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).
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
As well as making music, try some music activities that involve listening and responding to music:
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
Provide rich learning experiences for the children by looking for opportunities to use music activities as a way of exploring other subjects too:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?