Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Music Appreciation and Activities for Toddlers & Preschoolers

Toddlers & Preschoolers love to listen to music while playing. Quoted from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, “Children are natural musicians, and exposure to music during the early years enhances the learning process by promoting language development, creativity, coordination, and social interaction.

Caregivers can play an important role in incorporating music and movement into a child’s life.”

“It isn't necessary to play an instrument well or sing in tune to help young children appreciate musical sounds, and they should not be encumbered with the need to meet performance goals. In fact, music play (whether recorded or live) can be an enjoyable, developmentally appropriate activity regardless of musical aptitude.”

This article takes music appreciation a step further with fun activities to enjoy with music for toddlers and preschoolers, as well as older age groups.

Ø  Nursery Rhymes/songs

Here is a list of common nursery rhymes that are fun to sing along with this age group. This is a great opportunity to encourage clapping, tapping, using fingers, shouting out, making sounds, using their imagination, and all around being silly. For the lyrics of these songs, simply Google the title.

•    If Your Happy and You Know It
•    Ring A Round The Rosie
•    Eensy Weensy Spider (Itsy-Bitsy Spider) 
•    Pat-A-Cake 
•    Old MacDonald Had A Farm 
•    This is the way we . . . 
•    Row Row Row Your Boat 
•    Bingo is His Name-O 
•    Alphabet Song  
•    Head Shoulders Knees & Toes
•    The Wheels on the Bus 
•    Twinkle Twinkle Little Star  
•    Hokey Pokey
•    Five Little Speckled Frogs Song

Ø  Dress Up and Dance

Materials: You can find animal hats at craft shops or costume places. If you search online, use search words like educational materials or catalog for educational toys. See the bottom this article for a list of my favorite educational online websites.

You will need some music for this. I find all sorts of music in the form of CDs at our local library in the children’s section as well as downloading online.

I like to do this as a musical activity because the music motivates their imagination. Pretty much any music for children will do. I bring out hats for dress up to keep it simple. This way the little ones could crawl, roll, and run around without a full costume confining them from being active. I like animal hats, because they could really use their full imagination acting as the animal they choose to be. Other ideas for hats are fairy tale related hats like princess, king, queen, or witch. You can collect career related hats like; dancer, firefighter, nurse, doctor, police, or limo/taxi driver. The little ones usually, try on most if not all the hats and change their mind after a few minutes. I might put on a couple of hats myself just to get them motivated in using their imagination.

Ø  Dress Up and Imaginary Play

The preschool age group along with older age group has a wonderful imagination and love to dress up. I’ve collected Halloween costumes over the years and purchased dress up outfits as well. Let them use their imagination and have fun with the outfits. You can add bracelets and necklaces along with dress up shoes.

To find dress up outfits for cheap, check out your local second hand store or thrift stores. They often have great costumes at good prices a week before Halloween.

Ø  Instruments in Parade

Materials: You can find instruments that are simple for this age in toy stores or by looking up online through various educational stores. See my favorite websites below. Use search words like educational materials or catalog for educational toys.

You will need some music for this. I find all sorts of music in the form of CDs at our local library in the children’s section as well as downloading online.

Musical instruments for toddlers should be easy for them to use and carry on their own with no pointy or sharp edges as well as nothing too small to put in their mouth. The basic supplies of instruments to have around are: a couple of drums, shakers, bells, even a little toddler size piano can be fun.

Pretty much any music for children will do. I get them motivated by following me around the room while holding one of the instruments by either shaking or banging. I march as if I’m in a parade. The little ones get the idea as they follow. The little ones take turns as they learn how to share and trade for another instrument. They don’t need to be in any rhythm, just by the beat of their own heart and their own imagination. Our room gets loud and full of music as we have fun expressing our musical abilities.

Ø  Scarf Dancing

Materials: Find square scarves. Around ten scarves is a good number to have in supply. Different colors and designs are even better. I’ve collected them over the years. You can find scarves at garage sales, clothing stores, or at different events. You can even make some of your own. It’s very simple to make your own. Go to a local fabric or craft store. Sometimes fabric stores have small rolls of material for cheap. You can cut out squares and sew hems on the ends to prevent fraying. The average scarf square usually measures about 12” x 12”.  You will need some music for this. I find all sorts of music in the form of CDs at our local library in the children’s section as well as downloading online.

You can use the scarves in any way you want for this fun activity. What I have done with the little ones is first spread out all the scarves on a cleared floor. It works best on the carpet rather than on tile or wood. This is so they won’t slip when jumping on the scarves. Spread them out next to each other in any fashion. For instance, spread them out in a circle with maybe some in the middle as well. While the music is playing, we hop from one square to the next. For ones that can’t hop yet, encourage stepping from one square to the next. Then we try different things like stepping backwards, stepping sideways and so on. As they get bored of this, ask each to grab a scarf or two and wave them in the air like the wind is catching their scarves. We dance with our scarves going in circles, twisting, jumping, and running. Then I show them how to dress up with scarves by attaching the ends to belt loops, shoulder straps, and backs of their shirt. Then we dance with the scarves attached using our own form of dance. Afterward, if they are still showing interest, I add a game of color with the scarves. While throwing up a scarf, we call out the color (or main color) of the scarf. They love to throw them up to see where they land. This is a good physical activity as well as appreciation for dance with music.

Ø  Plate Dancing

Materials: paper plates – two for each child. You will need some music for this. I find all sorts of music in the form of CDs at our local library in the children’s section as well as downloading online.

I hand out paper plates two for each child. While the music is playing, we clap the plates together. They usually follow me as I lift the plates up towards the ceiling (still clapping) and bring the plates down towards my feet. I continue clapping the plates while reaching to the right and then to the left and then full circle going from the left to the ceiling to the right and back down to my feet. I do this several times. This is a good stretching exercise for the little ones.

I move on with the using the plates with our imagination. Each time we do the plate dancing activity it’s always something different as I let the little ones take the lead. Some of the ideas we have come up with are; butterfly wings (hold plates on your backside and flap) airplane (hold arms out on your sides holding plates flat) bird (flap plates on your side) or pat different parts of your body like head, shoulders, knees, feet, and bottom. Sometimes they would pretend one of the plates is a skateboard placing one foot on the plate and pushing off the floor with the other foot. Occasionally they would pretend act as a train by placing one foot on each plate and scooting across the floor. Sometimes they would pretend to be a ballerina spinning around with a foot on one plate. Sometimes they like to sit on the plate and spin around. It’s amazing how creative they can be with their imagination and a paper plate.

Ø  Musical Pillows

Materials: Find any pillows wide enough to sit on. You will need one pillow for each child and for you as well. You will need some music for this. I find all sorts of music in the form of CDs at our local library in the children’s section as well as downloading online.

Musical Pillows is a toddler version of Musical Chairs.  I lay the pillows in a row right next to each other. Pretty much any type of children music will do for this activity. I turn on the music and encourage the little ones to follow me. This activity is led by the little ones. We walk around the pillows in a circle until someone decides to sit on a pillow. If they haven’t played this before, and you have walked around the pillows several times already, go ahead and sit yourself down on a pillow. Then point to the other pillows to encourage them to sit down, as well. The music stays on through this activity. At this point you wait to see if one of the little ones stands up. As soon as that happens, quickly stand up as well. You can say, “Oh, Ruthie stood up let’s follow her.” This usually gets the others to follow. There are no hard rules in this activity. Usually whoever stands up first is the leader and we follow whichever direction the leader goes until one of the other little ones decides to sit on a pillow. Then you can say, “Oh, Joey sat on a pillow. Let’s all sit on a pillow. Quick!” After a few rounds, they will get the idea. It goes faster as the little ones like to sit down just as quickly as one stands up. The game never really ends until a couple of the little ones start to lose interest or if the adult gets too exhausted. Then it’s time for a water break. It’s a good aerobic exercise.

As the little one grow and appreciate music through dance and play, they could take off any direction in music. During their school age years, they might show an interest in learning how to play an instrument, show an interest in dance, or even the theater as they expand their appreciation, imagination, and knowledge.

My favorite educational websites for activity materials:
Kaplan Early Learning Company www.kaplanco.com
Toys R Us www.toysrus.com
Discount School Supply www.discountschoolsupply.com

More articles relating to this topic are:
Library of Children's Music
The Importance of Fun of Learning Toddler Activities

It is my hope that you enjoy musical activities with your little one while they learn and grow,


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