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Easy Music Games For Parents With Young Children

If you’re looking for some fresh ideas to engage your children with music as lockdown continues, there are hundreds of wonderful free and paid resources online. We’ve already explored some of our favourites. This month, we thought it would be fun to share some ideas from our own Early Years Resources. 

These games are aimed at young children, and are for parents who may be struggling to keep their toddlers busy. They can also be used with primary-age children, and even played with the whole family. We hope you enjoy them!

The first thing to remember is that music making with little children is simple and should be fun. You don’t have to be a ‘good’ singer or a professional musician, or even know very much about music. You just need to have a little confidence and enjoy yourself.

Why make time for music?

Music games help to develop communication skills, physical coordination, confidence and expression. Music can provide a way for your child to learn new skills using play. And it can help you to relax about your own responsibilities, knowing that your child is learning without stress. 

How to get started

Music activities don’t need to be complicated. One of the easiest things you can do together is to put on a recording of nursery rhymes or children’s songs and to clap along.

You can use this idea to create other “body percussion” – stamping, clicking fingers, tapping knees, or using musical instruments such as shakers. This could also be a fun way to explore the sounds of everyday household objects. 

You could use this game to introduce the concepts of loud and quiet, using hand signals to show when the percussion is quiet and when it is loud. 

Your child will have ideas about which pieces should be loud and quiet. You can also encourage your child to have a go at “conducting” loud and quiet. We use the word ‘quiet’ instead of ‘soft’ to avoid confusion with the meaning in terms of texture. 

Developing songs

You don’t have to stick with the traditional version of a song – you can adapt it to make a game. For example, the song, “If you’re happy and you know it” traditionally incorporates different types of body percussion like “clap your hands”, “nod your head”, “stamp your feet”. This can be developed in a number of ways:

  • You can include different instruments – play the bells, play the shaker
  • You might introduce loud and quiet – play loudly, play quietly
  • You could change the speed – play quickly, play slowly

Once the children understand these concepts, they can be combined – play fast and loud, play fast and quiet.

Action songs

Action songs are a great way to develop co-ordination and musical skills. Popular favourites are The Wheels on the Bus, The Farmer’s in his Den, Ring A Ring A Roses, Incy Wincy Spider, Row, Row, Row your Boat and In and Out the Dusty Bluebells. Use your imagination or check out YouTube for inspiration.

Movement activities

Musical Statues is a fun game that is easy to set up and takes little preparation. All you need is a device that plays music. The leader plays the music and the players move around the room and stop, becoming a ‘statue’ when the music stops. Encourage them to find interesting ‘statue’ poses to add to the fun. 

This can be developed into moving in time to the music – a marching tune such as the Grand Old Duke of York, being a floating star for Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

Another game you can use is to ‘copy the leader’ in time to the music.  The leader (you) begins by clapping in time to a piece of music so that the children can copy. You could use a signal like a foot stamp to make the game more complicated – when you stamp your foot, the children should remain silent – just like Simon Says but without words.

Rhythm activities

Use a ‘name game’ to introduce rhythm. This uses several concepts including keeping time, keeping a regular beat and filling a gap in the music.

Sit in a circle, or opposite your child if there are only two of you, and clap a simple rhythm – clap clap rest rest, clap clap rest rest (When Maria uses this activity in workshops, she uses  clap clap knees knees or clap clap nod nod – as trying to keep the rests full length is tricky.

Once this has been established each person takes it in turn to say their name in the rest.

To introduce this activity, you could say a name in the first rest and ask the child to copy it in the second rest. If the game is a bit limited because there are too few of you, you could make a circle of toys or other familiar objects such as pieces of fruit, and get your child to name them in the rests. 

Listening games

The simplest way to approach listening is to play the children a piece of music then discuss what they think the music was about. Ballet music like Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker is good for this. Another approach is to engage the children by asking them to draw pictures of what they are hearing.

For an interactive listening activity you need a selection of instruments with 2 of each – such as bells, shakers and castanets. You could prepare these together, making shakers from kitchen items or using some ideas from our blog. Use your imagination! 

The leader (you or the child) hides behind a home made screen and plays an instrument. The other players have to guess which instrument made the sound. In the initial stages the children could match the sound with the instrument, as they become more familiar with the instruments they can match the sound to the name of instrument. You can develop this game by playing two instruments together.

Composition

Don’t be put off by the idea of composition. It’s easy to make a start and allow the children to explore their creativity. You don’t need to be a composer!

The easiest way to start this game is to choose a story that the children know and to create a sound track to the story. This can incorporate voices, body percussion and musical instruments. 

You can create sounds:

  • To set the scene – a forest, the sea
  • For each character – a giant would have a loud slow sound, a fairy would have a fast quiet sound
  • Imitating the sounds within the story – animals, cars, trains

We hope you enjoy trying some of these games with your children!


Images by: Alireza AttariKristina Paparo, Alexander Dummer and Victoria Priessnitz on UnSplash

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