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Can Preschoolers Play Songs on Piano?

play songs on piano

Yes! Preschoolers can play songs on the piano. Most kids at this age are not able to play basic chords, but they can play melodies with their left hand or right hand. They are eager to learn piano and try to figure out how to play easy piano songs they already know. So let’s take a look at preschool piano playing to discover ways you can help your preschooler play the piano today!

What piano playing skills do preschoolers have?

  1. Eagerness to learn – More than anything else, the desire to play easy piano songs means kids can learn!
  2. Seeing patterns – Preschoolers are taught to see patterns in math and this translates well to piano
  3. Gross motor skills – Moving their body, stepping, moving arms to the beat of a song, and clapping rhythms are all things preschoolers love to do!
  4. Fine motor skills – Kids are developing their fine motor skills at this age. So often kids will play piano with whatever fingers they have that will work for them. This is fine. As they learn piano, more fingers will strengthen and will get used.
  5. Learning to differentiate the right hand and left hand – Often when kids start playing piano they have trouble differentiating the left hand from the right. It’s okay. We can find ways to help them with this at this age.
  6. Listening ear – When kids play easy piano songs they already know, their ear will help guide them to play. Sometimes they may need to figure one note out and their ear may help them hear if the note should be higher or lower. Playing easy piano songs kids know is so helpful in the beginning.
  7. One finger – Kids always have one finger they can play piano with. In fact, several of the first handful of songs I teach only use the pointer finger. This let’s kids focus on other things than the fact that their fingers need to exercise more.
  8. Imagination – Kids love to pretend and use their imagination all the time. Creativity is so important. Playing their own songs is good practice right from the start. I’ve never had a piano student give up once they have become a master of playing their own compositions!
play songs on piano with one finger

A few songs most preschoolers know

Pop Songs

Kids are always eager to play a favorite popular song that they know. Kids today love the “Baby Shark” song

Traditional Songs and Nursery Rhymes

Happy Birthday

Jingle Bells

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Itsy Bitsy Spider

Patriotic Songs

Yankee Doodle

5 Easy songs to learn with one finger on the piano for beginners

Because learning piano finger numbers may be difficult for preschoolers, here are one finger songs. And if you are interested in learning how to teach “rote music” to a beginner check out my youtube video. (That means teaching by imitation without reading any sheet music).

Hot Cross Buns

This song is great to teach on the group of three black notes or on the white keys C-D-E. The video below has a fun learning activity with a free pdf download for “Sweet Treat Cards” which provide other words to this song. The cards are a fun springboard into getting kids to be creative!

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Kids love the Mixed-Up Little Star activity that is linked in the video below. Without actually making up their own song, kids can mix up the melody to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, creating their own song. It’s lots of fun!

Itsy Bitsy Spider

This article provides lots of ideas for teaching Itsy Bitsy Spider song.. The sheet music provides music alphabet letters so kids can learn to play the notes to this song without actually reading rhythmic notes. This simplifies the learning in the very beginning!

Charlie the Chipmunk

Learn this song by rote and then teach it to your child! I love using videos for reminders. It helps you remember where to place your hand on the piano and which piano notes were played.

I Love Coffee

Your child may not know this song, but I guarantee it will become a favorite! Playing one note at a time, this song has lots of little patterns using black key/white key patterns that make it easy to learn. Practice only one part at a time. Only add an additional part when the previous part is securely learned! (BONUS: the little ending of each part is the same, always ending on the black note f-sharp).


What kind of sheet music is right for preschoolers?

It depends upon each child. I have taught so many preschoolers and each child is unique. Some kids have a difficult time sitting still long enough to play a one finger song at the piano, while others are mastering note reading and playing from books. And remember, a preschooler’s attention span is the same number of minutes as their age. So don’t expect practice sessions to last more than 5-10 minutes at a time.

You definitely can’t go wrong by making music reading fun and easy for kids. So no matter what abilities your child has, please let them have fun. Don’t push progress too fast at the expense of your child’s enjoyment. I’ve seen kids quit because playing the piano was too hard, and even later, they never got over the fact that piano was just too hard.

So knowing that kids this age are still pre-readers, let’s just say, you can’t go wrong offering them rote music (teaching by imitation), pre-reading music which includes music alphabet sheet music, play by color song sheets, play by finger numbers (which assumes kids know finger numbers and where to place their hands on the piano), and pre-reading notes with rhythm notes.

I have taught from all of these kinds of music pages and it’s okay to mix, match, jumble it up, and find what works. As long as the song is something a child already knows, learning a song off a page of music usually works pretty well with adult help.

I feel strongly about NOT pushing note reading at this age when there are still so many fun activities kids can have that lay a great foundation for learning to read notes on the staff in a few years. Check out this easy preschool piano lesson game here.

Why is listening to music so important?

Kids can easily learn songs they already know. So when they begin piano lessons they take right off playing songs like Mary Had a Little Lamb on the black keys, learning finger exercises, finding different five finger notes in C Major, playing piano games and more.

But when they begin to learn to read sheet music and advance to higher levels many kids hit a roadblock because they are now learning to play unfamiliar music and classical music. Many kids have never listened to this kind of music, and unfamiliar music isn’t as easy to play.

Let’s fix that! I can recommend songs your kids should be exposed to while they are still young. This is just the tip of an iceberg, but it’s a great place to start,

Listen to these songs long before your child is ready to start playing them

This is a plethora of music links. Add some to your child’s playlist. Play the songs in the car, while you are sitting quietly doing other things, or before it’s time to go to sleep. Then when your child is older, they will KNOW these songs too and not only popular songs!

Bach’s Prelude in C Major

Bach’s Prelude in C Major is a study of chords. Once kids learn how to play chords, this song becomes easy to learn because it is made up entirely of broken chords (notes of a chord played one at a time). Because the rhythm is so repetitive through out the song older kids can to play this piece. It is completely composed of basic chords.

This version is a harp sound version and is a wonderful addition to a naptime playlist.

Here is even a guitar version of this song. You will see that the right thumb always plays the first note of the chord and the other fingers play the other pieces of the chord. I think this tune sounds just beautiful on the guitar too!

Bobby McFerrin jazz version is where he is actually singing the broken chords! This is a fun video to listen to!

Mozart Sonata in C K.545 (Allegro)

This version is set to a forest sound background and a quieter, almost harp like quality. Perfect for adding to a naptime playlist.

This version is also soft and harp like.

Handel

This is one of my favorite newer arrangements of Handel’s Suite No. 7, g minor, HWV 432 (Piano Cover for arrangement by J. Halvorsen)

Handel is well known for his Water Music. This video is Handel’s Water Music for piano.

This has child friendly sounds of Handel’s water music. My kids were well acquainted with this music as they were avid Baby Einstein Music Video lovers.



Beethoven: Für Elise

Fur Elise is one of most loved and favorite songs for piano. Kids love the melody of Fur Elise, and many of my piano students practice hard to get to this level so they can play the whole song.

This version has music box sounds.

Debussy’s Clair de Lune

Kids love the imagery of the moon shining in the night. This song has great potential for extended learning including learning about nocturnal animals and moon phases.

nature sounds and electronic piano version

Here is a lullaby version

Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite

Most people think of the Christmas Season when they hear Nutcracker music. I do too! Many of the little songs in the Nutcracker Suite are playable for beginners, so this is a great collection to listen to! Plus there are lot of easy arrangements of sheet music for this music!

This video features nutcracker tunes that sound music box-like. Normally I am not a huge fan of music box music but I think it is a great thing with the nutcracker music.

How can I add classical music to my child’s life?

There are lots of arrangements and performances of old classic piano songs. As you can see above, searching Youtube fives you many piano song variations to choose from. Creating playlists is a wonderful way to add piano songs to your child’s life. Listen in the morning, while you ride in the car, before it is time to sleep, or while you are doing other things as it is great background music.

Listening to music helps babies’ brain development according to Mercy Health website. And it is never too late or too early to begin to incorporate listening to music into your child’s life!

What if my child is still too young?

No worries… all kids are different! If your child is still too young to sit for a few moments and pay attention, then there are so many other kinds of musical activities that you can do with your child to actually prepare your child to play piano. Go to my blog post, “10 Ways to Get Your Child Ready for Piano Lessons.”

And while you are at it… grab my free game below. Piano Race Game is the first game I play with every single piano student. I know your preschooler will love it!

Get My First Preschool Piano Game for free!

Do you want your child to learn preschool piano?

This is the first game I play with every one of my students. Now you can play at home!

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