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Create Music with Toddlers!

music with toddlers

Let’s create music with toddlers. The benefits of music and movement activities are many. And music is the perfect medium to teach important concepts in fun ways.

Music will get children moving, singing, and making music. The sound of music will increase the joy in your home. So, whenever you can, find ways to play music. You will not only encourage children to be happy, but will also be stimulating their cognitive development.

Guess what! Music will make you happier too! Sharing music and movement activities with toddlers and preschoolers is something any parent can do, so check out my favorite ideas!

Why is music so important for toddlers?

Music has saved many children’s days. Because music makes it possible to get quiet and focus, it has become an amazing teaching aid for toddlers and preschool students. Parents can help their toddlers make music to foster an interest in learning.

You don’t have to follow an early childhood lesson plan or even know how music works to support child development. Just know that by implementing fun activities you are providing so many benefits to your child. Cognitive, social-emotional sensory motor skills and classroom preparation skills are developed naturally while kids are listening to their favorite music or singing a song.

Music is one of the most powerful gifts in the universe.

One of the benefits of music is that listening to music makes our souls happy. Use song based activities at home, in daycare, or in the preschool classroom helps children learning about important concepts. And when concepts are learned with music attached it helps improve short term memory.

create music with toddlers

Music and Movement Activities Benefit Kids

Musical activities are an important part of childhood development and help preschool children in many ways. Music helps promote cognitive development and provides a chance for children to express their emotions and be creative. In this section I will list a few activities for toddlers (see my pinterest board for more ideas!) that will help your child explore music and learn foundational learning skills.

I also have suggestions on how you can improve playtime for toddlers. So, let’s get started with these great ideas.

Turn on background music

Recent studies suggest background music playing while kids do other things helps with concentration. You can use background music while kids do other things… activities such as art & crafts, cleaning up toys, or cleaning up from dinner time. Background music may also help kids relax before bedtime, help kids get energized in the morning, give comfort in times of distress.

Prop dancing

Props can create dancing fun and spark the imagination. Kids love dancing with a stuffed animal, a puppet, a magic wand, or even cowboy hat. Designate a different prop for each song and watch! See how children explore different ways to move to music.

Play talent show

Use finger puppets or stuffed animals to sing or dance ro a favorite song. If your young child loves acting encourage them to dress up as characters. They can even create their own songs.

Music fast and slow

Let your child play various song styles with different tempos. Then request your child dance accordingly. Encourage them to quickly when music is very fast and slowly when the music is slow. Let your kids have a good laugh by watching you do the same.

Explore sounds with water and Make your own Xylophone

This DIY activity is also a science experiment! Fill some glasses with varying amounts of water. Apply some food coloring per glass for extra sensory stimulation. Give each person a spoon and tap the sides of the glasses. The goal is for kids to explore the sounds made by the spoons tapping the glasses. Each glass will make a different sound. Some children may hear this difference in sound and notice that every glass of water is unique.

Freeze Dance

Play your favorite songs and let your kids move and dance the way they want. Then, when they least expect it… stop the music and say “freeze.” Take note what silly places you find yourself in. How long can your kids hold their freeze? This is can get quite giggly and kids love playing this game!

Find musical library books

Go to the library with your child and ask the librarian to show you the picture books that are actually children’s songs and nursery rhymes. Select books that include songs, rhymes, or easy melodies that you can bring with you home. Use full body movements with your child while you sing and read.

Story sound effects

Choose different percussion instruments (drum, shakers, tambourine etc.) with children and play together a story. Children provide sound effects for each character or act. Here https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/kids/5-picture-books-filled-great-sound-effects/ is an article highlighting some great books that kids can make sound effects to.

Paint what you hear

Children listen to evocative songs and respond to sounds and moods they hear. Apply tape on an over sized piece of paper or cardboard on the floor then have kids create a mural.

Instrument Petting Zoo

Gather various stuffed animals and a musical instrument for each animal. You can even use homemade instruments for this fun activity. Pretend you are going to the zoo and visit each animal. See if you can make sounds like the animal, feed the animal, sing a song to or about each animal, and learn more about your favorite animal.

Kitchen Band

You don’t need fancy instruments when you get out the pots and pans and a wooden spoon. Kids can have fun and make music with just about anything! Singing their favorite tun, parents can join the fun singing and playing rhythms on the pots!

When my kids were little I always had one low cupboard in my kitchen that was just for them. I would keep simple kitchen items in there for them to have easy access to. Sometimes they would just haul everything out of the cupboard and crawl inside themselves. These are some great memories!

Dance with silk scarves

Actually any lightweight scarf will work, but silk scarves are pretty, soft and they twirl and drift in the air beautifully. Young children benefit from and love moving to their favorite music. Moving the scarf helps toddlers develop gross motor skills. Encouraging them to touch the scarf to different body parts (like a shoulder or a knee) increases body awareness.

Go to a concert

Explore your community! Weekday music concerts specific to preschoolers have become more popular. Public libraries, performing art centers, chamber of commerce, public schools, and community park programs are great resources for locating these kind of music opportunities.

Not exactly a concert, but local high school sporting events feature the school pep or marching bands and this is a great opportunity for kids to see other kids making music!

music activity for toddlers

What’s the best musical instrument for toddlers?

Parents can provide a variety of different musical instrument sets for their toddlers. Make sure each instrument is appropriate for the age of your child. I can’t tell you how many blog posts I have seen that recommend instruments I would never give to a baby or toddler. If there is a disclaimer to watch your child closely while playing with an instrument, it’s not designed for a baby or toddler. Children under the age of three WILL put everything in their mouths. So… now that we have that out of the way…

There are many instruments a young child will LOVE! Remember they WILL put these items in their mouth, so they need to be age appropriate and washable! Children learn about the world around them and develop physical skills by mouthing everything and that is just natural!

I have blogged about some of the best musical instrument sets for toddlers and some of my favorite songs. And below I will list the types of instruments that provide fun music activities. Where applicable I will provide a link to a product that I personally have purchased and used with toddlers. I like to add links because there are a lot of junky toys out there that look like the good stuff but aren’t. Don’t waste you money on the cheap stuff (ask me how I know!).

(Links may contain affiliate links that mean if you purchase a product through that link I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!)

Can toddlers play homemade instruments?

Preschoolers think creating their own music instruments is fun! Again, I always recommend using only instruments that are safe for kids under age three. Many musical instruments have small parts. So for example, if you want to make a homemade rattle, I wouldn’t recommend letting an 18 month old play with this DIY instrument. What if it comes apart and they choke on the objects you placed inside. However, I have made rattles, maracas, and rain sticks that I have given to a 3+ year old and they were SO delighted! There are tons of blog posts, youtube videos, and pinterest pins on making your own fun instruments. Just use good common sense about it. See my other pinterest board for even more ideas for music activities for preschoolers.

Create a musical craft

Simple supplies you may already have at home are all you need to make diy instruments. Kids will have fun putting these together and decorating them. You can then play pretend with the child. Put together a family band and have a small concert together. Sing their favorite tune as they play and dance along. The ideas below are perfect activities for toddlers on a rainy day! See more ideas on my pinterest board here.

Paper Plate Tambourines

Homemade tambourines are one of many popular homemade musical instruments. This video is a cute example of easy it is to make a fun diy instrument.

Rain sticks

If you make some rain sticks, try putting different fillings in each rain stick and see if they sound different. Some ideas include: popcorn kernels, lentils, oatmeal, dry beans.

Glow Stick Drumming

Try the short fat type of glow stick that is made for stringing like a necklace. This kind is usually this kind is very strong and it’s great to practice drumming! Use these glow sticks to have a glow-in-the-dark concert! Of course you can practice in a dark room or a room with a black light!

This is great for helping kids learn how to keep a steady beat and also for teaching rhythm patterns. Read more about how to encourage children to feel a steady beat here. Read more about teaching a short and long rhythm activity for preschoolers here. And Read more about how to teach patterning with music here.

What Music is Good for Toddlers?

Let’s face it. The internet is saturated with mediocre kids stuff. Preschoolers are bombarded with cutesy-cheesy low quality music. Parents who prioritize and intentionally curate music with different sounds help their children learn more about the world around them.

Listening to classical music, world music, folk music, and amazing musicians who have specialized in children’s music (like Raffi, Ella Jenkins, Elizabeth Mitchell, etc.) provide solid music education. Parents don’t even have to know how this preschoolers music is benefiting their child. Simple music activities such as shaking a maraca along with good quality music makes all the difference. Just do it! Here is a link to some of my favorite songs!

Get your free music class!

Want to make some music with your toddler? Join Beethoven, the adorable, pancake lovin’ sheepdog for some Music Time fun right in your living room!

music class for toddlers

Classical music for young children

It is said that listening to classical or relaxing music increases concentration and eliminates other distractions in children. Increased concentration will ultimately result in greater academic achievement.

When my children were young I purchased all the DVDs made by Baby Einstein. My kids loved watching these videos, but more importantly we were LISTENING! As I mentioned earlier, background music is a wonderful way to help kids concentrate and influence their mood. Some music activities may not seem like music activities at all… the music is just playing in the background.

Peter and the Wolf

Classical music can be super imaginative. One of the most widely know compositions is Sergei Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf,” which is a symphonic fairy tale for children.

Music and movement is a natural experience as kids act out the parts or move like the animals. This is a fun idea for a kids’ party.

I wrote an article about friendship that talks about the different stages of play for children. As children turn 4-5 years old, they are ready for cooperative play and pretending. Acting out this story with the music playing could be really fun!

Kids learn best at this age by moving! And that is why music and movement is so so so important to child development.

Carnival of the Animals

Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Carnival of Animals” is a humorous musical suite of fourteen movements.

In the description box below the video it breaks the different animals up into chapters. There are 14 animals. You could have a little music lesson about each of these animals, complete with story books and art activities. Again, this orchestral piece lends itself well to music and movement activities as kids pretend to be different animals. Here are the chapters:

You can even springboard off the petting zoo idea above and create a real zoo with wild animals. This again lends itself to small group music activities you can play with friends.

The Nutcracker Suite

The Nutcracker Suite is a two-act ballet. The music was composed by Peter Tchaikovsky. If you listen carefully you can hear the different characters in this story.

This orchestral piece is pretty well known and you can actually find wonderful videos of ballet troupes dancing. Kids can pretend to be in the ballet and dance along!

If you take the time to get some library books that are based on one of these works you can create your own little music lesson. Kids can visualize the story and can use stuffed animals, puppets, or costumes (like paper plate masks or face paint) to pretend play.

World music that represents different cultures

Music appreciation truly begins at home. In my blog post, 15 Benefits of Music on Kids’ Health, I mention,

“Listening to the music of other cultures provides awareness and empathy for others. This will enhance the mind, body and soul. The sooner young minds are exposed to music from other cultures the more appreciative and empathetic they will be toward others. Learning music about other cultures’ customs and traditions will encourage children to be more tolerant of others’ beliefs.”

Cherie Norquay, Music Time Kid

It isn’t always easy to find music from other cultures. I know… I look for this all the time to include in my early childhood education classes. And due to privacy laws for children, it is difficult to create playlists for this music on youtube. So I will leave you with some links below of mp3’s you can purchase from Amazon to add to your toddler’s playlist.

Books about different cultures

Your local library is filled with books about different cultures. You can choose to learn about one different culture each month or each season of the year. See if you can find classic stories from that culture and authentic music with original instruments.

You can read books and play music about different countries right at home. Your kids can have a lot of fun when you listen to music from around the world. Find some fast music you can dance to or some slow lullabies to add to your bedtime routine.

Instruments from other cultures

Learn about different musical instruments! When you learn music from other cultures you will hear many different kinds of sounds than what you are used to. I think these discoveries are very interesting!

An article highlighting 10 famous instruments from around the world can be found below.

Folk Music and Nursery Rhymes

Many preschool music and movement activities are based on old folk tunes and nursery rhymes. These music activities are still so popular because many have movement and help develop fine motor skills.

You will definitely find these songs in the preschool classroom and in most music education programs. They use these old songs because they are simple, have stood the test of time as great teaching tools, and the songs are in the public domain (no copyright) so they are easy to access.

Old folk tunes and nursery rhymes do not have a single composer. Because these old songs were passed down by generations orally, they do not have a single composer associated with them. Each tune is generally identified by the title and the country of origin.

Favorite songs for fun music activities

Some good examples include:

Mary had a little lamb

Itsy Bitsy Spider

Old MacDonald

Music Activities for Preschoolers and Toddlers

If you would enjoy some music activities for toddlers and want a little help or a sneak peak into what would happen at an early childhood music class, check out my online toddler music class! Beethoven, my adorable sheepdog puppet, loves to sing his favorite song about pancakes and you’ll see how he loves to play musical instrument too!

Sign up for my newsletter to get this free class. Kids are loving all the music and movement activities and you can then take all those ideas and use them with your own playlist of songs!

Music Class for Toddlers

sign up to get your free music class with Miss Cherie and Beethoven, the adorable, pancake lovin’ sheepdog! Have some Music Time fun right in your living room!

music class for toddlers

What music activities have you tried?

Comment below! There are so many fun activities for toddlers that I could write a hundred articles about music activities and still not cover the whole topic. But I hope that this article has provided you will some new nuggets that will help you teach children more about music.

Leave me a comment about your favorite activities!

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