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6 Music Activities For Toddlers: Guaranteed Boredom Busters!

Parenting toddlers can be like riding a roller coaster: exhilarating but exhausting. Here’s some easy-to- implement music activities for toddlers that do double duty for parents and caretakers. Kids love music, which makes it easy to slip some educational benefits into their playtime. While some of these activities require your interaction, others like the kitchen band or rhythm instruments activities can be done solo by your child.

Music Activities for Toddlers

1. Sing and Swing

Join hands with the children and help them form a circle. Lead the children in stepping to the left and singing ” We are stepping to the left, to the left, to the left, we are stepping to the left, all around the circle.” (Sing the words to the tune of “London Bridges. “)

When you reach the end of the stanza, stop and reverse and step to the right. This time while you are stepping right, sing “We are stepping to the right, to the right, to the right, we are stepping to the right, all around the circle.” When you have completed the circle for the second time, drop hands and clap three times.

2. Use Movements & Familiar Songs

Pick a song children know and love such as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.” Play the music and make appropriate action movements. For instance, while “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” is playing, you can use these movements:

  1. Twinkle, twinkle: open and close hands rapidly like a star twinkling
  2. Little star: hold hands close together with palms facing (little)
  3. How I wonder what you are: place a hand on forehead and look around
  4. Up above the world so high: with hand on forehand, gaze upward
  5. Like a diamond in the sky: point to ring finger or to a diamond shape
  6. Twinkle, twinkle: open and close hands rapidly like a star twinkling
  7. Little star: hold hands close together with palms facing (little)
  8. How I wonder where you are: place a hand on forehead and look around

Here’s a guide to some other active movements to use when kids are singing, dancing or listening to music:

  • Grow: squat and stand up slowly
  • Hear: hold a hand to your ear
  • Hungry: rub tummy with your hand
  • Jump: jump up and down or hop like a rabbit
  • Me: point to self with index finger
  • Numbers: hold up the appropriate amount of fingers
  • Quiet: fingers on lips
  • Rain: Hold hands out with palms facing outward. Wiggle fingers and move in a downward motion.
  • See or look: hold one over eyebrows and look around
  • Smile: smile and point to smile (or use the same motion for frown)
  • Sun: Make a large circle with arms
  • Swim: move arms in a swimming motion
  • Tall: stretch hands up
  • Walk: hold hands out with palms facing downward and wiggle fingers in a walking motion
  • Wide: stretch arms out to side
  • Yes or no: nod head up and down for yes or side to side for no

Using these action movements with the music gives toddlers a chance to exercise and develop their gross motor skills.

3. Teach Shape Recognition With Music

Use masking tape to make two large shapes (circle or square) on the floor (keep it very simple for toddlers). Play music while the children walk around the shapes and then stop the music. Call out the name of one of the two shapes and encourage them to move to the shape. (If you walk toward the designated shape, they will follow.)

4. Rhythm Instruments

Most toddlers may have developed enough fine motor control to hold and use rhythm instruments. Offer kids their choice of different rhythm instruments such as rhythm sticks, triangles, tambourines, maracas, djembe drums and so forth. Take an instrument for yourself and tap a simple pattern like tap, tap, rest; tap, tap rest. Encourage the children to echo the pattern (you will probably have to help them the first few times you try this.)

Child Playing Tambourine

If you are working with young toddlers, you can still use the echo pattern technique by having the children repeat the pattern by clapping their hands rather than using rhythm instruments. It’s still a good idea to offer them the chance to become familiar with these instruments and play with them as it will help develop their small motor skills.

If the rhythm instruments are too challenging for your toddler, try providing them with other props they can wave or move in time to the music. Scarves are always a good choice because the bright colors appear to toddlers who are usually very visual. Scarves are lightweight and easy to grasp, which makes them idea for these kids who are still developing their fine motor skills. They can wave them, toss them and twirl around with them.

5. Kitchen Band

Collect a variety of kitchen utensils that can be used to make “music” such as wooden mixing spoons, metal bowls or baking pans, whisks and so on. Oatmeal containers and paper towel tubes also make great homemade musical instruments. Play a song and let the children use the utensils as they would rhythm instruments.


Tip: If you keep a box with various instruments, utensils or items like oatmeal containers or paper tubes handy, you can carry the box with you to different rooms of the house and let your child play and make music while you do housework or other chores.

6. What Does the Animal Say?

This fun musical activity offers lots of learning opportunities for toddlers. They learn to recognize animals and imitate their songs, which builds pre-reading skills.

Cut out pictures of the various animals featured in the song “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” (see video below) and glue them on card stock. Hold up a picture and make the sound the animal would make (moo for cow, bah for sheep and so forth).

Once your child has learned to associate the sound with the animal, play the song (use video)and hold up the appropriate picture as the animals appear on the screen. Encourage your child to make the sound.

A good extension activity for this is to laminate the pictures (to make them more durable) and give them to your child. You’ll be surprised at how quickly they learn to make the animal sounds while playing with the pictures, and some kids may even create their own songs during this pretend play.

Bonus Pre-reading Skill Builder

Before beginning this toddler music activity, print the following sentence in big block letters on a whiteboard or large piece of paper:

I hear a __________.

Point to each animal picture in turn. Name the animal, invite the children say the name, and then print the name in the blank on the board. (Tip: use a different color of marker to print the animal name to draw attention to it.) Say the name again and encourage the children to repeat it. Make the sound the animal would make and have the child make the sound.

Prediction Bonus Skill Builder

Point to one of the animal pictures and ask what sound they think the animal will make.

Tips for Teaching Toddlers

The key thing to remember when teaching music activities for toddlers is to keep the lessons extremely simple and short. Most toddlers can tolerate a up to a 10 to 15 minute lesson before their short attention span kicks it. Teach one idea at a time. However, the most important thing to remember is just to have fun!

Image credits: Kids singing by hortongrou under royalty free license via SXC
Girl singing by Cicleke under royalty free license via SXC
Tambourine by LeoSynapse under royalty free license via SXC

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