The Perpetual Preschool

Music and Movement Activities

Music and Movement Activities
For Your Classroom

Children of all ages express themselves through music. Even at an early age, children sway, bounce, or move their hands in response to music.  To get you started, check out over 60 creative ideas to get your kiddos up and moving to music.

We play a game that we call Musical Hugs. We dance to lively music, and when I pause the music, the children have to find a partner to hug. Often 2, 3, or more children hug each other until I turn the music back on. We dance again, until the next pause in the music. Very fun!

Group Games for Threes

Somebody’s Sitting in the Ring

Have the children make a circle by holding hands. Tell them to put their hands to their sides and sit down. They are in a circle and ready to begin the game. Ask a child to sit in the center of the circle or “ring”.

There’s someone sitting in the ring, ring, ring. Her name is _______ in the ring, ring, ring. So move from your seat, and point to someone sweet, And bring them to the center of the ring, ring, ring. Last two lines to sing for the last child in the group: So move from your seat, and go back to your seat, For this is the end of our game, game, game!

This is a good way for the children to learn each other’s names. At first, your children may need help choosing a child and saying his/her name. After you have played it several times they will remember what to do by themselves. Make sure every child gets a turn every time! Children like to play the same games over and over again. Play this as much as they show an interest in it. You can play it again after several weeks of not playing it.

Pass the Hat

Children hold hands to sit in a circle. Give a child the hat to put on his/her head.

Johnny has the hap. What do you think of that? Take it off and pass it to _______. To sing for the last child in the game: Take it off and put it away.

Before playing the first time show the children how to slowly pass the hat to the child beside them. This game is another good game for learning names and following simple directions.

Here Today

Children join hands to make a circle and then sit down. Before playing this game the first time show the children what they will need to do. You may need to physically guide the children to stand up, turn around, and sit down during the song the first time.

(Child’s Name) is here today, (Child’s Name) is here today. Turn around, and then sit down, (Child’s Name) is here today!

This is a good way to learn children’s names. I often will sing their first and last name to help them to learn their last name. It is also good for following directions. Make sure all children get a turn.

I use this activity for my fours but have had good results with the threes as well. You need a substantial area (gym or large room) to work in. Place four cones of different colors in the four corners of the room, leaving ample space around the cones. The children gather in the middle of the room with a very large vinyl ball. The teacher calls out a color cone. The children must decide how they will get the ball from the middle of the room to the cone. They must choose a way that involves the cooperation of everyone. (My children have rolled, kicked, carried, thrown, passed (relay style), etc.) They come up with some amazing ideas! When they have reached the first cone, the teacher calls out another color cone and they repeat the process, but cannot use the same movement twice. (i.e. – We already carried the ball together, now we must think of something new.)

This cooperative movement game is packed with life skills lessons and is a joy to watch! The idea for this game came from my watching the children interact while playing with the big red ball.

Shaking a shaker gently sing: “Go To Sleep. Put on your pajamas. Get under the covers. Good night.” Then keeping a lively beat on two rhythm sticks, chant: “I’m gonna jump with my toes, jump with my feet, jump with my nose, jump with knees, jump with my bones, jump with my feet, jump with my heart, beat, beat!”

Then switch to the shaker and start again. The kids feign sleep, then jump.

This is off my CD/tape, MOVING TO THE BEAT. You can listen to it free at . Thanks, Robert.

You need a large sheet of newspaper print to cover a table and any music from CD or tape. Allow the children to walk around the table with marker or crayon in hand, making movements on the paper to the beat of the music. Vary types of music, or play a stop and go “freeze” game. Combines art, music, and movement together. Ask children to draw what the music sounds like!

Disco Dancing! Disco lives on in my school. We dance to the music of Chic, KC and the Sunshine Band, Village People, Kool and the Gang, just to name a few. These are all readily available on CD. I recommend that teachers preview the lyrics of any contemporary dance music to be sure that they are appropriate to use with young children. The children love the music and it is a great way to get them to be active in a constructive way. We show them simple dance steps and encourage the children to create their own. We often take photos of our dancers and put them on display. All we need now is a mirror ball!

A Variation on musical Chairs: No child likes getting out. This game eliminates this problem as well as encouraging name recognition. Set up the chairs as in a normal game of musical chairs, but fix each child’s name card on a chair with blue tack so they can see it. Start the music with the children moving around the chairs. When it stops they must find the chair with their name on it. Move the names each turn ( you may need the help of your aide to do this speedily). For beginners add an individual sticker on the name card to aid recognition. My kids love this game!!! Have fun trying it with yours.

Teaching tempo and beat to 3-year-olds. In order for the students to learn the definitions of tempo and beat, taking turns putting a child on your lap as you recite a poem with a definite beat and bounce the child on your knees varying the tempos and beats. The children watching may either choose the tempo or guess whether the tempo you used was fast, medium, or slow. This activity allows the child on your lap to feel the beat and produces lots of giggles. Fun and learning combined! That’s why I love pre-school!!!!!

Music and Movement Activities
For Your Classroom

Art/Music-Movement: Using adding machine paper, combine a few strips together (taped or stapled together at one end). The children can color or paint the strips of paper and afterward dance around to music with them or even dip them in the paint and create a floor or wall painting.

As a dance teacher, I love to create various ways in which children can delight in their own movements from head to toe.

Jack and the Bean Stalk

This is a great creative movement play for using various parts of the body. Concepts: forward and backward walking light and heavy feet stretching and lifting

Twist paper bags, and staple them together to form a beanstalk. Staple green leaves onto the stalk and hang it from a high place at one end of the room. Make a magic line with some masking tape and have children sit on the line. Have the children individually pretend they are Jack tiptoeing quietly towards the beanstalk. At the beanstalk, the child then pretends to climb up. Encourage the child to lift their knees and use their arms while climbing. Then you and the other children say, “The Giant is Coming!” The child now becomes the giant, walking backward, with large heavy giant steps until they are safely back on their magic line.

Buzzing Bees:

Have children buzz around with elbows flapping searching for flowers and nectar. When they’ve gathered all their nectar have them fly back to the hive to feed the queen bee which can be the adult.

For more ideas and resources in creative movement please visit my website at:

This works really well for rainy days when the kids need to get the jitters out, and it also helps them to calm down a bit.

Have all the kids crouch down and lay their heads on the floor. Then sing: “Sleeping, Sleeping, all of the children are sleeping” “But when they woke up, they were (an animal, a dog for instance)!” Then all the children get up and pretend to be dogs. As soon as they are getting a little out of control, start over and change the animal. They go from pretending to be the animal to a resting position. It works great!

For a variation, after you say “and when they woke up,…..” you can pick a child to pick the next animal.

This is a “variation on a theme” musical game called Musical Squares. Go to a local carpet store and collect enough small remnants or sample squares for each child to have his/her own carpet square. (these also come in useful for circle times.) Lay carpet squares out on the floor in a circle, allowing each child to sit on it as it is laid out. Put some music on a tape player with a “pause” button. Explain before starting that the children should walk around the circle of squares when the music starts, but that when the music stops, the should find a square to sit on and sit down, quick! Also, let them know that each time the music restarts, you will remove one carpet square, so they need to be ready to share their space. By the end of the game, all but one square should be removed. See how many kids can fit on one carpet square! This is fun and good practice for sharing space.

When playing a game or singing a song that deals with left/right recognition (such as Hokey Pokey or Looby Loo) I will put a sticker that deals with the theme that we have been studying on each child’s right hand. This encourages each child to look and remember which side is their right side and which side is their left side. By the end of the school year, it’s amazing how many children are able to distinguish between their right and their left hands!

A game that the children at our preschool like to play is statues. I play music like Barney or Raffi and the children can dance and sing. Every couple minutes I stop the music and the children have to stay still in whatever pose they are in when I stop the music. If they move they are out but I let them join back in after a few of them are out. This is a great exercise for them and they are cute to watch when they get dancing and singing. I use this activity when it is raining out and they can’t play outside.

Ever wonder what to do with the bridge in the Chicken Dance? We walk in a circle and sing: “Let’s walk around the circle. Everybody’s walking now. Oh, let’s walk around the circle, keep on walking don’t fall down.

Pass out two rhythm sticks to each child and sit in a circle. Next, have each child tap out their own name. Then the rest of the group could do it w/them. This way they start getting basic syllable concepts w/o even knowing it. For instance, mine would be, “Miss-(tap)-Kris-(tap)-ti-(tap).”

This is a new idea we tried, and the kids loved it, plus it tired them out. We took a bag of colored feathers to the gym with us. We gave each child one to “feather dance” with. While the music played, they had to keep the feather in the air by blowing it. After a while, we threw the whole bag of feathers in the air, and the kids ran around gathering up their own little bunches. For clean up, we just gave each child a color to pick up, and there was not one feather left on the floor!

Music and Movement Activities
For Your Classroom

Since the parachute is too large for 1 and 2-year-olds, I bought a piece of tarp form my local home improvement store. All of the toddlers grab an end and shake it. They each take turns throwing different sized balls on it. ( well, maybe not take turns) ha, ha. I have never seen them laugh so hard. Try it it’s fun!

Freeze Dance I work with kids that are 2-4 and we love to play freeze dance. Pick any kind of music (the faster the better), have the kids dance to the music and freeze when it stops. The positions are great that the kids end up having.

All you need is a bell and a set of rhythm sticks for a fun movement activity on a rainy/snowy day! ( And it really fine tunes Listening Skills!) “Click” a slow beat on the sticks. Call this “walking music”. Then “click” out a faster beat with the sticks. Call this “jogging music”. Now, ask the children to listen to the sticks’ rhythm. When they hear the “walking music”, they should walk around the room. When they hear the “jogging music”, jog. Now ring the bell. This means “stop and drop”. Now, have fun with the slow and fast beats of the sticks (“walking music” and “jogging music” ) and ring the bell. Now you’ve got the power and your kids have a great physical and auditory workout!

I made some very inexpensive streamers for dancing. I took lids from yogurt containers, cut the centers out so I had plastic rings. Then I cut an old red plastic tablecloth into strips. I also used a white garbage bag cut into strips so I had 2 colors. I then looped then in a knot through the rings. They are easy for small hands to hold. The children love them. I put on disco music and we march and dance around the room waving our streamers up and down and all around. Fun!

On a rainy day, we took wooden paint stirrers and taped them to sturdy paper plates to make a racket. Then we blew up balloons and played balloon tennis. The children can sit spread out on the floor and try to keep the balloons from falling to the ground or each child can have a balloon and see how long he/she can hit the balloon before it touches the ground. It gets out a lot of energy and uses those muscles.

When I used music as a theme with my toddlers, every day we listened to different types of music. One day was country, so we wore cowboy hats, and at the end of the week we listened to rock and roll and had a sock hop and dressed fifties style. Have you ever seen a one-year-old with slicked-back hair and rolled up tee shirt sleeves?


This is a variation of musical chairs. The difference is that it is not a competitive game–no one is OUT.

Place several hula hoops around the area (I use large hula hoops and have one out for every 3-4 children).

Explain to the children that they will walk AROUND the hula hoops. When the music stops, they all need to be in a hula hoop and there can be more than one child in a hoop.

Each time you stop the music and the children are in the hoops, have them start walking around them again–but remove one hoop.

Continue until there is only one hoop left. The children will all work together to make sure all of their friends get in the hoop when the music stops.

Our day in class had started to become somewhat loud and the children were losing focus. I threw my original small group plan out the window and decided to do an activity I named “Drawing the Music of Yanni”. I had the children lay on the floor on their bellies spreading their arms and legs out for a moment to make sure they could not touch a friend. I gave them a piece of newsprint paper and a handful of crayons. I then explained that I wanted them to draw what the music sounded like. I told them we would play two or three songs without talking, and just draw what we hear. I got on the floor right along with them!! This went wonderfully!! The artwork the children drew was vibrant, colorful, and creative! After we were done we sat in a circle and I held up each child’s work one at a time for all to see. As I did, I would ask the child who’s’ picture I was holding to tell about what they heard in the music. They were each so proud, and our day went a lot smoother!! While this activity covers a few components, such as Good Mental Health, Music&Movement, and Art activities, I have chosen to place it in the Music area. We often use the music of Yanni, and Enya at various times in our classroom including quiet time. So, if you get the chance try them. The children seem to truly enjoy them.

Paper plate skate Give each child 2paper plates, 1 for each foot. Turn on some classical music (Nutcracker works great) Enjoy your skate around the room. Toddlers and preschoolers will love this activity.

1. Jumping stones – 2 to 6 little foot square carpet samples will be placed outside the door. (if you are putting them on a carpeted surface, stick hooked Velcro strips on the back to keep them in place). If 2 squares, they can jump from one to another, or stand on them to do tossing games. If 6 squares, they will be in a hopscotch pattern. 2. Scoops and bean bags – Make large scoops by holding an empty gallon plastic milk jug by the handle but turned upside down. Cut away the bottom and the part right above the handle and it makes a great scoop. Show the children how to gently toss a bean bag underhand to their partner who tries to catch it in their scoop. 3. Statues – Have cards available with stick figures posed in different body positions – arm up, arm down, feet apart or together, balancing on one foot. You can do the same with stick figures and a bean bag balanced on various body parts. The activity is for the children to select a card and copy what the figures are doing. 4. Various activities will be added such as those stompers (cups with handles that the children place their feet on and walk), those fuzzy mitts with Velcro balls, a quiet version of bowling with liter bottles as pins and a large foam ball as the bowling ball, punch balls from the local Walmart and others as I think of them. I hope this area works!!!

I purchased a yard of every color of nylon tulle and cut it into long strips, tied off the end in a knot. I keep them all together with a ponytail holder that can be slipped over the doorknob. We used the music “Can you paint with all the colors of the Wind”. Each child took two strips and danced to the music, afterward we painted with watercolors our own version of the music. The children have come up with all their own variations to the tulle, just as children will do once you have given them an idea to start with.

Want to make a rainy day brighter? Have parents donate different colors of chiffon for the children to dance with. Use different types of music ask the children how the music makes them feel, let them show you by dancing with their chiffon. All the colors flowing through the air will brighten any class!!

This is an activity we do while waiting for the bus to come. The children sit in a circle which we pretend is a boat. We sing “Row, row, row your boat”. Then, since I’m the captain, I shout out a child’s name and say, “Kelly, overboard!” Then that child jumps in the middle of the circle and pretends to swim. All of the rest of us throw in a pretend line and begin pulling. As we are “pulling we say ” 1-2-3-4-5 she’s/he’s alive!! The child in the middle then takes his seat. We repeat this until everyone has had a turn to jump overboard.

Play the recording Ride of the Valkyries from “Die Walkure” by Wagner. Give each child a “spaceship” made from a paper towel tube. Attach strips of crepe paper at the end of the tube. When the music begins the spaceship is on the ground in a vertical position. The children listen to the music and move their spaceship up, down, in circles etc. The music will give the children hints as to the type of movement they will use. The teacher should help the class listen for high and low pitches as well as soft and loud.

In my classroom, we keep a variety of homemade equipment for the children to use. We have ladders, saw horses of various sizes, ramps, trampolines, tires, mats, and balance beams. All are brightly colored. We use the sawhorses to climb over, walk on, crawl under, make a mountain to climb, etc. Ramps are used for running and jumping on the tramp (incorporate half-turns, knee slaps, full turns, jump off and forward roll, etc. We also use it to crawl up and forward roll over (great way to teach a roll!) We use the ladder for cross crawling (feet and hands alternate on rungs). Once the children have mastered the concept, place the ladder on two tires, one tire for a ramp, then place it on the sawhorses. Please make sure you have someone spotting this area at all times. Mats are for tumbling, pencil rolls, etc. It is great to see the children gain confidence in their motor skills. You may also add cones or chairs for the children to weave in and out while crawling, skipping, walking, jumping, etc. You can make this as difficult or easy as the children you teach. We also play a variety of music during this time. Create an obstacle course with this equipment and watch your students shine!

The Old Grey Cat

Choose 1 child to be the cat and have them “sleep” in a corner of the room not too far away.

The remaining children pretend to be the mice. I remind the children before starting that the mice always stay on the rug. (or within your defined space)

You are then able to start the game. As the mice crouch on their spots you sing:

“The old grey cat is sleeping, sleeping, sleeping

the old grey cat is sleeping in the house.”

The cat stays sleeping and you continue

“The little mice are dancing, dancing, dancing (children dance on their spot)

the little mice are dancing in the house!”

“The little mice are nibbling, nibbling, nibbling (children nibble) the little mice are nibbling in the house!

The little mice are resting, resting, resting (children get back into a resting crouch position) the little mice are resting in the house!”

Mice stay resting and attention goes back to the cat.

“The old grey cat comes creeping, creeping, creeping, the old grey cat comes creeping in the house! The little mice go scampering, scampering, scampering, the little mice go scampering in the house!

You or the “cat” pick the next child to be the cat.

This is a very popular game but be warned the scampering mice can get out of control if limits aren’t set.

Record: Learning Basic Skills Through Music vol.1

This Hap Palmer served as the main part of our “circle time.” The songs utilized listening, perceptual, and cognitive skills. It actively involved listeners to move around, jump, and play games using these skills. The songs helped children with color recognition and get them physically involved. The songs talk about and involve them with numbers, the alphabet, and body parts. These concepts are all presented in a happy rhythmic learning and teaching program. My favorite song on this record is Sammy. Many of the songs will help you and further enhance lessons you have already presented to the students.

The teacher is in the middle of the room with a closed umbrella. Have the children march, hop or skip etc. until the umbrella goes up signaling that the rain has started and the children have to run to a spot under the umbrella to keep dry until the sun comes out again and they can play.

Children sit down on floor legs in a straddle position. Their fingers on both hands represent two swimmers who want to jump off the diving board. They take their fingers on each hand and walk them down their legs to their toes and when they reach their toes they bounce their fingers on the tips of their toes and they jump in the water. They swim using their arms and then climb out of the water and start over again until they are stretched out and then they can grab a towel and dry off.


Hot glue or tape a large paper plate to the end of a wooden paint stirrer. Give one to each child with a blown up balloon. They throw the balloons up in the air, but then have to catch them on the plates. I usually start them out slowly, making them follow me as we throw and catch one time, then two times, etc., until they get the idea. Then turn on some music and let them throw and catch. This is great for eye-hand coordination, and they love it!

Editor’s Note: Make sure you do this with older preschool children who are not apt to bite into the balloons 🙂

“Yankee Doodle can go to town in other ways besides riding on a pony It can be called slideroni, skiparoni, walkaroni, hoparoni,tiptoearoni—-

Yankee Doodle went to town

Riding on a pony

He stuck a feather in his hat

And called it Skiparoni

Yankee Doodle skipped to town

Skipped to town so dandy

Mind the music and the step

And with the kids be handy

This is a song/movement activity that a friend of mine shared with me. I use it in my classroom when we talk about the letter J and it is a great way to get the wiggles out before sitting down at the tables for project or snack time.

First, you need to make a bowl by sitting the children in a circle on the floor. One child at a time comes into the center of the circle and wiggles and dances however they would like while the other children sing this song:

Jello in the Bowl (tune: “The Farmer in the Dell”)

Jello in the bowl, jello in the bowl,

Weeble, wobble, weeble, wooble,

Jello in the bowl!

Continue to move around the circle until everyone has had a turn.

This kind of jello is certain to fall off your spoon! Enjoy!!

Give each child their own sheet of bubble wrap to place on the floor in front of them. Explain to the children that they are going to pop the bubbles however they cannot use their hands to pop them. turn on the music and let them pop their bubbles using any body part except their hands. elbows, knees toes, bottoms etc. are used. let them stomp the bubbles with their shoes on and with bare feet. This was inspired by my handicapped sister who doesn’t have the manual dexterity to use her fingers to pop the bubbles but found lots of other ways to pop the bubbles and enjoyed every minute of the activity as do the children of my class!!! Have fun and pop some bubble wrap along with the kids NO HANDS

With Your Partner (sung to Skip to My Lou) Children are in pairs

With your partner… shake their hand,

(repeat 2 more times)

Shake their hand my darling.

Other verses: turn around, stamp your feet, stand and bend, shake your hands, nod your head, march in place, etc., (and finish) GIVE A HUG.

Paper Plate Dancing

Give each child a paper plate. Play different types of music and have the children keep the beat by:

Tapping the plate on their head

Tapping the plate on their tummy

Tapping the plate on their foot

Tapping the plate on their knee


Once the children are used to tapping the paper plate on different body parts, ask them where they should tap the plate next.

Scarf Dancing

Ask your parents to donate old scarves or go to a thrift store and buy them. You will need once scarf per child.

Play many different types of music. Have the children move their scarves to the beat of the music. Talk about the music……. Is it fast, slow, happy, sad, etc

I have never had an original idea in 37 years, but I can take someone else’s idea and run with it. This idea was from a workshop and I tried it and the children loved it. At the time I was working with toddlers 1-2 years old, but in outside play, the older children were all lined up for their turn.

Record Beethoven’s 5th symphony. Give punch balls to children. (they are very inexpensive at Walmart, 4 for $1.00.) With the older children, I talked about the loud and soft parts of the music, and the fast and slow parts(so they had to listen). Please try it. If we don’t play classical music for the children, who will?

Music and Movement

Increasing a child’s vocabulary is one of the many benefits of music and movement activities. Words that describe movement are a fundamental part of language.

Arm Dancing


Sidewalk Chalk

Cassette Player

Various types of music: Classical, rock, reggae, country, slow, fast, etc………….

One day, take your class outside where there is a large amount of cement. Let each child choose a piece of chalk. Tell your class that you will be playing different types of music and they can move their arms to the beat of the music to create chalk designs. While doing the activity, talk about the music. Is it fast or slow? Does it make you feel sad or happy, etc….

We utilize the Listen and Move Song from Music and Movement in the Classroom a book and tape set I got once at the Chalkboard. I will look at the publisher and see where it can be ordered… it is also a great resource! There are different kinds of music for different kinds of movement, so I just adapted the movements to the way different zoo animals move for example:

Walk like an elephant

Gallop like a zebra

Waddle like a penguin

Run like a cheetah

Slither like a snake

Jump like a kangaroo


Music and Movement Activities