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Back to basics
Music and creative movement


In early care and education classrooms, music and movement are nearly inseparable. Children can’t be still when appropriate and deliberately chosen music is in the air. Children have spontaneous music and movement experiences every day—pounding clay, galloping like ponies, singing names, clapping rhythms, rocking dolls, or shaking tambourines.

Music activities give children ways to express emotions like happiness, fear, sadness, or anger as well as an avenue to express enthusiasm, joy, and excitement. Listening, singing, and moving—individually and in small or large groups—strengthen language and numeracy fluidity, social cooperation and coordination, and physical dexterity, agility, and strength.


Guidelines for music and movement activities
Music and movement activities can be noisy. Locate the music center in a large open area where the activities won’t disturb quiet play. Make sure an outlet is nearby for devices that require electricity. Store instruments on low shelves that give children easy access and unspoken guidance on proper storage.
Bring music and creative movement activities outdoors to enable large muscle play.
Buy sturdy equipment and teach children to use specific devices. If you use a record player, show children the stylus (needle) and how to place it on a record to avoid scratching the disk. Similarly, if you use a cassette player, explain the forward and backward buttons, how to pause or stop the device, and how to properly insert tapes. Investigate the music download and storage capacities of classroom computers, tablets, and smart phones.
Don’t insist that every child participate in music or movement activities. Instead, make the activities attractive enough that all children will want to join the fun.
If you are singing without an instrument or recording, make sure your pitch is within children’s voice range. Learn to use a pitch pipe, tone bell, or piano key to find a pitch between middle C and the octave above—the most typical and easiest-to-achieve range for children. Avoid criticizing your own voice—sing, and the children will join you without judgment.


Music and movement center basics
A device that plays music—record player, cassette player, tablet, smart phone, or computer. Compile a collection of music—vocal and instrumental—that you can access easily. If you use an electronic device, build music folders separating tunes for activities, sing-alongs, and creative dance. Choose music deliberately and with an activity in mind; endless music—playing an entire album, for example—quickly becomes background noise instead of an activity stimulus.
Rhythm instruments including sand blocks, rhythm sticks, cymbals, triangles, wrist bells, maracas, tambourines, and drums.
Inviting props like chiffon scarves, crepe paper streamers, and large feathers that inspire creativity and movement forms.
Noisemakers like cans, aluminum pie pans, metal bowls, and wooden spoons that encourage explorations of sound and rhythm.
Examples of sheet music that introduce a unique language and notation system that musicians read and follow. See and for ideas and examples.
Resource books or cards with words and the music to traditional children’s songs and movement games. Collect and trade ideas with teaching peers to avoid relying on the same (and tired) activities.


Suggested resources and recordings
Kids make music—Clapping and tapping from Bach to Rock by Avery Hart
The big book of children’s songs from Hal Leonard Publishing
Classical music recordings of Mozart, Chopin, Beethoven, Saint Sans, and Tchaikovsky
Singable songs for the very young by Raffi
You’ll sing a song and I’ll sing a song and Play your instruments and make a pretty sound by Ella Jenkins
The young person’s guide to the orchestra, book and recording narrated by Ben Kingsley
Eye winker, Tom Tinker, Chin chopper by Tom Glazer
Make-believe in movement by Maya Doray
Music for movement exploration: Let them discover by Karol Lee