Inspiration

10 Early Years Rhythm and Music Games for Toddlers

June 20, 2022

Time for some big grooves for the little ones.

Time for some big grooves for the little ones.
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Music games are a wonderful way to get little ones moving and grooving with one another. You’ll see children overcoming shyness and learning how to socialize as they develop rhythm and a love for their favorite songs and instruments. 

Music games for toddlers help with the development of memory, concentration, literacy skills, communication, coordination, and many other vital abilities. In addition to helping with these important developmental milestones, these activities are just plain fun, keeping little ones active and adding excitement to the day.  

Of course, it’s not always easy coming up with fresh ideas, especially if you don’t consider yourself a musical maestro. 

Thankfully, there are plenty of fun and simple activities you can lead, even if you don’t have a musical bone in your body. To get you started, we’ve compiled a list of activities and games that are ideal for helping toddlers explore music, rhythm, and song.


1. Musical statues (also known as ‘freeze’) 

The rhythm and music game for toddlers: This one will help children develop spatial intelligence, a sense of rhythm, and the ability to move on the beat, all while having tons of fun. 

What you need: 

  • A speaker to play music
  • A playlist with songs from a variety of genres
  • Plenty of space to move around

How to do it: Have the children help you clear out plenty of space, then explain to them that they should dance freely while the music is playing. The trick is, they must stop when the music stops and stay completely still until it starts again. Any child who giggles or moves must sit out for a round. Choose a different genre each time and encourage the children to change their dancing style to match the music. 

Source: Kid Activities

2. Dancing with props

The rhythm and music game for toddlers: Props always add excitement to any activity. Children will have to compromise (when someone else picks the same prop as them, earn to execute their tasks quickly, and have a ball moving about and expressing themselves. 

What you need: 

  • A music player 
  • A playlist with songs from a variety of genres
  • Plenty of space
  • A table filled with props (scarves, hats, ribbons, plastic flowers, toys, and the like)

How to do it: Begin by designating a play area large enough for children to dance. Remove any obstacles, and make sure children have room to swing their arms. Then, set up a music player and spread your props out on a table. Explain to the children that when you start playing music, they should select a prop from the table and begin dancing to the music while using the prop as an accessory. Whenever the music stops, they are to return the prop to the table. When the music begins again, they must choose another prop for dancing. You can keep this game going as long as the children show interest.

Source: Icebreaker Ideas

3. Exploring musical moods

The rhythm and music game for toddlers: Introduce toddlers to the connection between music and emotion with this imaginative game. Help them develop lateral thinking abilities, empathy, and communication skills.

What you need: 

  • A music player 
  • A playlist with songs from a variety of artists, genres, and time periods
  • Plenty of space

How to do it: Take some time to develop a varied playlist filled with music that conveys different moods. Consider classical music from a variety of composers and modern music from different decades. Explain to the children that they way they feel can often be expressed in music, and answer any questions they may have. Then play them different songs and ask them how the music makes them feel and what moods they think go with each song. Take this exercise a step further by having the children express the emotions they’re feeling through dance and movement. 

Source: Scary Mommy

4. Follow the (musical) leader

The rhythm and music game for toddlers: Encourage the development of social and communication skills with this fun musical variation on follow the leader. 

What you need: 

  • A music player 
  • Some fun music
  • Plenty of space

How to do it: Have the children take turns at being the leader who creates all the dance movements and sounds for everyone else to follow. You may wish to be the leader first so you can show them how to take their inspiration from the music they hear. Then, let them take over, as they help one another develop their own dance routines!

Source: Very Well Family

5. Draw what you hear

The rhythm and music game for toddlers: Encourage creativity and independent thinking with this fun game that allows children to transform the sounds they’re hearing into shapes and patterns. 

What you need: 

  • A playlist of songs from a variety of artists, genres, and time periods
  • A music player
  • Paper
  • Crayons, finger paints, or markers

How to do it: Play a variety of songs for the children and have them draw what they hear. You can use this as an opportunity to introduce musical and emotional vocabulary. Have the children describe what the music makes them see and feel: What images come into their mind? What physical sensations do they feel? What emotions does a song bring up? 

Source: Child Fun

6. Rhythm sticks 

The rhythm and music game for toddlers: Rhythm sticks are quick and easy to pick up, making them an excellent first instrument for toddlers. Teach them rhythm, beat-matching, and spatial awareness as you add rhythm sticks to their favorite songs and nursery rhymes. 

What you need: 

  • Rhythm sticks (two each for every child)
  • Songs and nursery rhymes to play along to

How to do it: Start by demonstrating how to use the sticks, and be sure to put some rules in place before handing them out. The sticks must never hit another child, so you can use this as an opportunity to show the children how to give each other enough space. When the music starts, have them pick up their sticks and clap them together to the beat. Once they have the hang of it, they can start singing along too. This exercise is excellent training for later being able to sing while playing instruments like guitar or piano (a feat that’s much harder than it seems).

Source: Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds

7. The Hokey Pokey 

The rhythm and music game for toddlers: The Hokey Pokey is more than just a fun, energizing game. It helps children develop listening skills, coordination, and balance while teaching them different body parts and helping them tell their left from their right. 

What you need: 

How to do it: Play the song and show the children how to sing along and what body movements to do to match each verse. Once they know the basic song and can sing along, you can do away with the recording and simply sing as a group. At that point, you can start adding in all sorts of fun verses with other body parts like belly buttons, noses, and hair. 

Source: Petit Journey


8. Call and response song

The rhythm and music game for toddlers: Call and response songs allow children to develop their listening skills and their sense of rhythm. They’re a whole lot of fun, and they introduce little ones to the ability to memorise through music. 

What you need: 

  • Call and response books or recordings

How to do it: One of the best call and response songs for toddlers comes from Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury’s book We’re Going On A Bear Hunt. To turn this book into a call and response song, simply have the children repeat each line back to you before moving on to the next. You can start out with a recording of We’re Going On A Bear Hunt to get a feel for the tune. 

Source: Atlas Mission

9. Fun with personalized drums

The rhythm and music game for toddlers: Help children develop a sense of respect for musical instruments by creating their very own drum. Then teach them rhythm and listening skills through fun drumming patterns. 

What you need: 

  • Drums (these can be empty containers, cans, boxes, cookie tins, and the like)
  • Decorations like stickers, glitters, and pom poms for the drums

How to do it: Set up a drum creation station with a range of decoration options, and help the little ones decorate their drums. Teach them different rhythms, starting with short, simple patterns and gradually increasing the length and difficulty of the patterns as the children learn and progress.

Source: Music Together


10. Dance like an animal

The rhythm and music game for toddlers: Get toddlers exploring their creative side and developing their timing and coordination skills with this animal-inspired musical game. 

What you need: 

  • A music player 
  • Pictures of animals
  • Plenty of space

How to do it: Collect all your animal pictures and then play some music (tribal drum music or something like Camille Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals would be ideal). Once the children have settled into the game, call out the name of an animal and hold up the picture so they can get a feel for its physicality. Each time you call out a new animal, they must start dancing the way they think that animal might move. Encourage them to make noises and interact with each other while in character as each creature.   

Source: Mom Junction

The big ideas

Official Danish Government Reopening Advice

Guidance from the Danish Health Ministry, translated in full to English.

Picture of a Guidance document
UK Nursery Covid-19 Response Group Recommendations

The full recommendations from a working group of over 70 nursery chains in the UK.

Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.

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