Using Music With Young Children

I often feel that it's my responsibility as an early educator to combat the barrage of music children are exposed to. Nothing against the pop stars that our kindergartners adore,  but listening to such pop music is not going to help them develop and strengthen their musical abilities. Not that I think there's anything inherently wrong in young children listening to pop music, it's just that I feel it's the job of the educator to be aware of what kind of music should be incorporated into the classroom.

Appropriate Music for Young Children

The most appropriate music for young children is unaccompanied. When you sing with children without the distraction of an accompaniment they are better able to hear your voice and their own and make necessary adjustments in order to match pitch. If an accompaniment is needed it should be a simple one. The guitar is actually a better instrument than the piano for a young child to sing along with (and it's easier to learn how to play).

-Music for children should be free of embellishment. It drives me crazy when I buy a CD of music for children and the singer slides around from note to note and adds unnecessary flourishes. Young children are still learning how to match pitch. Embellishments are distracting and confusing.

-Children's music should be played slowly. Music with a fast tempo is fun for dancing, but when children are learning to sing, they need to be able to hear each note clearly. When singing with children, slow down and let them hear each individual pitch.

-Appropriate music is of an appropriate range. There is research that has determined what that range is, but I hesitate to post that here because I have noticed a great variety in children's abilities. Some children have command of a whole octave and some have trouble moving up and down in a two note song. So here's my suggestion: don't use songs with a large range for whole class--keep the songs simple and the variety of notes small--for individual children, sing songs in which they can match almost but not all of the notes, thus expanding their range without going to far outside of what they can do.

Musical Exercises for Children

The two major areas for growth in children are: matching rhythm and matching pitch. Here are two exercises to practice both.


Clap out a small rhythmic beat and ask the children to copy you exactly. For example: tah, tah, tee tee, tah. This is a fun and easy exercise that doubles as a classroom transition.


Hold your hand out in front of you and have the children do the same. Tell them that their hand is a car on a roller coaster. Sing a note and have the children match your pitch, move your hand up and down like you're going over bumps on a roller coaster and make your pitch match the up and down motion. Have the children copy your hand movements while matching pitch. This same exercise can be done by moving the body up and down while changing pitch. Both exercises give the children a visual cue of what the voice is doing.

Artists I Love

There are many appropriate musicians that support the foundational growth of young children. I love, love Nancy Stewart, Jim Gill, and Dr. Jean. These artists understand young children!

The Wizard of Oz, that is available below or at our TPT store is a great way to add the joy of music into your children's life.

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The Orange Ghost and Halloween Themed Activities

Deep in my file cabinet, under "H" for Halloween, I have music for the delightful song, "The Orange Ghost." Now I would love to give credit for this little treasure, but it has been in my possession now for 24 years, left behind by a teacher who began her career in the 1950's. I suspect it may have come from a elementary music text of that era.

 I have used this song now for quarter of a century and my students love it! And, they especially love to make the orange ghost! If you would love to get a copy of this sheet music, the poster above, the art activity, as well as 110 pages of learning activities, you will want to check out this Early Learning Thematic Unit developed for students ages 4-6.

This Cross-Curricular Thematic Unit Contains the following activities that are strategically linked to Common Core Standards:

Literacy Activities:
Pumpkin Smasher: Identifying Initial Sound
Mystery Letter: Identifying letters
Pumpkin Bingo: Identifying Letters
Trick or Treat: Using Onset/rime. 

Independent Activities
Ghostwriter: Writing Uppercase Letters
Fall Into the ABC’s: Tracing & Writing Uppercase Letters
Halloween Sounds: Matching Sounds

Math Activities:
Monster Math-Mash : Identifying More or Less
Candy Count: Building Equivalent Sets of Numbers
Missing Pumpkins: Ordering Numbers
Candy Match: Matching Quantity to Number

Independent Activities
Halloween Buddies: Number Recognition
The Great Pumpkin: Matching Numbers & Quantity

Writing Prompts/Word Wall
My Costume
Halloween Word Wall Words

Guided Reading Books
Trick or Treat

Class Made Books
Trick or Treat

Witch Stew: Making Conclusions Based on Observations and Experiences
Monster Slime: Following Directions to Complete an Experiment

Art Projects
Pumpkin,Pumpkin Puppet
Construct a Jack
Orange Ghost 
Triangle Witch
Pumpkin Lantern

Song Posters
The Orange Ghost (includes sheet music)
Ten Little Ghosts
The Old Witch
There's No Such Thing as a Witch (includes sheet music)
Halloween Is All Around

Teaching Academic Concepts Through Music

My little granddaughter just turned 2 a few days ago, yet she can sing back to you any Nursery Rhyme that you request. It is remarkable how the human brain learns so easily through music.

Last year my kiddos were having a very difficult time learning the name Hexagon. In fact, I was about to throw my hands up in defeat when I ran across this gem on Youtube. Within two days 100% of my students not only knew the name of the shape, but adored the shape. They began to use the word hexagon in their play interactions. 

If you are looking for some great teaching materials, you will want to check out The Back To School Sale going on at Heidi's songs, July 31st - August 5th. They are giving a discount of 15% at checkout if you enter the code SCHOOL2015.  Beside the shape DVD and/or CD, I recommend the Alphabet and Sight Word Songs. I have been using them in my classroom for many, many years and I simply would not want to teach without them!

To see her great assortment of musical teaching tools, check on the link below. And, yep, you will be singing that hexagon song for days!

Fill the Classroom With Music

With Christmas around the corner, music can be heard up and down the halls. Whether you are practicing for a program or just enjoying the sounds of the season, music can greatly impact your classroom. Music can help set a mood. With music, you can calm down...or speed up...the actions of your students. The shared experience of listening to or singing a favorite song can also create a stronger bond within a class. 

Incorporating music into your instructional plan has additional benefits. Through music you can build vocabulary and develop language. Music can reinforce concepts that your students are learning in science or social studies. Songs can also be used to teach letters sounds, sight words, and even math facts.

If you’re looking for some musical resources, check out Singlish for help with language development and Heidi's Songs to promote sight word recognition. Because of the importance of music as a learning tool, we also include songs with each of our cross-curricular thematic units. Music should have a place in every classroom; make this a reality in your school during the Christmas season and beyond.

The Wizard of Oz: A Class Musical

Integrate literature and music with this musical reader's theater of L. Frank Baum's classic "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz". With song lyrics written by Baum himself, your children will have the opportunity to participate in an experience they'll never forget. This class musical/reader's theater contains everything that you will need, including background information, 2 script versions, sheet music for each song, and 2 mp3s for each song (one that has vocals to help the children learn the songs and one that is accompaniment only). 

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