Music lesson plans for kids in daycare: how to plan for preschool

Bells on wrists

Using Internet search to plan a daycare music program

Are you struggling to plan a music program for the three, four and five year-old children in your daycare center?  Is your head spinning from trying to make sense of what you have found in your Internet searches?

Here is a way to structure your search.  Look for the following 9 kinds of activity.  These are the things I do from our own Lesson Plans over at Musical Child, Early Learning through Music.  I know from years of experience that these specific activities work with ages three to five.

1. Hello Song.  Before you sing hello to each child, ask her/him to choose an action for everyone to follow.  That keeps all the children involved until their turn comes around.   This is highly repetitive but strangely it works and seems to settle everyone into the idea that we are going to be singing for a while.

2. Body Percussion.  These action packed games internalise the strong driving beat of the song so that it’s a sensation on the body of the child.  Body percussion songs, chants and raps involve actions such as patting the knees, clapping the hands, pounding the fists and crossing each arm or hand across the body.  This wires the left and right brain together aiding the coordination so necessary for a good day of learning.

3. Finger Play. By choosing the right finger play, you can make a delightful moment in the child’s day.  A child who knows how to perform a finger play can play alone, with another child or show a loving adult at any time of the day.  It’s a gift for the child’s mind, body and social status.

4. Memory.  Memory songs are about those things children just have to learn by heart – the sequence of the numbers both forwards and backwards; the days of the week; or song lyrics in a language other than English.  Memory training is an important aspect of early learning.

5.  Rhythm Instrument Songs.  You will need activities that direct the use of rhythm instruments (sometimes known as “untuned percussion”) so you don’t end up with cacophony. It hurts everybody’s ears and is particularly disruptive to children who suffer from sensory overload disorder.  I suggest a series of songs that engage the imagination.  That way the children have a reason to concentrate on each of their rhythm instruments- e.g if their bells represent sheep in a song.  You should always allow time for play and exploration.  After a short free play time, you can come in with suggestions for playing a particular instrument on your given signal.

6. Melody and Harmony Instrument Songs.  These are songs that can be played or accompanied on melody instruments, sometimes known as “tuned percussion” (e.g chime bars, resonator bells, xylophones).  Once again you need to allow playtime and exploration well before you expect the child to follow the suggestions for playing particular sounds differentiated by a letter name or sometimes colour.  The children will not be at the intellectual level of being able to play the “right note at the right time” in the early stages of engaging with tuned percussion.  However, this simply doesn’t matter.  If you carefully choose simple pentatonic songs, the gentle sounds of children playing whatever notes they choose will sound beautiful and will give much pleasure.   Over time, most children become more and more selective about the sequence of notes they choose to play.  Some, particularly at age five, will even be able to play the melody by reading and following letter name notation charts.

7. Drama and Movement.  These activities make use of props and/or actions to dramatise the lyrics. In this way the children are physically and emotionally engaged allowing them to deepen their understanding of the lyrics.  Often, this is the kind of activity that children want to do again, again!

8. Games and Dances.  These sociable movement activities are achievable and often quite wonderful.  Especially when you have enough adults helping the children to hold hands and keep the circle in shape or making sure that partner-dancing is working well.   It is worth persisting with dancing with young children so that you can have the pleasure of witnessing the moment when two or more of them spontaneously dance together during free time.

9. Story Songs.  Story songs allow for focussed time and are rich parcels of language that develop vocabulary and prosody (the rhythm of the vocal patterns in a language).  Stories in song-form fulfil the growing need for narrative structure as children develop awareness of people, time, event and place and the ways these elements interact to make a good story.

So that’s it, nine different activities to cover all the music learning your children need.  Supplement these with some good classical and World music for movement and rest times and you are well underway to having a successful music program.  If you want to save hundreds of hours of preparation, I invite you to follow the complete music curriculum at Musical Child.

I wish you every success and would love to help you achieve great results.  Simply post here or email me on the contact form.

Kindergarten music lesson plans

kindergarten music

Sing and Play Book 2: Singing in My Heart

Short on time?  Here are 20 proven kindergarten music lesson plans ready to go . . .

Your children will love these engaging kindergarten music lessons. In every lesson they are active as they play instruments, move, dance, dramatise and learn to sing new songs.  Each kindergarten music lesson follows the same format but with different songs.  For example, after we do a body percussion song, we always do a finger play.

Click on each lesson plan title to read the playlist of songs or download the lesson plan.  If you want a complete program of lessons to last for a year, download all 20.  (See more on discounts for buying a complete music curriculum.)  This is what one teacher wrote:

Hi there! Yes! I’m from Spain, I Run my own business, a nursery School where we teach English through Music and movement. I love your Lessons plans because They are easy to follow and They organise my time!! I usually teach vocabulary with your songs.

Maria Prieto Martin, Causeway Academy,

This is a complete curriculum. There are ten kindergarten music activities:

body percussions; finger plays; memory songs; rhythm instruments; melody and harmony instruments; horse-riding songs; drama and movement; games and dances; story songs and social conventions.

Each activity develops one or more of the following musical skills:

listening; moving; singing; playing instruments; improvising

Each activity develops one or more of the following musical concepts:

rhythm; pitch; melody; harmony; timbre; texture; form; style; and expression – made up of tempo, dynamics, articulation, interpretation.

Within each lesson, the songs have been chosen to interact within rich driving social and environmental concepts:

  1. Farming practices and farm animals: Beautiful Farm
  2. Food: Cooks in the Kitchen
  3. Unexpected occurrences: Surprise! Surprise!
  4. Seas and Oceans: Over the Sea
  5. How to amuse yourself: Holiday Fun
  6. Different aspects of the body: My Body
  7. Insect and hygiene; Shoo Fly Shoo!
  8. Various emotions: In My Heart
  9. Observing and caring for animals: Be Kind to Animals
  10. Use of and care around candles: Candle Burning Bright
  11. Coordination within dramatic play: New Games to Play
  12. Consideration of consequences and problem solving: Uh-oh!
  13. Observing animals’ movements and habitats: Birds and Animals
  14. Raising resilience and overcoming fear: Fun and Adventure
  15. Sleep: Are You Sleeping?
  16. Variety in animal form and behaviour: All Kinds of Animals
  17. Bravery and skill: Brave and Clever
  18. Transport – ways of moving from place to place: On the Move
  19. Christmas season: Christmas is Coming
  20. Christmas Day: Christmas is Here

These kindergarten music lesson plans were written by Carol Biddiss M.Ed and have been tested and refined by the team at Musical Child Early Learning through Music. 

Music activities for preschoolers – 5 Quick tips

Finger Puppets LijaHere are five tips to literally put into the tips of your fingers so you and your kids will have fun during music activities for preschoolers.

After my mini-lecture two days ago, I decided to post something about music activities for preschoolers that’s quick and easy.  This is to remind us all to not take ourselves too seriously when working with little kids.

Thumbkin – remember to have a good intention or a “will to succeed” before you sit down for music time with your kids. To get them on your frequency, try singing Hello to each one by name.  They will be squirming to have a turn – Hello Song.

Pointer – remember that it’s OK to engage in direct teaching as long as you don’t do it all the time.  So you can tell them, “This is how we do the actions.  I’ll do it, now you show me.” Try a body percussion – Shimmy Shimmy Cocoa Pop.

Tallman – remember to get up and stretch, wriggle, jump around for a few breaths, music lessons aren’t just about sitting on the floor concentrating the mind.  Music works in the the whole body so don’t be afraid to stretch out and move.  Try a dance or drama game – Dog Jumps through the Window.

Ringman – remember to touch the sensitive soul of the child with poignant melodies, soft lullabies and beautiful orchestral or instrumental music.  Try a relaxation with gentle music – Tafta Hindi.

Baby/pinkie – remember that preschoolers are not officially “in school” and they need to be treated with tender loving care. If the lesson or session isn’t working to your satisfaction, maybe it’s you that needs to change because in many ways they still need lots of leeway and understanding.  Maybe it would be good to have more playtime today – so instead of struggling on with a full music lesson, sing a quick story such as Sing a Song of Sixpence followed by a Goodbye Song and let them run outside.

So those are my quick tips about running music activities for preschoolers.  To see complete music lessons that worked for us click here.


Music lessons for pre-primary, junior primary, pre-k or kindy kids

Pack Away Song

pre-primary, junior primary, pre-k or kindy kids

What do you do when you’ve been given the job of planning the music lessons for the pre-primary, junior primary, pre-k or kindy kids in your workplace? Head for the aspirin!

After you calm down, you ask your colleagues what to do.   They say “There’s heaps of stuff online – just search on preschool music and you’ll be right”.  So you do that and find hundreds of thousands of results!

Here’s a way to get your head around teaching 3-5 year-olds.   Search for twelve different activities.  These twelve activities make up most of the lesson plan we use to run lessons or sessions when we go into a kindergarten, school or child care centre.

Get out of the Internet maze

The links take you to the Musical Child resources or you can search specifically for other activities using the underlined terms in your browser.

  1. Social Convention: Sing a Hello Song naming each child. It fulfils the social convention of greeting everyone for the day.
  2. Body Percussion: Sing a body percussion song and watch the concentration on their faces as they coordinate brain and body right at the top of the lesson.
  3. Finger Play: Perform a finger play to stimulate the touch sensory pathways. This playful working of the fine muscles will enhance control over individual fingers so that writing, drawing and playing advanced musical instruments (e.g. recorder, piano and guitar) will come easily when needed.  These are the muscles that tire quickly for many children when they are expected to learn writing at school.
  4. Memory Song: Use a prop or some number or letter cards with images to teach a memory song to pay attention to those thing you just have to learn “by heart” eg the sequence of the numbers forwards and backwards, the days of the week, the letters of the alphabet or song lyrics in a language other than English.
  5. Rhythm Instruments: Hand out or let them come and collect a set of three different small, hand-held percussion rhythm instruments e.g. sleigh bells, finger cymbals and shakers.  Let them experiment for a minute or so while everyone settles down.   Then play the same instrument at the same time together while you sing a song with clear places for instrument-playing, e. g. different animals.  Get them to follow your cues as to which instrument to play.  Otherwise, if it’s free choice you overload their hearing.
  6. Social Convention:  Clear the instruments while you sing a Pack Away Song, following the social convention of clearing up the workspace before starting something new.
  7. Melody and Harmony Instruments:  Give out, or let them collect a melody and harmony instrument, such as chime bars and sing a song with a strong melody while experimenting with ways to play the instrument.
  8. Drama and Movement Horse-riding:  They have been sitting for a long time so switch to whole body movement, we always use a horse-riding song at this point to encourage strong locomotor activity and dramatic play.
  9. Drama and Movement:  It’s good to try a drama song that follows some kind or narrative as long as you have enough props for all to have a turn, e g doctor’s stethoscopes and sick dollies etc.
  10. Games and Dances:  A game or dance is beneficial and fun if you have enough adults to keep it together.  You can encourage them to mimic your actions and make up their own.
  11. Story Song:  A short rest is necessary after all that activity so story songs work well at this juncture.  If the song is short we always sing it at least twice but a long song requires concentration and should be performed quite dramatically just once.
  12. Social Convention: We sing a Goodbye Song to let the children know we are leaving and music time is over.  Then it’s time for hugs or special conversations that have been waiting on their lips!

So that’s it, 12 activities to make up a long music session.  You can do them all or select a few and run several short sessions throughout the week.  Be sure to come back and leave a reply below. We’d love to hear from you.

Remember, there’s nothing quite like music!

Planning a music lesson for daycare 3-5 year olds: Uh-oh!

Here’s an outline for an intriguing music lesson for your older children in child care.  It’s called Uh-oh! Part 12 from Singing Just for Fun and it’s full of humorous songs and activities designed to encourage problem-solving when faced with tricky situations.  In our experience we’ve found that the activities work best in this order:

Body Percussion  When I Was One

Warm up body and brain with this action song.  You can do this activity with or without tapping sticks but it’s more fun with. Children of the grand old age of three or four or even five like to feel superior to younger children whom they regard as “babies”.  This song plays on the notion of “age status”.

Fingerplay  Where is Thumbkin

You can do this one with finger puppets, two per child – one for each hand.  There is a little interlude between verses just long enough to swap the puppets from one finger to the next (hopefully!)

Memory Song (numbers)  The Ants Go Marching

When I first recorded this there were ten verses.  I soon learnt my lesson.  We revised the track and now there are only five, not too much marching!

Rhythm Instruments  We’re Going On a Bear Hunt

Children love this song.  Works really well with actions and even better with instruments (bells, finger cymbals, shakers, guiros).

Melody and Harmony Instruments Diddle Diddle Dumpling

Who wouldn’t love the duffer who fell asleep in his clothes!

Drama and Movement   Monkeys on the Bed

Because it’s so naughty!

Games and Dances  Can You Dance?

Try silly instructions. Ask them to do what you sing, not what you do.  Not for the faint-hearted, some will “get it”, other will do what you do and still enjoy the song.

Story Song  The Three Billy-goats Gruff

This is one of my favourite stories and I’m also a wee bit biased towards this song because I wrote it.  It’s a “long sing” but worth learning to hear the big sigh of relief from the group when all three brothers make it to the “fresh green grass on the other side”.  You can use the lyric chart or make a flip book with illustrations to guide you.  I’ve also seen it done with felt cutouts on a flannel-board.  I especially like the traditional ending:

Snip, snap, snout,

This tale’s told out.

Want to save yourself hours of preparation time? Click on any of the links to go to the store and buy the activities.  Each song title comes complete with

  • a written activity – including a simple score with chords and the song lyrics on a chart
  • one or more quality backing tracks so you can sing live
  • one or more vocal tracks so you can teach yourself the song

Leave a comment about this lesson plan so we can share.  Remember to play music with your children every day because there’s nothing else like it.

Making Christmas memories – use songs and activities

making Christmas memories

Christmas is Coming

Making Christmas memories with songs, rhymes and activities

Do you remember the songs you sang or heard as a young child? Give the children in your care something special by making Christmas memories through musical activities this year.  This post tells you what activities are in our 45 minute preschool music Lesson Plan – Christmas is Coming.  You can save yourself hours of preparation by purchasing it from our website. (Christmas is Coming.)

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat,

Please put a penny in the old man’s hat,

If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do,

If you haven’t got a ha’penny then God bless you.

Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme

Nursery rhymes are always a good idea for young children but they are especially charged with meaning at Christmas time when emotions are heightened.  It’s then that these little poetic gems go deep into memory and there they stay for a lifetime.  Christmas is Coming is one of our “story songs”.

This is the list of songs and activities for the lesson we teach to kids 3-5 years-old in the early part of the Christmas season.   These songs and accompanying activities are about preparing for the main event with allusions to Christmas trees; kindness and sharing; Santa and gifts; Mary and her Baby; and singing angels

making Christmas memories

Ten Little Angels

Body Percussion- Five Little Christmas Trees (funky rhythm with a hand jive pattern).

Finger Play – Here is the Chimney (funny ending).

Memory Song (number) – Angel Band (also good for instrument playing)

Rhythm Instruments – I Saw Three Ships (traditional – a lovely melody)

Melody and Harmony instruments – Mary Had a Baby (traditional – an easy melody)

Drama and Movement (locomotor) – I Want to Go to the North Pole (a little bit different and so much fun)

Drama and Movement (props) – I’ll Sing You a Song (traditional – a great song for talking about kindness)

Games and Dances – Here We Come a’Wassailing (traditional – a jaunty rhythm and rare intriguing words)

Story Songs – Christmas is Coming and Santa Claus (thoughtful lyrics – a good way to end the lesson)

Music at Christmas – there’s nothing quite like it!  And to get this prepared lesson plan go to  Christmas is Coming.


Sea theme preschool music activities

Here’s a lesson plan called “Over the Sea” for you to try.  It’s all about watery places lagoons, salty seas and stormy oceans.  It’s inhabited by sailors, fish, sharks, dolphins and ocean-travellers pining for their loved ones.  The people travel in dinghies, rowboats and sailing ships in calm or wild weather and they have adventures so there’s lots of opportunities for movement to the music.

BODY PERCUSSION. For a warm-up we sing A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea with lots of verses and different actions to remember.

FINGER PLAY. This time it’s the delightful old Dutch song All the Fish and we add an exciting shark verse  with a different mood.

MEMORY SONG. Next is a song for training memory by singing in a language other than English.  This time it’s the language of the Torres Strait Islands off the north-east coast of Australia.  The song Taba Naba Norem.  Our version is very laid-back and is great for seated slow-rowing which gives a gentle spinal stretch.  We use a backing track to sing it live but you could also listen to the version by Islander-heritage Christine Anu and the Wiggles.

RHYTHM INSTRUMENTS. For learning to play untuned percussion, our song is My Bonnie.  It’s in 3/4 time which is unusual as most kids songs are in 4/4.  We simply play along to the beat with using different instruments for each time we invent a new verse.  We substitute grannie, poppa, yaya, auntie and cousin etc for “Bonnie” depending on who is in the child’s extended family.  We might even substitute “over the border” for “over the ocean” – it’s adaptable.

MELODY AND HARMONY INSTRUMENTS.  If you haven’t tried doing pentatonic songs with your children, Charlie Over the Water is a good one to start with because it’s slow and has an easy rhythm.  We use a wall chart with the notes names which is great for a child who is gaining confidence with reading.  Those who can’t read can play any note on their prepared instrument (with the notes CDEGA), they all sound harmonious when played together.  That’s the beauty of working in a pentatonic scale.

DRAMA AND MOVEMENT.  Here’s the opportunity to really stretch out those limbs and try all the different whole body movements suggested by the verses in Alley Alley Oo.  You can be the large ship with either a pointy bow or pointy sails.  You can whirl around like the wind, shake your fist at the story clouds and sink like the ship, resting when you reach the sea-bed.

GAMES AND DANCES.  For a more social experience of the wild and windy weather, join hands and dance to The Gallant Ship.  It’s an exciting sea shanty excepted from a much longer song “The Mermaid”.

STORY SONG. After all that movement children are tired and need to rest with a story.  Our story song, Dolphin Smiles was written by me about the Port River dolphin colony near my home.  It started life as a long straight song but it was too wordy for this young age so I shortened it into this rap version.  Kids get excited when they hear the strong rhythms, Here’s a little sample.  Dolphin Smiles Vocal Preview

This lesson takes a good 45 minutes if you include everything.  Of course you can split it up and do a few songs a day over the week but make sure you do them all at least twice in a fortnight so the learning can deepen.  We hope you enjoy the lesson.  You can find all the music backing tracks, vocal tracks, lyrics, written activity suggestions and wall charts over at our music curriculum website, Musical Child.

Body Awareness – How to prepare a lesson plan on My Body

my bodyBody Awareness – Ways to incorporate music when preparing the topic “My Body”.

Preschoolers aged 3-5 are very interested in the workings of the human body.  There are plenty of great songs to help you plan rich learning experiences around this perennial topic.

Here is a music lesson plan titled My Body built around three rich driving concepts

  1. My body has different parts – hands, thumbs and fingers, head, shoulders, knees, toes, eyes, ears, mouth, nose, hair, feet and lips.
  2. My body can become unwell and well again with common childhood illnesses – mumps, measles, chicken pox.
  3. My body needs good food – spaghetti and meatballs; peas in a peapod; nutmeg and pear.

And here are three ways to use my body

  1. Small skilful movements as in body percussion, finger plays and playing instruments.
  2. Large movements as in dramatic play and dancing.
  3. Stillness as in concentrating on a picture book.

Here’s how I run a lesson called My Body

First, we connect body and brain with a Body Percussion Activity: A Stone Fell on My Hand followed by a Finger Play Activity: Come Dance Little Thumbkin.  That gives plenty of opportunity to talk about the hands and fingers as clever parts of “my body”.

Second, we name other parts of the body.  Then, we get the whole body activated with a standing game of Head and Shoulders but add the mental challenge of doing it in a language other than English. In our lesson we sing Kata Alipiri. It’s Pitjantjatjara, one of the 200 Australian Aboriginal languages still in use.   It’s what we call a Memory Activity.  Here’s the whole song in Language:

Kata, alipiri, muti, tjina,

Muti, tjina, muti, tjina,

Kata, alipiri, mutu, tjina,

Pina, kuru, winpinpi, mulya.

After this gross motor activity, it’s time for more skilful small muscle to work with our Rhythm Instruments Activity.  We sit in a circle and call each child by name to collect a set of instruments from baskets in the middle. Our instrument song is pretty silly. Aiken Drum is about a man whose hair is made of spaghetti and lots more body parts are made of food – but that silliness just helps everyone relax.  This song sets up an opportunity to make artworks with body parts made of food.  We look at images of  the Renaissance painter Arcimboldo for inspiration. But let’s get back to the music lesson – we let the children play with their instruments while everyone gets set up, there’s not much noise really and what’s the point in sitting in front of a set of percussion instruments if you can’t test them and play with your favourites? Play is so important and music is all about playing, right?

Our Melody and Harmony Instrument song Five Little Peas is also good for fine muscle control activity. If you don’t have chime bars (or resonator bells) D, E, G and A you can do this song as a finger-play.  This gives us the chance to talk about yummy vegetables like little green peas – so appealing to small fingers and mouths.

After all that concentration it’s time to get up and move the whole of the body and in this Drama and Movement Activity we use a sea shanty, Donkey Riding, for it’s strong working rhythms. It’s fervent call to action “Way! Hey! Away we go!”.  It arouses a vibrancy in the class members and binds them to each other as a group.  We talk about using our strong leg and arm and back muscles to do strong physical labour.

Role-playing is next on the list.   We do a Drama and Movement Activity about a baby who might have mumps, or measles or even chickenpox depending on what each new visitor thinks.  The song, another silly one, is Susie Had a Baby and as it is derived from a street-game for skipping. It too has strong rhythms and a driving pulse that makes us believe the mischievous baby will soon get well.  Children can discuss having an illness that needed a visit to a doctor or nurse.

Next comes a Games and Dances Activity that once again identifies separate body parts.  It’s a favourite amongst many educators because they remember it from childhood – Dr Knickerbocker.  The whole body is engaged in large motor function for most of the game, but mindfulness occurs as different small muscles like eyes and lips are called into action.

The lesson’s concludes with a Story Song. The children can relax, rest their bodies and imagine the world evoked by the picture book.  In this instance it’s a scene in Tudor England with a Spanish princess and a hero’s escape by sea. The song is I Had a Little Nut Tree and the mood is definitely mysterious with its magical tree that bears only a nutmeg and a golden pear.  The only sensible thing to do next is to eat fruit, any “golden” coloured fruit would be suitable and then go outside and play.  Where possible I cut open a “golden pear” and share it.

You can find all of these activities and the audio tracks on our website.  Follow any of the links or go to the home page and explore My Body and other options for rich and rewarding preschool music lesson plans. Have fun!

Want a farm lesson plan with songs?

Beautiful FarmTry our lesson plan Beautiful Farm to support your children’s early learning about farms through music.  This suits children aged about three to five and up. We start and finish seated on the floor, but in the middle it gets pretty active.  The activities include a body percussion, a finger play, a memory song about remembering the order of numbers 1-5 both forwards and backwards, a rhythm instrument song, a song for melody and harmony instruments, two songs for drama and movement, a game / dance  and a story song.

We start with a brain and body connection activity. We tell the children that the farmer’s son, Johnny, has to fix the fence in order  to stop the pigs running away. Johnny Works With One Hammer is a body percussion that has the children unable to resist copying our hand actions due to its delightful pace, rhythm and sheer silliness. One hammer is one fist pounding on the thigh, for two hammers we pound two fists, for three hammers move foot, for four hammers add another foot, for five hammers we nod our heads and finally, after all that work, we need to collapse and rest.

Next we do a finger play called Piggy Wig and Piggy Wee.  The pigs are represented by two thumbs and their little curly tails are our two little fingers.  It’s great fun and good for strengthening the muscles in the hands. We swap between bending the thumbs-pigs and waggling the pinkies-tails, as well as doing lots of other actions with our hands and fingers.

The pigs get lost in the tall grass in the meadow so it’s time to bring in the mowing men and their dog, Spot.  The song is One Man Went to Mow and we support the learning by holding up five cards each with a man with/on a mower and a numeral 1-5.  Spot, the dog, can be either a soft toy or another image on a card.   I like to hide him behind my back and pull him out each time his name is sung.  Apparently this is highly amusing to a three or four or even a five year-old!

Goats in a paddock

We love this Argentinian folk song  – Come and See My Farm. It has a very pretty chorus that expresses the pride and joy of the farmer.

Oh come my friend, oh come my friend,

Oh come along with me,

Oh come my friend, oh come my friend,

Oh come along with me.

In our version we have chicken, sheep, pigs and a cat but you can substitute any animals you like such as goats or even crocodiles.  Simply choose an instrument to represent each animal and ask the children to play only when it’s their animal’s turn. Children who can restrain themselves have much better outcomes in their lives so it’s worth gently persevering with this idea of playing ‘at the right time’.  Of course some three year olds may not be ready, so we need to be senstitve to this and allow free-play time where necessary.

Another instrument song is Hickety Pickety My Black Hen.   We find we’re better off restricting the age range to four and over when using melody and harmony instruments such as chime bars, or other Orff instruments.   We distribute only the note names C, D, E, G and A and encourage the children to play (on any note, being a pentatonic scale they all harmonise) on the beat or along with the rhythm.  Some older children who are precocious readers may even manage to read and play the letter names from a wall chart but that is not the main game.  We supply a wall chart with a grid notation but it’s mainly for the adults in the room.

After all that concetration it’s a good idea to follow with a movement activity and what could be better than horse-riding.  If we have enough hobby horses for one each that’s great but if we are in a large child care centre and can’t bring twenty five hobby horses in the car, we can easily turn a bag of coloured scarves into tails and voila! everyone’s ready to trot, canter and gallop to a three-tempo game of I Have a Little Pony using all the available space.

The ringer shearing a sheepOur next drama activity is based on the Australian folk song Click Go the Shears.We introduce the idea that sheep need haircuts just like us.  The difference is that we have hair and sheep have wool. Sheep they don’t like having their wool cut off even though it doesn’t hurt when you shear a sheep.  In our story two shearers, one old and one young, are having a competition to find out who can shear the most sheep.  The “old snagger” wins and the young shearer, “the ringer” is cross because he lost. There are many ways to dramatise this story.  In the simplest version we pretend to shear a toy sheep. The children clap when they hear/sing the words “click, click, click.” If we have children who like to perform, four come out in front of the group and play the two sheep and the two shearers. Or for a whole group activity, we make two sheep pen spaces, one for wooly sheep and one for shorn sheep.  All the children play the sheep and two adults play the two shearers.  Each takes a woolly sheep from one pen, shears it, and leads it to the other pen as fast as she/he can.

Our dance activity is to the old singing game The Farmer in the Dell.  We make a circle and give out some simple costume elements, e g a farmer’s hat, a wife’s hat (of course she might be the farmer too), a child’s toy, dog ears head-band or tail, cat ears head-band, whiskers or tail, mouse ears head-band, whiskers or tail, a wearable placard with an image of a cheese.  This will serve seven children.  If we have more children, we repeat the game/dance so everyone gets to “be” someone (or better still, we stay up the night before and make multiple costumes).  With preschoolers, we use a slightly simplified version than the one played in traditional schoolyards.  We leave out the mighty game of chasey at the end.  You can spice it up. If you want to play chasey- you’ll need to add the verse “They all chase the cheese.”

Finally, when everyone is exhasuted, it is time to sit down to rest and finish the lesson with a good story. Our choice is Mary Had a Little Lamb.  We know that farming families sometimes bring orphaned lambs into the domestic setting to care for them.  This song teaches us about compassion in farming.  Mary brings up a lamb and the lamb, attached to Mary, thinks it can go to school with her. Children understand this song and love to sing it. Look through your nursery rhyme collections for the sweetest illustration you can find.  Our favourite is an illustration from an oil painting by Scott Gustafson in Favourite Nursery Rhymes from Mother Goose.

This lesson takes a good 45 minutes if you include everything.  Of course you can split it up and do a few songs a day over the week but make sure you do them all at least twice in a fortnight so the learning can deepen. And don’t forget to visit a Beautiful Farm with your beautiful kids.  We hope you enjoy the lesson.  You can find all the music backing tracks, vocal tracks, lyrics, written activity suggestions and wall charts over at our music curriculum website, Musical Child. 

Not musical? How to get started planning preschool music lessons

Listening in a group

Are you nervous about starting teaching music in preschool? Why is it that you lack confidence? My guess is that you think you are not musical yourself.  You don’t like singing in front of people.

If that’s you then let me suggest a short lesson plan that gets you out of the limelight and lets the confident child-singers shine.  Once it’s no longer “all about you” you might find that your reticence disappears.

7 Steps to Success

1.  Sit on your favourite story time chair and gather the children into a seated group so they can all see you clearly.

2. Introduce the idea that we are going to have a concert and that any child who wants to can come up the front right next to you and sing a song while everyone listens.

3. Once you have discovered a child who can sing convincingly to the group, ask everyone to sing their song again and keep that child at your side to be the model singer or music leader.

4. Continue in this manner with other volunteers until you have made a mental list of four or five songs to work with and at least one child to be your “co-teacher”.  It may take longer than one session to get songs you can work with. Prepare to be surprised at the song lyrics some children know!

5.  Later, spend some of you planning time finding those songs lyrics in your CD collections of favourite children’s songs. Then turn them into wall charts of lyrics.

6. Next you need to work out what kind of activity suits each song.  They might work best as finger plays, hand and body percussion songs,  or you might find reading resources or illustrated story books to suit them.  You might also play instruments to them, make up circle dances or dramatise them.   A selection of different activities is a great basis for a varied and interesting music session.  (You are well on your way to planning an excellent preschool music program.)

7.  Success brings success – you and your talented children, the music leaders,  will soon be having fun running music sessions together because we are all born musical- but some adults just need to find that out through musical play with children.

If you want any inspiration in finding music activities to do with children aged from twelve months to five years have a look here.