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3 Musical Play Ideas for Preschoolers on Rainy Days

There is something special (and occasionally chaotic!) about being rugged up inside on cold days, but it does make the perfect time to spend time playing musically - whether you are at home or in an early childhood centre.

Try these ideas to build on children's listening skills, creativity and deep understanding of music in a way that is fun and engaging.

Listening Games

Sometimes, the best musical experience we can give children when it is really stormy or raining is a chance to listen. To sit, hear the sounds outside and reflect on how different they are to what we usually hear.

This is something we love doing with young children - you will be amazed by the subtle sounds they pick up. Too often, children are not given this opportunity to be still and concentrate on listening.

We ask:

  • Is this a high sound? Or a low sound?

  • Do you hear lots of different rhythms?

  • What direction is the loudest sound coming from?

  • How do these sounds make you feel?

  • What words would you use to describe these sounds?

  • Can you hear a very quiet sound?

Painting to Music

Pick a song without words (or find one on a streaming service such as Spotify) and set up some paper and paints or crayons. The larger the paper the better - but any size works.

We love using Vivaldi's The Four Seasons for this activity, and classical and jazz music do work particularly well for this. It works best to select music without words.

Ask the children to listen to the music and draw what they hear. You can join in too - demonstrating that you can draw the music, painting the phrases and instruments you hear, or drawing something the music brings to mind.

Older children are particularly adept at drawing the actual musical phrasing, including using space such as high and low for various parts of the song. Younger children tend to draw shapes and representations of what the music reminds them of.

There is no right or wrong way.

It is a good idea to do this activity regularly so that children build on their previous ideas and develop new ways of representing the music on paper.

Teach Hand-Clapping Rhymes

These are the games we used to play as children, and they are great for supporting the understanding of beat and rhythm in young children, including babies. The beat remains the same throughout, but the rhythms that we chant change and this complex use of beat / rhythm is a powerful way for children to experience musical play.

In a group setting, it pays to seat children so that you can keep an eye on their hands, and spread adults around if possible to support them.

The best way to teach these games follows this pattern:

  • Start simple - clapping their own hands and learning the chant

  • Move to patting a partner's hands and practise being able to keep the beat this way

  • Use language to support the physical actions rather than the words to the song - such as "clap clap clap and pat pat pat"

  • Move to 2 simple actions, with language to support them

  • Practise saying the rhyme with these actions

  • Keep it humorous and fun so that children feel excited by the challenge

  • Go back to practising with supportive language rather than lyrics if children are struggling

Some favourite songs to use as hand clapping rhymes for all ages are:

- Pat a Cake

- Do you Know the Muffin Man

- Clap Clap Handies

- 1, 2, 3, Mother Caught a Flea

- A Sailor Went to Sea Sea Sea

- Baa Baa Black Sheep

- Hickey Pickety My Black Hen

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