From joy, love, and excitement, to difficult feelings like worry and melancholy, music can help us get in tune with our deepest emotions. It’s as true for children as it is for adults—that’s why putting on a happy children’s song can get those little feet tapping, or singing a lullaby can soothe a crying baby.
And it’s not just your imagination: Science has confirmed that music is deeply tied to how we process emotions1.
Thanks to the powerful connection between music and child development, music activities for preschoolers can help kids express their feelings in wonderful new ways. Here, we’ve collected six of our favorite ways to bring a little more musical fun into your child’s day.
Music and Movement for Toddlers
Whether you’re teaching your child the top ten hits from your high school days or singing to Slumberkins’ latest hits, sharing music is more important than you might realize. Many studies have confirmed that music has a significant positive effect on our children’s early years.
Listening to music, singing, and playing musical instruments can2:
- Enhance motor skills
- Build working memory
- Assist with language development
- Build math skills
- Improve emotional development and self-regulation
4 Music Activities for Preschoolers & Parents
Now that we’ve seen how musical activities can help with your child’s cognitive, social, and emotional development, let’s get to the fun stuff: our favorite music and movement activities for toddlers.
#1 Colorful Sheet Music and Printables
An age-appropriate musical activity for your preschooler is playing with color-coded sheet music and a simple instrument color-coded to match.
Different types of musical instruments that children as young as two can begin learning include:
You’ll find many options for kid-friendly downloadable sheet music online. Boomwhackers and xylophones often use the same color/note combinations, so they’re compatible with most color-coded sheet music downloadables. If you have an instrument such as a handbell set or keyboard that isn’t color-coded, you can DIY it with colored dot stickers, elastic bands, or colored tape.
#2 Music Painting
Art and music are a natural duo. Translating the feelings that music stirs up through a drawing or painting can help your child express big feelings in a whole new way. And it’s super easy to do:
- Choose the materials, which can include paper (oversized paper pads are fun here), markers, crayons, or watercolors. Finger paints to swirl and mix on a cookie sheet or baking dish can also encourage more loose, expressive exploration.
- Cue up some tunes that explore emotions, like the new Slumberkins original series soundtrack album.
- Encourage your child to draw anything that comes to mind as they listen. This could be a scene, a person, or simply a mix of the colors that a feeling makes them think of. Whatever your child creates is A-okay here.
#3 Dance Along
A family dance party is one of our favorite ways to loosen up, explore feelings, learn rhythm, and practice gross motor skills. And it’s not just fun and relaxing. Research has found that dance activities for kids provide both psychological and physiological benefits, such as3:
- Better sleep
- Better motor skill development
- Lower depression and anxiety
- Greater self-confidence
Try a mix of tunes, from fast to slow, and encourage your child to learn to recognize the beat. Have your child try stomping, clapping, or jumping along to the rhythm.
#4 Fun With a Song Cube
A song cube can help pre-readers develop both literacy and musical skills. To craft a song cube, all you’ll need is a small, square cardboard box (an empty square tissue box is ideal) and six printed pictures that represent a song.
Some song/picture combos could be:
- Itsy-bitsy Spider – A picture of a cartoon spider and the word “Spider.”
- You Are My Sunshine – A picture of the sun and the word “Sun.”
- Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star – A star with the word “Star.”
Tape one picture to each side of the box, and voila—your song cube is ready to go. Roll the cube, and have your child figure out which song came up. It’s the perfect blend of reading practice with musical fun.
2 DIY Music Projects for Kids
There are lots of easy ways to craft instruments with your child that are affordable and still educational. Making their own instrument also gives your little one a sense of accomplishment and pride.
Here are a few suggestions for DIY projects to try together:
#1 Craft DIY Instruments
If there’s one thing preschoolers love more than making noise, it’s a craft project that results in a fun new noisemaker. The options are nearly endless:
- Cardboard roll kazoos using a rubber band and piece of waxed paper
- Paper plate and dried bean shakers
- Wrapping paper roll rainsticks
- Tissue box guitars using rubber bands for strings
- Pot and pan drum set
- Rhythm sticks using wooden spoons or cardboard tubes
- Egg shakers using plastic eggs and dried beans or rice
#2 Make a Music Song Board for Endless Fun
Like a song cube, a song board is another way to help kids practice reading skills while choosing songs to sing. You can download a printable song board online, or craft your own.
To make a song board:
- Use a large sheet of cardstock or poster board for the board. A felt board also works if you have one on hand for other activities.
- At the top of the board, write a simple phrase like “I want to sing” or “Let’s sing.” Leave the rest of the board blank—this is where all your song cards will go.
- After this phrase, make a line to show your child where to place the song card they choose. Glue a piece of velcro here.
- Create your song cards. For each of your child’s favorite songs, print a picture on cardstock or photo paper. Print the song title in large block letters.
- On the back of each song card, glue a piece of velcro to make it repositionable on your song board. Add velcro strips to the blank space on your song board, and stick your song cards in place.
Choosing song cards from the song board lets your child feel empowered while they sharpen their picture and word recognition skills.
Put a Song In Your Child’s Heart With Slumberkins
If you’re looking for new ways to support your child’s cognitive development, motor skills, and social-emotional learning, music is what you need. It’s an incredible tool for stimulating our minds, bodies, and hearts all at once.
At Slumberkins, we believe in the power of music to touch hearts and encourage meaningful connection.
That’s why we’ve created Slumberkins original music for caregivers and children to enjoy together. We wanted to make kid-friendly songs with heartfelt messages and singable, danceable, listenable tunes that grownups would love too. So, put some Slumberkins tunes on the stereo, pump up the volume, and get the family karaoke party started anytime.
- Schaefer, Hans-Eckhardt. “Music-Evoked Emotions-Current Studies.” Frontiers in neuroscience vol. 11 600. 24 Nov. 2017, doi:10.3389/fnins.2017.00600
- Dumont, Elisabeth et al. “Music Interventions and Child Development: A Critical Review and Further Directions.” Frontiers in psychology vol. 8 1694. 29 Sep. 2017, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01694
- Tao, Dan et al. “The Physiological and Psychological Benefits of Dance and its Effects on Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review.” Frontiers in physiology vol. 13 925958. 13 Jun. 2022, doi:10.3389/fphys.2022.925958