Music & Dance

Music & Dance

Music is a part of a child’s life even before birth. Mom’s constant heartbeat or the cadence of her walk feel normal. Once in mom’s arms, there are lullabies, tinkling mobiles, cooing. So much learning is enhanced with music. Has any child learned the ABC’s without the accompanying song? Rhythm and clapping songs. Head & shoulders, knees and toes. Twinkle twinkle little star.

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Children in the early primary grades become alert to the influence of music in their lives. They crave it. Music becomes an identifier. They discover what their friends are listening to and find immediate connections, as their due north starts to shift from home to friends. They’re still in both camps, but the direction is clear. Self-expression and attending to internal differences are secondary to the rush of belonging.

In adolescence lyrics, mood, causes and general rebellion can drive musical choices. They match and sometimes drive the changes and challenges our children face. And they serve as glue for social groups – capturing the serious or darker feelings without having to ever really talk about them. They share the music. That may be enough said.

Welcome to the powerful world of music in our children’s lives. We fold them into our religious traditions – with music. We participate in our communities – with music. Let’s explore ways we can help our children appreciate and manage the beautiful power of music (and dance!) in their lives.


Cockatiel Sings iPhone Ringtone

Video: "My friend's family has a cockatiel named Lucky. Whenever Lucky gets upset, he sings an Apple ringtone. It usually happens when they tie their shoes to get ready to leave the house. It's adorable, and also pitch perfect."


Donkey Duet

Bray-ce yourself. A South Carolina man recorded himself singing a “Lion King” duet with a donkey.

  • Why do you think this happens?
  • Can you think of other animals who appear to enjoy music?


Sikh dancers twirling
Photo: F. Dilek Uyar / National Geographic

Dancing as protest

Social dancing - for school age

All the world's a stage. School dances can be like Olympic events for our kids. They want desperately to belong. To not be ridiculed or marginalized. To show (some) competence. And to celebrate true friendships. They feel like all eyes are on them - and they are. The purpose of these conversation ideas is to explore the social and emotional aspects of school dances.

  • Help your child appreciate that school dances are less about performance and more about joining in the celebration with friends.
  • Ask them what they think makes a good school dance? How can you tell if people are having fun?
  • What kinds of things happen to make a dance uncomfortable for some people?
  • Ask what they most enjoy about school dances. What about school dances make tem nervous or uncomfortable?
  • Sometimes people like to do 'big' dancing - taking up lots of room. Do you know anyone like that?
  • While someone is dancing in a big way, do you think they are paying attention to their friends or partners? Is that important? Sometimes that can isolate them. Can you think why?
  • Sometimes people like to do quieter dancing - enjoying the music but not taking up much space. They stay closer to their friends. Do you know anyone like that?
  • Are there songs that everyone enjoys? Crowd favorites? Are there special moves? What do you think is the best way to learn them?
  • Share stories and dances from when you were a teenager. Any favorite memories?

Rise Up!

Help your child appreciate how, when times are tough, music can be a powerful way of pulling together and supporting one another - while sharing intentions with the whole world. You can begin by sharing the video in this article about a choir in Baltimore. This was only their second practice!

  • What do you think the kids in this video are feeling when they perform this song? And what else?
  • If I were singing with this group, I'd definitely be feeling ....
  • What do you think they are thinking about? Remembering words? Wondering if their shirts are tucked in?  Do you think that, when you are singing, your body is more about feelings than thoughts?
  • They all worked hard to sing together in one voice. Do you think they all feel connected to one another when they sing - like they are a part of something bigger than themselves? Have you ever felt that feeling?
  • How about you? When you heard this song what were you feeling and thinking? Did you feel strong? Hopeful?
  • If a listener was facing some real challenges in their lives, do you think the song might help them?
  • Just think about it - words and music go through the air and make a real difference in the world.
  • Do you have other songs you like to listen to that make you feel better?

Baby talk and puppy talk

The purpose of these conversation ideas is to help your child notice and appreciate how we use our voices in different ways to connect and communicate more effectively. It may not seem like singing, but we naturally adjust the timbre and pitch with babies (and puppies) as if they have a special song. Here is some recent research.

  • Have you noticed how people almost always use different voices when they engage with babies? Why do you think we do that?
  • Science has shown us that it is a powerful way to get and keep their attention so we can really connect. So they feel our attention. Feeling connected is an important part of being human.
  • Do you see a difference if you use a quiet low voice with a baby? Do they pay attention in the same way?
  • If you want a baby to be comforted and quieted, would you use your voice in a different way?
  • Can you think of other situations where we adjust our voices automatically?
  • Sometimes young women speak in artificially higher voices. And sometimes young men speak in artificially lower voices. Can you think why that might happen?

Dancing in the Streets

Simon Dove, Artistic Director of Dancing in the Streets says, “Hip-hop is this incredible, unifying force, Many of the dancers already knew and respected one another’s work before they joined. This is more or less the fourth generation of hip-hop dancers, so they’re really trying to create their own style. They reference those who came before but there’s a lot of freestyle."

  • In some neighborhoods, kids work hard to create dances that show how special their group is. They invent new moves, both as individuals and as a group.
  • Their heroes might be people who invented new moves.
  • They always do some moves together and let individuals do their own thing at other times. How do you think they decide?
  • When they are performing, you often hear them calling out and supporting one another. Do you think that makes it easier to perform?
  • How do you think it feels to be a part of a group performing something so special while the audience cheers?

Boss of Art?

The arts are very powerful. So powerful that dictators fear them and do what they can to control what people see, the stories they hear, their music, even what people wear - everything. They know the arts can change people's feelings and even make them feel they can make a change in their government. The purpose of this discussion is to help your child recognize the reasons dictators fear artists and the messages they bring.

Definition: A dictatorship is a government or a social situation where one person makes all the rules and decisions without input from anyone else.

  • Why do you think a dictator would want to control the arts?
  • What might happen if people living under a dictator wore a t-shirt that was insulting to the dictator?
  • In free countries we often have protest songs inspiring people to make the world - and their country -  a better place. Do you think it takes courage to write and perform songs that criticize leaders in free countries?  In dictatorships?
  • How do you think other citizens feel or react when they see risky art? Do you think they look away because they are afraid? Do you think they try to protect the artist?
  • Dictators are afraid that people will come together and challenge them. How do you think the arts help people come together?
  • Let's try to find art in our country that might not be legal under a dictatorship.


The purpose of these discussion ideas is to build awareness of how and why people talk about people in groups as if they are all the same. Ultimately we want them to be able to recognize this in their own thoughts and behaviors.

Definition: A stereotype is a preconceived notion, especially about a group of people. This is often due to a lack of exposure and understanding. Many stereotypes are negative, such as racism, sexism, or homophobia.

When your child is exposed to a stereotype that you see as insensitive, initiate a discussion that explores:

  • Sometimes groups think it makes their group look better if they make other groups look bad. It can show up as teasing, shaming or bullying people who are different from them.
  • Let's think about groups we belong to. Favorite sports team? Faith? Ethnicity? Gender? Music preference? Do we ever experience people assuming things about each of our groups that aren't true? Consider sharing some of the stereotypes you (as a parent) have had to experience.
  • How does it feel when people think they know something about you that isn't true?
  • How does it feel when you don't get to participate in activities that interest you - just because of stereotypes?
  • Occasionally note examples of stereotypes in images or movies and TV. "It looks like they are talking about a group as if they are all the same. Is it meant to be funny? Do you think the people in that stereotyped group would be okay with it?"
  • Let's notice and help one another spot images that may make some people feel bad about themselves.
  • If someone starts making fun of a group or an individual in a group, you might want to say something like, "I think those words could hurt someone's feelings.  Can we find better words or a better way?"

Move on down the road

The point of these discussion ideas is to help your child know that the music we enjoy changes over time - as we change.

  • Do you have a favorite singer? A favorite song? Do your friends like that song too?
  • Way back in 1717, Johann Sebastian Bach was the most popular. He was like a rock star. And people are still playing his music today even though it is 300 years old.
  • One hundred years ago there was more new music. And fifty years ago. And just one year ago.
  • Do you remember your favorite songs when you were just a baby? I do. (Sing it together)
  • Are there songs you really liked last year? Any new favorites?
  • When I was your age I really liked ___. (Sing it.)
  • Today this is my favorite song.
  • Even though I have new favorite songs every year, I still really like to play my old favorites.  They bring me back to happy memories.
  • When I sang some of your old favorites, did they bring back old feelings?
  • Music has a way of connecting to our hearts and bringing old feelings back.

Did you know there is a whales' top 10?

These conversation starters can help your child appreciate music as a connector and that music evolves over time. This article. Humpback whales have distinct song cultures, can give you some background info.

  • Share this video of whales singing.
  • Did you know that whales enjoy music as much as we do? They often sing long songs as they travel, inventing new melodies and rhythms. The music keeps them connected with one another across great distances.
  • Whales are like people another way too - they like to make new music all the time.
  • Let's think about some songs we used to like and listen to a lot.
  • When I was your age, my favorite song was ___, for a while. But then, when I got in high school, it was more like ___ and ___.
  • What are your favorites now? Do your friends like the same songs? Do you talk about them with your friends?
  • Let's think about some songs you liked when you were smaller. (You might need to help them remember.)
  • Sing an old song or two together, commenting on how it brings back so many memories. Those songs will always be in your heart, even when you are 70 years old, even though you will have had 100's of new favorites since then.
  • I wonder what Grandma or Grandpa's favorite old songs are. Let's plan on asking next time we see them.  Maybe we can get them to sing them for us.

Music, to create harmony, must investigate discord.


The history of a people is found in its songs. - George Jellinek

If it weren't for the rocks in its bed, the stream would have no song.

Carl Perkinshere

Head Nod ... and Beyond

These discussion ideas can build your child's awareness of how much we communicate using our bodies. By recognizing physical language around smaller things, they can begin to see dance and movement as expression and not simply entertainment. They become aware of how they use their own bodies - every day - to express themselves.

  • People communicate with each other in lots of ways, but most often through their words and their bodies - at the very same time. What we are doing with our bodies when we say words tells as much as the words themselves.
  • Can you think how we say 'yes' using just our body? No? Maybe?
  • Did you know that in sign language you say "yes" by nodding your fist?
  • What if we said "no" to someone - with a smile on our face. What might that mean? (Act it out.)
  • What if we said "no" and hung our head and walked away? What might that mean?
  • What if we said, "Yes" while dropping down dramatically into a chair? What might that mean?
  • What if someone nodded their head up and down vigorously? What might that mean? Does it mean more than yes?
  • Challenge each other, "Can you say, 'I don't know!' without words?" I'm bored? Hurry up! Thank you. I have to pee.
  • We often show how we feel just by how we walk. Try walking 'sad' and see if they can guess. Take turns. Feeling proud? Angry. In a hurry. Ashamed.
  • Occasionally, as you are driving through town, notice particular people in the crosswalk and see if you can guess what they are feeling.

Strutting to the Music

This short exercise can help your children notice how strongly their bodies want to align with the the rhythms they hear. It is almost irresistible. Hmmmm. I wonder why.

  • When you have music with a strong rhythm playing in your home, invite your child to move with you in time with the music.
  • Share with them how you use music to help you move quickly - when the need calls for it. Out for a fast walk or run? Need to clean and want to keep the pace up?
  • Get the family to march in place to the rhythm playing and ask one person to now march in a slightly slower or faster rhythm. And maintain it. (It can be difficult.)
  • Then see if someone can join that person and match their rhythm - while the original song is still playing
  • Why do you think this is difficult?


The Macarena

Well, just because it's a social requirement.  And ... why not! Such an accessible way to celebrate together - and have fun.

Macarena Instructions

Social Dancing - for toddlers

Social dancing can be a real challenge for our kids. I know this because it is a real challenge for me and everyone else I know. The purpose of these conversation ideas is to explore the social and emotional aspects of dancing.

  • Begin when they are young. At weddings and parties, model the ease and fun of enjoying music together. Help your child see that social dancing is less about performance and more about joining in the celebration with friends and relatives.
  • Carry your young child to the dance floor and move around with them. Look them in the eye and smile. Move over to other dancers and mirror their moves (if you can). Enjoy the people you see, moving around in a fun way, but, most importantly, make personal connections - eye contact. Your child will automatically experience the sense of real connection when you move in harmony with others.
  • "Let's see if we can do what ___ is doing?"
  • When they are ready to dance beside you, repeat the process. Look in your child's eyes as you move together in happy or silly ways. Walk with them to join others.
  • Take turns trying some silly steps. Or following what other dancers are doing. The purpose is to relax and enjoy moving together. Appreciating one another.
  • Lead your child to invite others, especially relatives who are sitting this one out. It's almost impossible to say no to a child.

Words make you think a thought. Music makes you feel a feeling. A song makes you feel a thought

E. Y. Harbug

Show 'em what you got!

The lesson? Dancing can be fun - and it feels good. Much of the learning will come from seeing you model in-the-moment fancy footwork.

  • Standing at the stove stirring? Pick up a rhythm with your hips and feet and enhance it as you continue to stir. Using care not to burn yourself, the spoon could be a microphone for a second or two.
  • When you are setting the table or putting things away, do a pirouette or two. Show some style. End with a dramatic bow.
  • Begin a follow-the-leader routine as they follow you to the kitchen or the car. You do a step variation - and they follow. On your way back, they get to lead and you follow.
  • When you both have your feet on the floor, tap out a short rhythm. See if they can copy it with just one listen. Or two. Make it easy at first. Of course they get to then tap out their own and you must try to repeat it.
  • Plan a tapping code. A secret rhythm that says "I love you." or "I'm getting bored." Only family members will know what it means.
  • When you are expecting a friend or family member to come to your front door, plan a quick spin and welcoming bow as you open the door. Be fearless. You might give that person a heads-up so they can enter with a little flair too.

The graduation two-step

These discussion ideas can build your child's awareness of movement in common rituals.  Movement isn't random.  There's serious community choreography happening around them everyday. A fun part of this lesson will be showing the right way - and the wrong way.

  • When preparing for a graduation (or wedding) ceremony, take a few minutes to say what the ceremony is about. Why is graduation an important milestone?
  • School graduations have a lot of work to do. They need to make it official that the students have successfully completed their work. They need to help the families see and feel the importance of the moment. And they need to make sure that all of the graduates get the time and attention they deserve.
  • There is always music - music that feels grand and a little slow. The music says, "This is important." And it is important because it represents a very big change in someone's life.  Their lives will be different from this point on.
  • The caps and gowns also add to the solemnity and importance.
  • And then, the procession. Graduates march in a very special way - in a long line.  (Show them.) This means it takes quite a while to get all the way to the stage - which is perfect so every mom and dad have a minute to get some pictures and to wave and generally burst with pride.
  • Let's practice it now. It all feels very controlled, doesn't it.
  • Imagine if the music was very fast, what would happen? How would the ceremony feel different?
  • What would happen if the graduates didn't march in a line at all? What if they all ran up at once? How would the ceremony feel?
  • When the event is over, all the students march out again, but this time it is casual and a little faster.  The music and the movement now reflect the happiness and relief.
  • Do you think it's important that they end by marching out together like that? Would the ceremony feel less important if the graduates just jumped off the stage and ran to their parents.

Does how you move tell your story?

The intent of these conversation ideas is to help your child recognize that people tell you some of their story by how they carry themselves. Dare I call it dance? They can communicate something about the group(s) they want to belong to. Something about their confidence. Ultimately we want our children to recognize that they control their own messages.

  • You can begin with a few adults at a distance. Help them notice details and patterns.
  • Do they walk with energy? Hold their heads up? Hands in pockets? Do they keep adjusting their cap? Twirl their hair?
  • Do you have any ideas about what might be going on in their lives? Do you think they are tired? Happy? Confident?
  • If you notice a group of teens - explore what your child can read from how they move together. Often groups of people walk the same way, same posture, etc. Do you think they are athletes? Into hip hop?
  • Do you think people can adjust how they walk?
  • If you walk in a different way, do you feel different? If you hold your shoulders back and head high? Or if you scuff, round your shoulders and look down, does it affect how you feel?

Self awareness is the goal for them. Simple conversations about movement in others is as far as you need to go. Let them make the leap to their own action.

Dancing my history

Every family's heritage is filled with traditions. These conversation ideas can help your child feel the pride and power of celebrating their culture. They feel connected to earlier generations and to each other. Even when they are at school, the warm and fun memories can keep kids feeling safe - and special. This discussion can be more of a dance-a-thon than a conversation.

  • What did you notice about dancing at your family events when you were a child? Were there special dances? Did you have favorite relatives who always did something special? Was there a traditional song that people danced to?
  • As you prepare your child for an upcoming family event, grab the opportunity to share the traditions.
  • Tell your story - such as: The first time I saw this dance was when I was just # years old. Everyone got up out of their chairs to join in. My uncle took me on his shoulders and brought me into the dance.
  • We might get to do the dance next week when we go to ( )'s wedding. Let's see if I can remember how it goes.
  • Try to find some traditional music - and begin the dance. Talk about your favorite parts. Don't pull them into it if they don't want to try. Just seeing you enjoy it helps them connect. They will try it some day.
  • Go through family photos to find pictures of people doing the dance.
  • Let's look it up online? Explore any traditional costumes. Foods?
  • Do you know anything about your friend's family traditions?  It might be fun to share your stories some time.
  • Do you think people in other countries have different favorite dances? How do you think that happens? Why doesn't every family in the world do the Macarena?

Hula Dance & Storytelling

These discussion ideas can help your child begin to understand the role dance plays in communities - preserving history through storytelling, routinely pulling people together to reinforce community beliefs and values. Invite your child to watch a quick video or two. Please review first. The women's video has one coach outburst that isn't great - you decide if the rest of the video is worth it. I think it is. Hula for menHula for women.

  • Can we take a few minutes to check out a cool form of dancing - the hula? Many people think of it as just beautiful movement by pretty women, but it is so much more than that. It is really a powerful way the people of Polynesia tell and celebrate their history. Their dance has it's own language and movements that make it unique.
  • What do you notice when you watch these dancers?
  • It looks like there are very specific moves for specific words or ideas. A whole new language. Could you understand what they might be saying?
  • Just like people in different locations have their own language, they can also have their own dance language, and other art styles.  That's one way they stay connected.
  • Why might parents in Polynesia want their children to learn their local dances?
  • It takes people lots of time to learn and perform together. LOTS of time. Why do you think people are willing to work so hard?
  • What sorts of things are important enough to you that you are willing to practice even when you are tired? When I was a kid I really wanted to learn ..... (Share a personal story. Were you nervous? How did it feel? How did things work out for you?)
  • Let's think about creating our own holiday dance - like Thanksgiving - where we remind people what we are celebrating.  We can make it short and fun - and have everyone do it before we eat dinner. Who knows? It might become one of our family traditions. Who can we get to do a video?

Bee Dance

These conversation ideas can help your child appreciate how much we can communicate with one another by using our bodies.

  • Did you know that bees tell the other bees from their hive where to find flowers? Bees don't need to discover it all by themselves. They learn from one another.
  • Can you guess how bees teach one another?
  • Dancing! They show the way to the flowers by dancing out the directions.
  • Even though we have words and maps, let's see if we can do a dance that shows how to get to the school.
  • Can we do a dance that communicates happiness? Can we make up a thank-you dance?

And suddenly I'm flying, flying like a bird, like electricity!

Air Moving

Part of the joy of dancing is feeling the air move around us. Help your child notice and experiment with how it feels to move through space.

    • Did you know that our bodies always move through air? It isn't empty space; it's filled with air that surrounds us. Wave your hands in the air. Can you feel it?
    • Give your child a feather. The soft part is like our hair. Can you turn in a circle without having the feather flutter? Why do you think that happens?
    • When we really feel the air moving around us, it can feel like flying

Can You Dance With Your Hands?

The purpose of this conversation is to help your child see and feel the art of dance in their own homes and in their own bodies. You can help them recognize the freedom, fun and expression of moving their bodies. Most of this conversation will be action - a playful back and forth. They can experience the thrill of coordinated movements - working together as well as doing their 'own thing'.

  • With music playing in the background - My hands feeling like dancing to that music. (Do some easy rhythmic moves with your hands. Or flying or swaying moves. Or hands spiking into the air moves. Or even using your fingers like legs and feet moves!)
  • Select one easy combination and ask, can you do this?
  • What do your hands feel like doing with this music? Let's see If I can do it too.
  • Let's take turns showing and learning.
  • Want to try it to a different kind of music?
  • These are jazz hands - dazzle dazzle.
  • Can we do the same thing with our feet?
  • Let's do a lip dance. Are you ready?
  • Ohhhh - the belly dance.
  • Butt dance? Let's get mommy or daddy in here to join us for the butt dance!
  • Let's see if we can help these stuffed animals dance?

The "I Like You!" dance

The lesson is obvious - and fun. Lots of animals - and people too - just naturally dance to win attention and show love and other feelings.

  • Share these two videos.  This bird is working very very hard to win attention. Even uses full costume. When birds are already in love, they love to dance together.
  • Birds work very hard doing all sorts of fancy dances to win other birds' hearts. Why do you think dancing impresses other birds?
  • People, too, can show lots of emotions when they dance.
  • Many of these movements happen naturally. When we are happy, our bodies can feel light. Skipping can feel like the right thing to do just because your body is happy. What else might your body want to do when you feel happy?
  • When we are scared, we just naturally pull away and curl up to protect ourselves. We close ourselves. Any other ideas on ways our bodies show that we are scared?
  • Have you ever heard the phrase 'stomping mad?' Sometimes when we are angry we just naturally want to stomp around. Stomp! Stomp! Why do you think stomping feels so right?
  • Our whole bodies feel the feelings and express those feelings.

Let's Go On A Dancing Trip!

The purpose of this activity is simply to get your child moving and dancing and enjoying themselves. They will feel proud when they can move into the next dance even before they see you doing it. And, obviously you will both feel the joy of doing the dances together.

The fun of this game is restarting and repeating each dance move before they discover the next one. Think of "A Partridge in a Pear Tree" - for your feet (and the rest of your body too!) Make up your own stories and dances. The examples listed are meant to give you a sense of what a dancing trip can be.

  • Lead the children on an imaginary journey. Start MARCHING. We're going on a dancing trip. As you march, talk about some of the things you see. You see clouds, and oak trees aaaaaand pigs crossing the road doing BALLET!
  • When you say ballet, do a fancy pirouette or plie.
  • Then begin again, marching, seeing clouds, oak trees and pigs doing ballet (you do your ballet moves), then start pointing out other things you see - a hot dog stand, a school aaaaand bears skating in a SKATING Rink.
  • You both skate for about 10 seconds, then begin again each time doing the dances mentioned.
  • Going on a marching trip ... ballet ... skating ... and now describe what you see. There are cows and kids on bikes and BUNNIES. Do your best bunny hop for a bit, then begin again.
  • Marching, ballet, skating, bunny hop and now you see .... dogs barking, a squirrel in a tree aaaaand - Grandpa doing a HULA dance.
  • Then begin again - you get the picture.
  • Once they get the hang of it, ask what they see.
  • You can end it by seeing a plane to take you home - out of dancing land.

Marching - the thrill of moving in unison

We want our kids to understand and experience the magical power of marching, or moving, or dancing in unison. Science shows how the experience builds a sense of connection and community - a sense of being part of something bigger than yourself. Although your child may not be able to name it, they will certainly feel it.

  • Invite them to march - perhaps initiating it first without them. Music might be the inspiration or it could simply be time to get them to refocus.
  • Start with an energetic march through your home or outside on the sidewalk, high knees and arms, head held high. Salute people as you walk by. Or salute pictures and stuffed animals.
  • Tell observers you are marching to show how proud you are of your school or garden or clean toy room.
  • Turn it into a stomping march. A very small and quiet march. The trick is getting them to adjust and experience the variations and stay aligned. Marching in unison is where the magic happens.
  • Can we march backwards? Can you start and show me how?
  • Try marching to super-fast and super-slow music. How does this feel?
  • Prepare them for how the marching will stop. Perhaps, "ATTENTION!" then "MARCHING HALT!" then four steps in place.  Bring some formality to how it ends, showing respect for the activity.
  • Obviously a favorite is, "The Ants Go Marching One By One."
  • When they have friends visiting, ask your child if they would like to show their friends how you march together - and invite them to join you.

Hold on!

Okay. I know every parent already does this in some form, but it can be such a lovely learning tool that it warrants another mention. The purpose is to build your young child's awareness of movement and connection and feelings ... and love.

  • Hold your child and dance. Talk about your movements as you do them.
  • Let's sway. After a couple of sway moves, look into their eyes and connect. Do they like it? Do they want to do it again?
  • Let's spin. Glide. Dip. Did you like that? Bigger dip. Stretch.
  • See if they can direct you and tell you what they want.
  • Talk about the moves you like best.
  • Show how you like to move if you feel sad or happy or sleepy.
  • Can both Mommy and Daddy hold the child between them and all dance together? Fancy footwork. Dip. Stretch. The sky's the limit.
  • Play a love song. Let them feel the love as you dance.

Get to Know Your Child's Musical Palette

With the onset of iPods, much of your children's music may be invisible to you. Without effort, you may never actually hear it. Encourage them to plug into the car system - making it easier to initiate a discussion.

Spend some time talking about what you liked when you were their age. Have fun singing some of your oldies. Tell them how hearing those old songs takes you right back there - to the same feelings you had twenty years earlier. What were those feelings? Have things changed?

Teen Age Girls - In Their Own Voices

Music for Sleeping Children is an experimental collaboration between internationally recognized visual artist Charlie White and Mercury-nominated musician and producer Boom Bip (also known as Bryan Hollon). The project stems from White's investigations of the representation of American adolescence.

You're invited to a special Maroon 5 dinner!

Support your child in hosting an informal monthly celebration of their favorite performers. Encourage them to research the group in advance. What artists inspired them? (Have some of their idols music available.)

What food do they prefer when touring? (Have those favorites on the menu.)

T-shirts could be great parting gifts.

What Do 12-Yr Olds Listen To?

Check out this message board for a quick glimpse into preteen favorites. Gift ideas, perhaps.

You can sense their pride in lists - and see the similarities.

Is there a gender difference starting to emerge?

Within Reach

Don't pass up opportunities to stroll through country fairs or linger with street performers. Get your child in the habit of lingering and giving the players a chance to be really heard.

Physical proximity to the fiddle or bagpipes or drums or - whatever - can work a little magic. The connection among child, performer and instrument can be palpable. Make a personal connection, even if it's a head nod and thanks.

Applying Music

Family events. Ask your teenager to pick out music that will keep guests attentive and having fun with one another?

Give them the role of figuring out what kinds of music others prefer.

Can you spend a few minutes with (___) to find out what kind of music they like? I want to buy them a CD they will actually enjoy.

Movies & Music Double Feature

One afternoon, watch a movie on television with your children. When it is over, watch it again with notebooks and notice when the music comes and goes. What type is it? What do you think they wanted the music to do? Rewind and play without sound. Does the scene feel different?

You can suggest that this is an exercise program for their ears. And, surely, it could easily be turned into a project for a school report.

Letting Go of the Lead

It's official. There comes a point when it is important for you as parents to cede "coolness" to the next generation. This means yielding to their playlists.

As your child's sense of individuality grows, music can be the stage on which it visibly happens. They identify with their generation's music as different from yours. Who they listen to is important in their social circles.

Chin up. There will be a time when you can help them with the ever-emerging "classics" trend.

Music Sleuth

It is everywhere - almost invisible to us. For a week, everyone in the family makes a note every time they notice music. At the end of the week, compile them all in a common list.

Have some fun with the list, challenging friends & family to guess how ubiquitous music is. Begin with a discussion about what counts as music. If your clothes dryer has 3 notes? Microwave? Do they count? Notice when you turn things on and off.

Be sure to notice when you are shopping, or each time you turn on your computer, or background to video games, or television shows, or ….. You get the picture - or - the sound.

Music doesn’t cause the feelings. It helps the feelings.

An inteview with Angelina, a high-school sophomore, about the role of music in her life.

"Please trust me and my music. I don’t listen to songs that make me feel worse. No one does. I want to feel better and it begins by seeing that others have felt the same way."

"Music reflects universal feelings. It doesn’t come and go, whereas friends move on. Music is like a band-aid that is always there for you."

Instrument Voices

Check out DSO Kids, a great website to introduce kids to all the parts of the orchestra.

8-Yr Old DJ

The basic role of DJ is to change the songs without stopping in between. They understand and guide the emotions of the dancers.

If your child shows interest, consider taking them up to meet a DJ after an event. Sometimes a personal connection can be enough to fire a a learning spurt.

The Sound of Your Home

The surest way for children to appreciate music is to be surrounded by it. Whatever your musical preferences, repeated exposure to (and celebration of) the music you like builds their familiarity and appreciation.

Having a broad musical palette is wonderful. And building a deep comfort with a couple of favorite genres is great as well. It provides a rich musical home base - the place where they learn about structure and melody and rhythms and all the emotional connections they bring.

Musical Genres

Explore musical genres together - become the local "experts." After you visit online sources to learn the basics of each style, try to decide which artists you should check out.

Consider developing an electronic "genre tour" to share with friends

Special Occasions

When your family is on the way to a wedding, graduation, funeral, sports rally, etc. - anticipate with your child what the music will be like.

Share a wink when you notice a song you predicted would be played.

Mood Music

When you and your child are watching a television show or movie, try to notice when particular instruments are carrying the emotional lead.

That violin is making that scene even sweeter, isn't it?

The oboe really adds to the feeling of loneliness, doesn't it?

Music in My Life

Share stories of times when music made a difference in your life. Was it a first concert? Your first record player? Seeing Jaws? A relative who played the piano at a family sing-along? Favorite parts of a religious service?

Remember the details about how you felt. Help them appreciate the role of music in their life.

Explore the music of your family's and friends' culture. Why do you think they are all so different? Right here in the U.S., are there regional differences?

Music to Work By

Some day when you are all busy together (dishes, raking, chores, etc.), one person is in charge of the music.  Talk about how easy it seems to work when the music is faster.  Try putting on something very slow, like a lullaby.  Have a good laugh on how it doesn't help.

Lyrics Habit

  • When you hear a song on the radio, have some fun wondering what the lyrics might be? Get opinions.
  • Bookmark websites so you can easily look up lyrics.
  • Explore the history of song creations - which came first - lyrics or music?
  • Did I just hear Jimi Hendrix sing, "Excuse me while I kiss this guy?"
  • Or Toto singing, "I bless the grains down in Africa."
  • Or Abba, "See that girl, watch her scream, kicking the dancing queen."

Okay, I'm done.

Complicated Rhythms

Clapping games can be challenging. It takes time, fortitude and cooperation to stick with it. But getting it right feels so good.

The precision and mirroring in this video is incredible. Girls seem to enjoy these kinds of bonding experiences more than boys

Clapping rhythms #1

Clapping rhythms #2

Miss Mary Mack (w Dad)

Or perhaps for the whole family



5 Little Monkeys

"Five Little Monkeys" is a song you can use any time children need to get up and be active. Children love this simple rhyme, and it's great for introducing the expression, "No more _____!"

Sing the Monkey song using friend or family names.

"No more friends jumping on the bed!"

Bingo Song

Sing Bingo using your child's name.

There was a farmer had a dog
And Bingo was his name-o!
And Bingo was his name-o!

Musical Rituals: Oh, What Fun to Be Reading

(sung to the tune "Take Me Out to the Ball game.")

Oh, what fun to be reading
Silently or out loud.
Pick up a book to read and relax
Read for enjoyment or read to get facts.
Always read read read for the meaning
So read again and again.
And it's one, two, three times the fun to read with a friend.

Musical Rituals: Good Morning Starshine

Create musical rituals that you sing and enjoy together. This one is perfect as you get ready for breakfast.

Mommy & Daddy can each have their own songs. When your child does an overnight with grandma, you can sing it to her on the phone. Sweet connections.

Read Music with Them

Introduce your child to the written language of music. Print out the sheet music, sit with them and read the song together.


rhythm (noun. ‘ri’them): a regular, repeated pattern of sounds Use household objects to capture a rhythm. Notice rhythms and try to repeat them. Washing machine spinning. A sneaker in the dryer. Phone ring.

melody (noun. ‘mel’le’dee): a sequence of single notes that is musically satisfying Why do animals sing? Bird songs? Whale songs?

Echo. Echo. (Pre-school)

Notice and imitate sounds.

  • Rustling trees? Car horns? Birds? Bees? This little piggy?
  • Let's use that sound in a song?
  • Let's replace lamb with a horn sound. "Mary had a little honk, little honk, …"
  • The 'buzz" go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah.
  • Or, while you are eating dinner, agree one one or two words that you will swap out for a sound.

Nursery Rhymes

Nursery rhymes are good for the developing brain. Not only does the repetition of rhymes and stories teach children how language works, it also builds memory capabilities that can be applied to all sorts of activities. Furthermore, as Vandergrift points out, nursery rhyme books are often a child’s first experience with literacy: "Even before they can read, children can sit and learn how a book works." This extends to the pictures and music associated with nursery rhymes: it is a full visual and oral experience.

Read Along Nursery Rhymes:

Hickory Dickory DockLittle Miss Muffet; Itsy-Bitsy Spider; Jack and Jill; Humpty Dumpty

Video Sing-a-Long: Lollipop

Click Lollipop to listen to the lollipop song and sing along with your child:

Lollipop, lollipop, oh lolli, lolli, lolli
Lollipop, lollipop, oh lolli, lolli, lolli
Lollipop, lollipop, oh lolli, lolli, lolli
Lollipop, pop!

Lollipop, lollipop, oh lolli, lolli, lolli
Lollipop, lollipop, oh lolli, lolli, lolli
Lollipop, lollipop, oh lolli, lolli, lolli
Lollipop, pop!

Ba dum dum dum...


Working With Sounds

Help younger children notice, repeat & manipulate sounds in their environment. Sounds can include silverware on the counter, clap, bang, bells, whoosh - whatever you notice.

  • the sound of your phone
  • Car honking
  • the sound when the A/C comes on
  • Water going down the drain
  • Sirens
  • The different sound of a footstep on gravel or grass or wood?
  • Toast popping when it is done.
  • Encourage them to notice sounds you haven't yet explored.

Can you repeat it?

Can you make it louder and softer?

Faster and slower?