Games like Ring Around the Rosie combine music with movement.

Music Movement & Fitness Activities for Preschoolers & Toddlers

by Alice Drinkworth

Preschoolers and toddlers are naturally physical. They like to jump, run, spin and move their bodies in new ways. Music and movement encourages physical activity with the brain building benefits of music. You could sign up the two of you for a class, or you could encourage music and movement activities at home, or with friends at your child’s playgroup.

Song Choice

Upbeat songs with a predictable rhythm will get your child moving to the beat, although don’t shy away from slower songs to experiment with tempo. Songs with catchy lyrics, appealing characters or a story brings opportunities for singing along or acting out a story. Sing with your child, and teach her the words to your favorite songs. If the only songs you know are the Hokey Pokey or the Chicken Dance -- it doesn't matter. These songs will be new to your child. Add some variety to the song mix, including traditional folk songs, classical music, jazz and songs from around the world.

Dance Around

Get the children moving by showing them how to dance. After all, an empty dance floor can be intimidating. Show children how to clap their hands or stomp their feet to a beat. Do a few simple moves and ask them to imitate you. Have your movements match the tempo. Get down low when the song gets slow and low. Stand tall and move faster when it speeds up. If there are animals in the song, encourage the children to act like a snake or a giraffe, bringing the song to life. "Low and slow now, and slither like a snake. And what sound does a snake make? Yes -- hiss!"

Use Props

Props make music and movement more fun. Bring along her favorite dolls and animals. Ask one of them to be your dance partner. Then dance like her stuffed teddy is your Fred Astaire. Scarves have multiple movement possibilities to use with dance. Twirl them around. Swing them low and high, fast or slow. Blow them around the room or hide underneath them for a musically inspired game of peek-a-boo. Balls make great props to pass back and forth or bounce. Your child can learn concepts in her dance by having hoops to jump in and out….or crawl through.


Make your own music with instruments. Have shakers, percussion and simple string instruments (keep the expensive guitars stashed away for now). Make one with your child by cutting a hole in the broad side of a cereal box and stringing it with rubber bands. "Oooh, doesn't that look cool. Let's play it! Rubber bands make a really different sound." Creating an instrument gives the child more ownership in music class. Music and movement becomes a lesson in culture if you include instruments from around the world, such as drums from Africa, gongs from China, and ankle bells from India.

About the Author

Alice Drinkworth has been a writer and journalist since 1995. She has written for community newspapers, college magazines and Drinkworth earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Wisconsin and won a media award for her in-depth coverage of local politics. She is also a certified master gardener.

Photo Credits

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