Five minute fun activities for busy people to do with little kids

Advice + Tips

“Music to My Ears” by Lauren Elliot - Music Teacher

This is the third in the series of these wonderful guest blogs. Today’s post is by Lauren Elliot who is the cofounder of a music school. Lauren is a Mum of two and has some wonderful easy ideas for ways to encourage a love of music in children. As someone who has always loved music I am so keen for my children to as well, in fact, they often tell me to shut up! But if you aren’t sure how to go about it, here is Lauren to explain with some lovely little tips…

Five Easy Ways to Bring Music Into Play

Learning through music offers a lifetime of benefits. It helps to develop social skills, cognitive abilities, hand-eye coordination, and language. Most importantly, the endorphins released when listening to or playing with music help to lower stress levels, improve moods, and create a safe and happy environment in which children can create and thrive. The beauty of music is that it can be shared and enjoyed by all. Music games and ideas can be very quick to set up, and can be enjoyed at home - even if you have no formal music education yourself!

My name is Lauren Elliott, and I am the cofounder of Elegie School of Music in Solihull. I have a 2.5-year-old son and a 1-year-old daughter. I am passionate about ensuring that the lives of children are filled with music - I provide lots of ideas and inspiration over at Musical Mum. I’d like to show you five simple activities to help you bring music into your child’s life!

  1. Painting and creating to music

This is effective with the very youngest of children, and can be developed in several ways. Offer a selection of colours and materials, put some music on, and see what they come up with! Any music is great, but try to offer lots of contrasting tracks and moods. Classical music works well, as it often is without words, which can be too distracting for little ones.

Start your playlist and have children painting while listening passively. When their interest starts to wane, ask them about colours they can hear. Is the music fast or slow? Loud or quiet? Happy or sad? Can they hear the dragons? Can they hear the water rippling? It doesn’t really matter what you ask - anything will help to spark and ignite their imagination, drawing their ear more closely to the music they can hear. You may find that they concentrate for longer than usual, that they are calmer. Or it may energise them, and lead to them wanting to dance or play. It doesn’t matter. This is an activity that you can return to again and again, with different music and different materials, and the result will be different every time.

Music suggestions:

  • Carnival of the Animals - Saint-Saens
  • The Planets - Holst
  • Film soundtracks e.g. Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter, Batman

2) Build a soundtrack to your child’s play

What does your child like to play? Trains? Dollies? Pirates? Whatever it is, I guarantee there is some music out there to complement and enhance their play. This is your secret weapon! Simply spend 5 minutes putting together your playlist of music and setting out the relevant toys, before sitting down with your coffee to reap the rewards. Hearing references to the things that they love to do is great fun for toddlers and preschoolers. It helps them to develop their own play, reinforcing their own ideas, and filling them with confidence in their own imagination. And you can feel really proud that you have given them the tools to do this!

Example playlist for a transport-mad child:

  • The Wheels on the Bus
  • Driving in My Car - Madness
  • I’ve Been Working On The Railroad - John Denver
  • Row, Row, Row Your Boat
  • Down At The Station

3) Adding music to your story times

Music and books go hand-in-hand! The very best of stories for young children have a natural flow and rhythm to their words, that lends themselves beautifully to music. Singing the words adds an extra layer of interest to the story, helping little ones to concentrate and absorb the language more readily. Adding sound effects with vocal effects, or even by bringing percussion instruments into the story, helps to bring it to life. Or you could even have a go at rapping, just as Mr McGrammar did:

Try these books and ideas as starting points:

  • Give little ones a rattle or shaker, and encourage them to shake every time you turn the page, or when they see the cat, or when they see the word ‘Thomas’! This can be adapted for babies, right through to school-starters.
  • Don’t just focus on reading the words. Pick out things in the pictures - do all of the animal noises, sing nursery rhymes inspired by what you can see, and include lots of sound effects for vehicles and machines.
  • Try to speak or sing the words in a slow and steady rhythm. There is something about consistently speaking somet hing in the same way that makes it more memorable and reassuring for children as they are learning.
  • Quiet LOUD - Leslie Patricelli. Use egg shakers or maracas to demonstrate the different volumes as you read through the book, alternating between very quiet shaking and very loud shaking!
  • We’re Going On A Bear Hunt - Michael Rosen himself has actually recorded a song to accompany this book. It is so catchy! Sing it as you read through the book, but also when you are out and about - nothing is more fun than going on a bear hunt through the park!

4) Build a nursery rhyme prop box

If you have been following Five Minute Mum for a while, you will know that she is a big advocator of toy rotation, and of having organised and accessible toys. Five minutes prep and organisation makes your life sooooo much easier! Children can play and create much more effectively when there is some order and logic to their toys. Too many toys out just results in chaos, and an inability to play with any of them for very long.

We have our toys organised into different categories, such as ‘things that go’, ‘kitchen play’ and ‘farm toys’, which we rotate weekly or fortnightly. One of our boxes is a ‘nursery rhyme prop box’, filled with all things to inspire our favourite songs. There is a spider for ‘Incy Wincy’, some rubber ducks for ‘5 Little Ducks’, and a cuddly lamb for ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb. There is a flashing sensory ball for ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’, a sensory scarf for ‘Pop Goes The Weasel’, and a rolling pin for ‘Hot Cross Buns’. It’s a great box for adding random ‘tat’ to - as long as you can link it to a song, there is a place for it here!

This is a box that will grow with your children as they develop. Babies will enjoy having something to hold as you sing, and it helps them to build associations between language and a visual stimulus. As they get older, they will enjoy choosing the song they want to hear by picking the relevant object. And older children can use the box to play memory games, hiding objects and asking them what is missing. Or you could choose the object and ask them to sing the appropriate song. Or they could use them as props to act out the story as you sing. The play possibilities are endless!

5) Instrument fun

Try to have a basket of instruments that can always be accessed. Simple percussion instruments are fine - you can even make your own by filling containers with kitchen cupboard ingredients. Bring them out whenever there is music playing, and join in with playing them yourself. Shake them, tap them together, bang them on the floor. Gently tap your hands on your child’s shoulders while they are playing along to music, to help them feel the pulse. Add plastic instruments to the bath, take them into the garden, or add them to your craft table. Moving them around gives them new life, a new purpose, and a new form of inspiration to your child’s play.

The most important thing in encouraging music in play, is to enjoy music yourself. Share your own music with your children. Dance, sing, listen together. Make it a natural part of your play and your lives - it a wonderful way to bond and share special moments together. A child that sings is a child that is happy!

You can find more music-based play ideas on my Musical Mum website, Facebook and Instagram pages!

Thanks Lauren for this wonderful post…I’m off to put together a nursery rhyme basket for Florence and download some vehicle songs for Ewan! FMM x

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