10 Music Activities for Kids {for calming, cheering up, wiggles & encouragement}

The music therapist in me has a pretty big {and useful} toolbox at my disposal. My 4-year-old is running circles around the house yelling that she's bored? I have a song for that! The neighbor kids are over, it's too hot to go outside and the volume is at an ELEVEN? Time to pull out anything and everything I have!

Over the years, there have been some stand-out winners in my toolbox. Ready to try them at your house?




The Quiet Cave: As you near bed time, gather the softest things in your house and make a small fort full of pillows and blankets. The idea is to decrease overall stimulation, so it should be dark and cozy. If you have multiple kids, have them each create their own Quiet Cave far away from each other. When inside (you can join them, too) play peaceful and quiet music. If they need more help calming, make it a game! (“Who can make their body the smallest? What do different animals look like when they sleep?”) Give big, strong hugs and use heavy blankets to help their sensory systems calm even more.  This will be easy for some kids and harder for others. Even 2 minutes is a success! Shoot for the length of a song and work up from there. A song to try:

by Kesang Marstrand


Music Painting: Set your kids up with watercolors or paint and play some medium tempo music that doesn’t have lyrics. Encourage them to paint what they hear in the song or how it makes them feel. (If they’re little, they can just paint! They will probably still integrate the music intuitively.) If they settle down and get into it, choose songs that become calmer and quieter over time… it just might increase their attention. A song to try:

 by Bela Fleck, Mike Marshall & Edgar Meyer





Drum Solo: Go outside and crank some upbeat music. Help your kids find two "drum sticks" and see what things in nature (rocks, dirt, trees) sound like when they’re turned into drums. If you have a group, gather the kids, make a dramatic announcement ("INNNTRODUCING!! The WORLD FAMOUS ______!) and have the kids put on a show. Cheer like you've never cheered before because… why not?! A song to try: 

by Surfaris


Dance-Freeze: Give everyone a turn to be in charge of the play/pause button on the music player and get dancing! When the music stops, everyone freezes in the silliest pose they can come up with. They have to stay completely frozen until the music starts again. Younger kids tend to grasp this really quickly and especially love having a little bit of power over their older siblings. (Or parents! Or grandparents!) Get ready to crack up! A song to try: 

 from Madagascar






Down By The Bay: Use the song “Down By The Bay” and create your own, silly versions.


Down by the bay where the watermelons grow

Back to my home I dare not go

For if I do, my mother will say

“Have you ever seen a _________?”

Down by the bay!

(Examples: Cat wearing a hat, whale with an alligator tail, llama wearing pajamas.) For reference:

 by Charlie Hope


Who Let The Dogs Out? Introduce them to the funniest kid’s song in history and sing and dance your socks off.  Kids who haven’t heard this song are AMAZED and completely amused by the fact that this song exists... and every adult knows it. It’s hilarious to experience it with them for the first time.

 by Baha Men






Lyric Swap: Borrow the words and melody from the famous gospel/folk song (and anthem of the civil rights movement): “This Little Light of Mine”. Help your child create their own version. Over the course of many verses of the song, you can acknowledge their feelings, affirm their strengths and reinforce the fact that they can overcome hard things.  



This big heart of mine, I’m gonna let it shine

This big heart of mine, I’m gonna let it shine

This big heart of mine, I’m gonna let it shine

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine


Even when it’s hard, I’m gonna let it shine…


Hide it all away, NO! I’m gonna let it shine…


Every single day, I’m gonna let it shine…

 by Elizabeth Mitchell


A Nature Walk: Make some binoculars out of toilet paper rolls and go on a nature walk with your child. As they’re walking and exploring with their binoculars, put headphones on them and have them listen to quiet, encouraging music. The binoculars give them a job to do and that actually helps them pay better attention to the music. Older kids won’t need the binoculars, though they may enjoy real ones! A song to try: 

by Kesang Marstrand






Imaginative Play: For kids five and under, there are two HOME RUN songs that are perfect for encouraging imaginative play. At this age, repetition tends to make kids like songs more and more, so try these songs 1-2 times a day for at least a week and watch how their imaginative play evolves.  

 by Laurie Berkner



These Are My Glasses:  These Are My Glasses is the perfect song for kids 5 and under. It’s less about the song itself and more about the opportunity for interaction and creativity. Sit across from you child and make yourself a pair of “glasses” with your hands. (Want fancy glasses? Put those pinkies up!) Also, put your palms together to gesture the opening of a book (and whenever you open it, make “oooooooop” sound they use in the song). Those two actions are you need for the song. Once you’re familiar enough with the song and actions, continue to play with your child and come up with silly things that show up when you open your “book”. (Examples: “Oh no! A grasshopper! Catch it!” “A strawberry?!? Quick, eat it!”)

 by Laurie Berkner

What are some of the tools in your toolbox? I'd love to hear them! 


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