Sometimes, kids just need to move. At school, at home, in music therapy… giving them an opportunity to move can help regulate their sensory systems so they’re better prepared for learning, listening, getting along with their peers, working on their goals, etc.
I have found that if I have MANY movement songs to choose from, I can customize what I need for the situation and increase the chances for success. Meaning… sometimes movement songs have the tendency to make kids get MORE amped up, and that doesn’t always help me OR them. Sometimes I want a movement song that will help kids become more centered, more attentive, and more open to listening to instructions.
HOW DO I CHOOSE WHAT TO USE?
I take into account volume, tempo, the movements in the song, the silliness factor (I love silly, but sometimes it’s not right for the situation), the lyrics, the overall energy required, the movement (stomping is MORE grounding than jumping, for example), and even the space that we’re in and what might work best in our physical environment.
Here are my favorite movement songs… and more importantly…. *when* and *how* I might choose to use them.
1. Move it, Move it! A GREAT song to use in most situations that tends to work when kids have a lot of energy! Highly participatory and lots of fun. Kids have to be attentive and listen for the song to work… and they’re highly motivated to do that because the song is fun and groovy!
2. Silly Dance Contest by Jim Gill SUCH a fun song, but definitely amps up the energy in a group. As you’re ending the song, be sure to gradually reduce the energy. (“Stretch any way you want to.” “Yawn any way you want to".” “Tiptoe any way you want to.”)
3. This A Way by Ladybug Music A fantastic song for medium to high energy levels. Doesn’t tend to amp up the energy in a group and kids tend to be very engaged throughout.
4. Move To The Beat (the sitting movement song) A PERFECT song for when kids/groups are amped up already and you need to help them get more centered. This song helps kids move their bodies while they’re sitting and you can gradually reduce the overall level and stimulation over the course of the song. If you just did a more active movement song and they’re amped up, this is a great transitional song to help them get back to sitting down and listening.
5. We Are The Dinosaurs by Laurie Berkner One of the best children’s songs ever written… hands down. BUT, it the way that it ends tends to send kids over the edge (a huge ROAR at the end). If I’m playing guitar, I modify the end and my silly dinosaurs do giant, hilarious, silly YAWNS and then fall asleep. That changes the WHOLE trajectory of a group if I can end this song and kids have calm bodies.
6. Walk, Walk, Walk MY SECRET WEAPON. This song is SO simple, but it really requires a lot of attention from kids and they hone in and really listen (I mean, MOST of the time). We end this song with tiptoeing, moving like a sloth (or “move like a turtle”). At the end of the song, go ahead and sing “sit down” as part of the song and they’ll be ready to go for the next activity!
7. Shake My Sillies Out by Raffi A great medium tempo movement song that tends to work well for a lot of groups. Doesn’t tend to amp kids up… doesn’t tend to calm them down. If you need them to listen a bit more, try whispering this song with your group!
8. Peel Banana I modified this song from a ditty I heard on children’s TV while traveling in London. Kids LOVE it, but it’s definitely one of those that has the tendency to get them excited and a little wild. Don’t let that scare you… it’s worth it! But I almost always follow up this song with Walk, Walk, Walk to that I can help calm them again!
9. Monster Boogie by Laurie Berkner Kids LOVE this song and it works in a lot of different situations! But again, be mindful of how you END the song. I end the song with the kids sleeping, much like We Are The Dinosaurs. I slow down and sing… “They’re big and I’m scary, you know what I mean?! And then they fall asleep!” Works every time.
10. Yoga Song Quite possibly the BEST way to get kids calmed down when all else fails. Reinforcing stretching with music + counting is a POWERFUL combination. Most of the time, the kids will be yawning by the end of this one.
What other movement songs do you love? I’d love to hear from you!
Stephanie Leavell, MT-BC
Music Therapist, Board Certified