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Staff Newsletter: Music & Creative Movement Enhance Learning
By Carolyn Tomlin

The arts are an “integral way of looking at life and at education and understanding the complexities of the world and our challenges in it”(Kelly, 1995). As educators, we agree that education must teach children to become productive citizens and be self-supporting adults and that formal education should stress reading, writing, and mathematics. However, learning how to make a living and how to make a life may not provide for the whole child.           

By allowing children to explore creative music and drama, they discover a wide range of thoughts and feelings unique to themselves. Teachers of young children must recognize that different learning styles exist. Some children learn best by auditory methods, others learn best verbally, while some may rely on kinesthetic (physical) learning. And all too often, teachers instruct in the mode in which they learn best.         

All children, regardless of their ability, enjoy music, and child care programs that incorporate music and movement in the daily curriculum provide a positive learning environment for all children. Use the following suggestions to make music a part of each day’s activities. 

·         Chanting. Young children enjoy reciting and chanting short poems or groups of words. Mother Goose rhymes, such as “Hickory Dickory Dock” and “Hey Diddle Diddle” are good examples, although some children may not grasp their meaning. As a result, you might want to create your own chants for familiar activities in the classroom. “I Can Skip” is a teacher-composed chant that contains the same rhythm as “Peas Porridge Hot,” yet it has common themes understood by young children. “I can skip. I can hop. Will you skip with me?” 

·         Rhythm. Explore rhythm with your children throughout the day. Listen for the wind blowing, the rain hitting the roof, a clock ticking, the sound a ball makes as it bounces, and the squeak of a swing.

·         Echoing. Although teaching children to “echo” or repeat words and sounds might be difficult at first, it can be a fun classroom activity. Ask a teaching assistant to lead the echo group in clapping or repeating the “echo” as introduced by the teacher. In addition, teach children chants that focus on call and response and repetition, such as “Who Stole the Cookies from the Cookie Jar?”.  

·         Clapping. Ask children to say their name and clap out the syllables or to clap along to the words of a familiar song.


Music and Movement Go Hand-in-Hand

Movement is natural to the developing child. Toddlers appear to be in constant motion, and preschoolers alternate between quiet time and periods of heightened activity. Movement provides gross-motor growth, an outlet for emotions, and when combined with music, a feel for rhythm and the mood of the music. Make movement part of your daily curriculum with these suggestions: 

·         Teach children songs that can be acted out. The “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Head and Shoulders” are fun songs with simple movements.  

·         Sing songs that have occupations and familiar activities children will know and recognize. Choices might include “The Wheels on the Bus” or “Old MacDonald.”  

·         Include songs involving familiar animals, such as cats, dogs, mice, and birds. Easy songs that children will enjoy include “Five Little Mice” and “Bingo.” 

·         Introduce children to classical and instrumental music. As children listen to the music, encourage them to come up with their own creative dances and movements. Emphasize the children’s creativity of movement by inviting them to:

·         Pretend they are a kite flying high in the sky;

·         Imitate the sun shining on a warm day;

·         Swim like a whale;

·         Jump like a frog;

·         Pretend they are a growing plant;

·         Act out falling snow.

·         Pretend they are leaves falling from a tree or rain falling from the sky; or

·         Recreate eating a plate of spaghetti.


Carolyn Tomlin has taught Early Childhood Education at Union University. She contributes to numerous education publications.



Kelly, J. (1995, January). The Role of the Arts in National Education, Getty Conference: Washington, DC.