By CELA on 7 Jun, 2021

You don’t need to be an accomplished musician or singer to include music in your daily program! Research shows that music eases stress, stimulates brain development, aids memory and spatial awareness, supports communication and language development and promotes a sense of wellbeing. That makes music a fantastic (if not vital) addition to any early education and care setting… but singing and dancing with children can sometimes seem daunting.

Music advocate and former Educational Leader Jennifer Barker shares tips for how you can easily incorporate spontaneous music opportunities throughout the day.

By Jennifer Barker

I call singing and dancing my happy place. No matter how I am feeling, when I move my body and sing, it gives me a boost and helps me feel more alert and engaged. Whilst singing and dancing with children is a lot of fun it can be a bit daunting. Perhaps you feel inhibited or shy, worrying you are on show with your musicality. Perhaps you don’t think you have the training, or experience to plan music experiences for your children. Perhaps your go to music experience is found on YouTube only.

Niland suggests that “Singing traditional children’s songs as a group and moving to popular children’s recordings simply does not adequately address children’s music developmental needs. Rather, educators need to provide a diverse range of musical experiences, experiences that are frequently combined with other arts areas such as dance and storytelling (2)

So, let’s think again. How can we make a meaningful contribution to children’s music education?

If we take away the formality of a planned or intentional teaching music lesson and concentrate more on the spontaneous opportunity, you will find multiple times throughout the day to begin your children’s musical journey. Try some of these simple ideas:


1. USING MUSIC TO INDICATE COMMON ROUTINES – Use different music pieces to indicate common routines of the day such as rest time, lunch time, outside time. Explore and play with dynamics and volume.


2. GROUP TIME – When gathering as a group, make up your own echo rap. Tap knees twice and clap.

Educator                                       Children echo

We are the Starfish                        We are The Starfish

Every one                                       Every one

We love to play                              We love to play

And have some fun                        And have some fun

Goooooo Starfish!                          Goooooo Starfish!

Children benefit through a sense of belonging and learning to keep the beat.


3. SETTLING AND GAINING FOCUS – Recite this rhyme at the usual pace, then ask “can we sing it a little faster, then a little faster, then at the speed of sound!”

I hide my hands; I shake my hands I give a little clap

I clap my hands, I shake my hands, I lay them in my lap

Children learn about tempo in music.



Explore some of these ideas when releasing children to play spaces, different learning opportunities or the bathroom.

1. SING THE NURSERY RHYME ‘There was a Princess Long Ago’

I see some children wearing green, wearing green, wearing green

I see some children wearing green……go to the bathroom

Children learn about colour recognition, waiting for their turn.


2. USING NAME CARDS, SING TO THE NURSERY RYHME ‘Down by the Meadow in a Little Bitty Pool
Way down south at the kindy that’s best,

There were 2 little name cards on the teacher’s desk,

The teacher came in with something to say, she said;

Please come and take your name cards away.

Children learn name recognition.


3. TRANSITIONING ON A TRAIN – You could play a drum beat for the trains to keep in time with as they head off
We’re going on a train. Who will come along?

Kayden, Brie and Maisie will come along

Children move to next location as a train chuff, chuff, chuff

Children learn about keeping the beat.


Play activities

1. BOUNCING ON A FIT BALL OR PEANUT – Sing to Frère Jacques

Jumping jumping, Jumping jumping,

Up and down Up and down,

Jump a little higher, jump a little higher (or jump a little faster or jump a little slower),

All fall down, all fall down.

2. PLAYING ON HOBBY HORSES – Scaffold learning by encouraging children to think about ways that horses move – gallop canter, trot. 
How do we care for horses – they need water and hay for food, apples for treats? Act out the song ‘The little grey ponies’ – you can listen to a sample here
3. JUMPING AND MOVING – Incorporate theTeddy Bear Teddy Bear Turn Around song any time that a child is jumping e.g. on the jumping board or jumping in puddles.
“Music is a beautiful, wonderful art form that people all around the world enjoy every day. It is not a luxury or an add on or a bonus. It is essential” (3)

Anita Collins

As an educator, if you can be as free and spontaneous as the children in your care then you will find that music and movement can happen anytime, anywhere in the day and you will be supporting the children’s musical development in a fun and easily accessible way.

Resources/further reading

  • Amanda Niland, The Spoke: Music and Inclusion
  • Niland, A. (2007). Musical stories: Strategies for integrating literature and music for young children. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 32(4), 7-11.
  • Anita Collins TEDX Canberra: The benefits of music education

About the author

Jennifer Barker recently joined CELA as a trainer and consultant following a 42-year career in early childhood education. Her most recent role was as 2IC, joint Educational Leader and provider of a music program.

Her training under eminent early childhood music educator Dr Doreen Bridges first ignited her passion for connecting with and engaging children in music and movement activities. She has experienced first-hand the enormous value of offering both planned and spontaneous music activities throughout the day.

About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.

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