15 Best Children’s Books With Movement For Music Teachers

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Are you looking for great books to help your students move in music class? 

Combining literature with music is a great way to build better connections in the brain while still staying focused on music making. 

I’m often asked by pre-service music teachers to name the best children’s book with movement. 

Obviously, picking the best single children’s book with movement is a tall order. So instead, here is my list of my favorite books for children’s book with movement and music: 

  • My Aunt Came Back
  • Dancing Feet
  • Barnyard Dance
  • We’re Going On A Bear Hunt
  • Giraffes Can’t Dance
  • The Nutcracker
  • Move!
  • Chicken Dance
  • Sing And Dance In Your Polka Dot Pants
  • The Jellybeans And The Big Dance
  • Shake Your Sillies Out! 
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees, And Toes
  • The Wheels On The Bus
  • The Aunts Come Marching
  • The Other Day I Met A Bear

Read on for a brief breakdown of each book and where you can find it. 

Consider links to be affiliate in nature. This means I may earn a small commission when you click on a product and purchase it at no extra cost to you. However, these are all books I’ve used repeatedly in my classroom. 

Review Of The 15 Best Children’s Book With Movement

Here is a quick breakdown of my picks and why I like them so much for my classroom. I’ve used each and everyone one of the books in my room. 

Don’t forget to click the image or the “Buy now on Amazon” for current pricing (sometimes they’re on sale!).

#1 My Aunt Came Back

This book is a killer with my PreK-2nd graders. It’s an add-on song, meaning that each repetition of the song adds on more complicated movements. 

This book is published from the traditional song. It’s an echo song which makes it easy for even the youngest kids to play. 

As a plus, I will take out a map of the world, and my older students will trace the aunt’s travels. Hello, cross-curricular. 

It’s also fun to work with students to come up with new items, motions, and places based on where you are. My kids think it’s hilarious to sing about their hometown. 

#2 Dancing Feet

This book is perfect for your PreK or Kindergarten classes. The rhythmic chanting fits beat and rhythm perfectly.

As the story goes along, different animals will be dancing. It’s a fun movement exploration activity, you may invite students to show you how they would imagine each animal dances. 

To tie this book further into music, after you read it, you may add non-pitched percussion you and the students decide matches the animal and its dance. This is a great way to introduce timbre. 

#3 Barnyard Dance

If you don’t already have Sandra Boynton’s classic, you need to get it for your classroom. You get multiple repetitions of this expressive and hilarious book with its fun movements. 

Look for ways to connect the “barn dance” with American cultures. Barn dances were common occurrences in the Midwest, and this book makes a great jumping point to discuss that.

#4 We’re Going On A Bear Hunt

I remember reading this book and song with my Grandma as a kid, so this book and song holds a special place in my heart. 

Not only is this book based off a call and response song, but the movements you can add to it as you share help give young students a better awareness of movement words. 

#5 Giraffes Can’t Dance

As books go, this one has gained a lot of popularity for several reasons. These are the exact reasons I think it’s perfect for your classroom. 

First, it has an adorable and fun way of getting kids to move. Add in some music after you read the book, and the kids will get grooving. Check out the best elementary music books for ideas. 

Second, it teaches a great lesson about the belief that anyone can do anything. Don’t listen to what others say. 

Finally, it supports being comfortable in your own skin. You can’t put a price on this, especially in music.

#6 The Nutcracker

If you’re anything like me, you love getting as much distance out of a subject, topic, or learning idea as you can. The Nutcracker is one of the most popular ballets to teach about in the general music classroom, and this book makes the perfect companion to that. 

You can use this beautifully illustrated book as a launching point for a Nutcracker unit or as a companion to all of the great music, dance, and videos out there on the subject. 

#7 Move!

Movement is one of the best ways for students to connect music with expression. But they also need to be aware of their bodies and explore movement space. 

This book talks about how different animals and is a fun launch pad for many lessons using such movement exploration. 

#8 Chicken Dance

What’s better than the chicken dance? An Elvis-impersonating rooster doing the chicken dance, of course! 

I love this book, and the kids think it’s hilarious. I even use this book again with my older students when I talk about some side topics such as pop music history and pop song form. 

#9 Sing And Dance In Your Polka Dot Pants

The first time one of my Kindergarten teachers turned me on to this book, I fell in love. This book is adorable and was written to get kids moving. 

On top of this, the book, written by the same author that brought us Pete The Cat, also features some call and response. This is a great way to engage students in the storytelling right off the bat.  

#10 The Jellybeans And The Big Dance

For some reason, this heartwarming story about different kids coming together to make a successful dance recital gets me every time. 

My favorite storytelling element of this book (beyond the movement potential) is how every character has different interests outside of movement. 

The author does an amazing job of showing how people can move beyond their differences, learn to appreciate things they didn’t think they would, and come together to create great memories. 

#11 Shake Your Sillies Out!

For those of you who don’t know this about me already, I’m a huge fan of children’s singer Raffi. I grew up listening to his work, and I find his sincerity and engaging songs to be a ton of fun. 

This book is based on one of the songs he performed regularly. Its simple melody and expressed movements make it easy to sing, play, and enjoy. 

#12 Head, Shoulders, Knees, And Toes

One thing I notice as time goes on is that students haven’t learned many of the “standard” kid’s songs from home. I never thought to specifically teach this song in music class, but once I started to realize most kids haven’t learned, I felt it was important to add it to my curriculum. 

Of course, we all know the fun this books, song, and movement brings to young students. As an extension, I like to work with my kids to create a new version based on other body parts (school appropriate, of course!). 

#13 The Wheels On The Bus

Along the same lines as the last book, the Wheels On The Bus may seem like a song/book most should know, but many don’t. 

The movements are clear and entertaining. There’s a lot of potential to add more motions and lyrics to the song. 

I prefer this exact version of the book with its beautiful illustrations. You can find hundreds of versions out there, but this one is beautifully illustrated. 

#14 The Ants Go Marching

Kids have probably read/heard at least one version of this song already. And that’s OK. 

One of the interesting things about music is all the different variations. So I love to compare and contrast the different versions with the kids. 

This is also something you could do your administrators would understand and appreciate. Comparing and contrasting is a power skill that helps all people in school and the rest of their lives. 

Of course, in addition to this, you have a fun song in triple, in minor, with fun movements. Win, win, win! 

#15 The Other Day I Met A Bear

Many folks know this song, but not everyone knows you can do moves with it. There aren’t any specific ones; you just make up moves based on the lyrics.

As a call and response song, you can engage students in music making right away. This funny song is another one I feel that all students should know. 

Though I grew up on other book versions of this song, I do love the illustrations of the First Steps In Music version of this book. 

3 Simples Strategies For Using Books In The Music Classroom

Here are 3 quick and simple strategies for where to place “book time” in your lessons. Any of these work well, but hopefully, you’ll find one of these ways helpful. 

Songtale/Ending – This is where I put almost all of my song-reading time. I end every one of my classes with either a book or an interesting music-related video. 

This helps lower the energy of the students before they leave, and provides students a chance to take in music. 

Hook – For movement books, such as these, I tend to use them as hooks. A hook in a lesson is an activity, question, or book that introduces the ideas of the lesson. 

For some of these books, I’ll read them at the beginning of the movement activity, and then press on to the actual music and movement portion. 

Supplement – This is the opposite way from the hook method. This way, you do the movement and music lesson first, and then tie it together with the book. 

I don’t this one very often unless the book is connected to a larger unit, such as the Nutcracker book. 

Conclusion

I love books and reading as it is, and any chance I get to connect this love with music and movement is a win for me!

Hopefully, this list of 15 children’s books with movement will be helpful to you as discover the power of movement in your music room. 

What’s your favorite music/movement book? Let us know in the comments below. 

Zach VanderGraaff

Zach VanderGraaff is a K-5 music teacher with Bay City Public Schools in Michigan. He's a Past-President of the Michigan Kodaly Educators and Executive Secretary of the Midwest Kodaly Music Educators Association.

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