9 Fun Music Activities For Kindergarten

image music activities for kindergarten banner

Have you ever struggled with what to do with Kindergarten that day? 

Do you ever wish you had some killer songs in your back pocket to pull out when you need to wow the kids and get total buy-in? 

I think having these kinds of songs and games ready is a necessity with Kindergarten students. You never know when you need a well-loved bribe for when there’s a sub, or they’ve just returned from a field trip minutes before coming to you. 

I know I do, so that’s why I came up with this list of 9 fun music activities for Kindergarten.

Fun music activities for Kindergarten include movement, instruments, stories, games, and listening. Here are 9 of my favorites: 

  • Johnny Works With One Hammer
  • Johnny Works Story
  • Freeze Dance
  • Tree Cycle
  • Draw What You Hear
  • “Worker” Game
  • Guess The Tune
  • Froggy In The Meadow
  • The Rooster Story

Look ahead for directions on each of these Kindergarten music lessons.  

9 Kindergarten Music Lessons Activities

While these activities don’t work out to take up your whole lesson time, each of these fun music activities (check out these online ones) are staples in my Kindergarten classroom.

Though these activities aren’t pulled from these two books, I love these as great Kindergarten resources. Check them out by clicking the link below.

The Music Effect – My pedagogy teacher for my Kodaly Levels I and II wrote these books, and they’re so easy to use (these are specific for Kindergarten).

The Book of Simple Songs and Circles – Sometimes you just need more songs and games appropriate for the age. This collection is invaluable as a resource.

I covered this topic to a lesser extent in video form as well here.

#1 Johnny Works With One Hammer

Johnny Works With One Hammer is one of the most iconic activities you’ll see in Kindergarten. This is one of the songs I do on the very first day. 

It reinforces the steady beat with its fun adding movement game. With each verse you add a move like this:

  • 1 = right hand patting
  • 2 = right and left hand patting 
  • 3 = add right foot tapping
  • 4 = add left foot tapping
  • 5 = add head bobbing

By itself, this is fun and more than enough, but there are a ton of extensions you may want to do with this song. Here are some of my favorites. 

Create your own motions – Have students think of different ways to use a hammer adding up to 5. The motions the kids come up with are so creative. 

Change the tools – Instead of working with hammers all the time, students may pick different tools to use. It’s always fun to see what tools they know about, and this helps to get a little more boy buy-in too. 

Change the tempo – When you start talking about tempo, it’s helpful to demonstrate songs at different speeds. Whether you do this one fast or slow, kids will have a blast. 

Add instruments – Add the beat on non-pitched or pitched percussion (on a tonic drone) for another exciting way to do the song. You may even want to add in five different instruments like the song would suggest. 

Tell a story – To me, this song just screams “story!” So I took inspiration from other stories I’ve heard throughout the years and made my own. Which leads me to #2…

image Johnny works with one hammer notation

#2 Johnny Work Story

When I tell this story (or any story really) I ask students for how they think the characters feel, predictions for the ending, and encourage student participation in the repetitive parts of the story. 

This doesn’t translate well into written word, so I’ll just write the strict “story” I tell and leave the finer aspects of storytelling up to you. 

Check out these 9 tips for storytelling on Storyteller.net

Note: While the song itself is traditional in nature, I created this story myself. I’m happy to share it and encourage you to make it your own which is common in the storytelling world. 

But also a sign of respect in this world is including attribution to the creator (which I do with the Rooster story at #9), so please mention you heard it from me. Thanks! 

Act 1:Introduction

My friend, Johnny, had the most unusual thing happen to him a few years ago. 

Well, to start with, Johnny was a carpenter, which means he built houses for a living. One year as winter was setting in, he was getting ready to close up his business for the season, and a man came into his office. 

The man was clearly very old and had hard times come upon him. He had a long, white beard, large glasses, and an old coat filled with holes. 

The man walked up to my friend and asked in a trembling voice, “Are you Johnny?”

Johnny replied kindly, “Why, yes, yes I am. How may I help you?”

The old man looked uncomfortable as he spoke, “I came here today to ask you to build a house before winter came. I had heard you were an excellent builder and a very kind person besides.”

“Of course, sir. What kind of house would you like?”

“Well, it’s just me, you know…so a very small house would do just fine.” It was here the man’s eyes looked downward. “But here’s the problem… I don’t really have any money here right now to pay you back for the work. But come spring, I would be able to give you something.” 

Now, it wasn’t good business to build houses for free all the time, but Johnny knew the value of helping those in need because it was the right thing to do. 

“Well, it just so happens I was looking for a new small house to build,” Johnny said. “I would be happy to help you out, and you just pay me back when you can.”

The old man’s face lit up. “Thank you so much, Johnny! Do you promise?”

Johnny made eye contact with the old man and smiled. “I promise. And you can just trust me because I was raised believing you should always keep your promise.” 

They shook hands and parted ways. The next day, Johnny rounded up four of his carpenter friends, and all five of them went out to work on the house each with their own hammer. 

And Johnny worked with his one hammer. 

Act 2: Building Section

Sing the Johnny Works With One Hammer song with 1 hammer. 

At the end of the day, Johnny and his four friends got ready to go home when one of his friends came up to him and exclaimed. 

“I’m sorry, Johnny, but this is ri-di-cu-lous! All this work with no pay in sight.” His friend shook his head. “I’d rather be at home eating some pizza. I’m going home.”

Then, Johnny’s friend dropped his hammer and left. 

Johnny understood where he was coming from. Building a house is a big work, and getting no pay makes it even tougher. 

Johnny thought a pizza sounded pretty good too.

“No!” Johnny said. “I made my promise, and you should always keep your promise.”

So the next day Johnny and his three friends came back to work. Johnny picked up the extra hammer, and now he worked with two. 

Sing the Johnny Works With One Hammer song with 2 hammers. 

At the end of the day, Johnny and his three friends got ready to go home when one of his friends came up to him and exclaimed. 

“I’m sorry, Johnny, but this is ri-di-cu-lous! All this work with no pay in sight.” His friend shook his head. “I’d rather be at home eating some popcorn. I’m going home.”

Then, Johnny’s friend dropped his hammer and left. 

Well, this was getting tougher all the time, and Johnny was a big fan of popcorn. He thought about quitting too. 

“No!” Johnny said. “I made my promise, and you should always keep your promise.”

So the next day Johnny and his two friends came back to work. Johnny picked up the extra hammer, and now he worked with three. 

Sing the Johnny Works With One Hammer song with 3 hammers. 

At the end of the day, Johnny and his two friends got ready to go home when one of his friends came up to him and exclaimed. 

“I’m sorry, Johnny, but this is ri-di-cu-lous! All this work with no pay in sight.” His friend shook her head. “I’d rather be at home eating some pickles. I’m going home.”

Then, Johnny’s friend dropped her hammer and left. 

Now, Johnny loved pickles as much as the next person, although probably not as much as this friend. Still, quitting seemed better all the time… 

“No!” Johnny said. “I made my promise, and you should always keep your promise.”

So the next day Johnny and his one friends came back to work. Johnny picked up the extra hammer, and now he worked with four. 

Sing the Johnny Works With One Hammer song with 4 hammers. 

At the end of the day, Johnny and his one friend got ready to go home when the final friend approached and looked ashamed.

“I’m sorry, Johnny, but this is ri-di-cu-lous! All this work with no pay in sight.” The friend looked sadly at the ground as they softly spoke. “I’m just sorry…”

Then, Johnny’s last friend dropped their hammer and left. 

Left all alone, Johnny really wanted to quit. But still he shook his friend. 

“No…” Johnny whispered to no one. “I made my promise, and you should always keep your promise.”

So the next day Johnny came back to work. Johnny picked up the extra hammer, and now he worked with five. 

Act 3: Conclusion

Sing the Johnny Works With One Hammer song with 5 hammers. 

For days and days, Johnny worked on that small house all by himself until it was finally done. 

He brought the old man with a long, white beard, old glasses, and coat full of holes to see it. 

The old man was filled with joy as he looked at the home. He turned to Johnny and shook his hand hard. 

“Thank you so much, Johnny! I can’t believe it!” the old man’s voice trembled. 

Johnny’s smile was sincere, but his eyes showed how tired they were. “You’re welcome, sir. All done. Don’t worry about money until you’re ready. Sometimes we just need to do things because it’s the right thing to do.” 

The old man looked around and asked, “Thank you, but…where are all of your friends who were helping you?” 

Johnny sighed. “Well, they had other things to do, and we weren’t getting paid to work. So I don’t blame them for leaving. But I made a promise, and you should always keep your promise.” 

“Well, I’m so glad you did…” the old man spoke in strong, deep voice unlike anything he had used before. 

Before Johnny’s eyes, a transformation came over the stranger. 

“You see, I’m not exactly who I appear to be.” The old man straightened up tall and seemed to grow three inches. He tugged on the beard, and it popped off. The glasses were removed and tucked into the coat. 

When the “old man” pulled off the coat, it revealed a very fancy and clean suit underneath. 

“You may have thought me to be an old man, when in fact, I am a very rich only sort-of-old man,” he chuckled before continuing. 

“Because of your kindness and integrity, I’m going to reward you with $100 million dollars,” and he passed over the check to Johnny. 

Johnny couldn’t believe it, but the not-so-old man insisted, so Johnny took the money. 

And what do you think he did with it?

Sure, he saved some for himself and his family. He even gave some to his friends who left him at his work.

But most of it he turned around used to build houses for people all over the world. 

And all because he kept his promise. 

image 9 fun music activities for kindergarten pin

#3 Freeze Dance

Freeze dance may seem like a silly and simple game, and in many ways it is. But it can be with a few twists. 

Basically, to play freeze dance, students dance around the room as you play music. When the music stops, they freeze. 

You may play for “outs,” or eliminating players who move when the music has stopped. It’s also possible to challenge the students with unusual movement requirements such as having a frozen leg or moving as a crab would. 

Check out how to play freeze dance for a full guide including suggested songs and a whole list of extensions and twist for the activity. 

#4 Tree Cycle

The Tree Cycle is what I call a collection of songs linked together with the story of a tree’s life cycle. Full details and notation are at the link to my specific article on the activity. 

Basically, kids pretend to be trees and go through the following steps: 

  • Get chopped down (Lumberjack song)
  • Plant a new seed
  • Absorb water (Rainstorm timbre activity)
  • Absorb sun (Mr. Golden Sun)
  • Grow up (movement high/low to recorder or piano)
  • Start over again (if time and you want to)

Note: Since I posted this activity, one student also suggested a worm should be part of the cycle. I thought this made sense, and the song that jumped to mind is Herman The Worm (see link for video). 

I learned this song as a camper and counselor. The version I learned is different from the linked one, but it stays mostly the same. 

#5 Draw What You Hear

Kinders just love to draw. You may not have the space or materials to do so, but if you can, drawing what they hear while they listen is a fun activity to gain insight into how your students perceive music. 

There are extensions and music concepts to teach with this as well, style and melodic contour are popular ones. 

Personally, I love to do this 2-3 times per year with no prompts beyond, “Draw what you hear.” 

At the beginning of the year, I’m able to peg students’ learning style from what they draw. 

As the year progresses, you’ll see this understanding develop in interesting ways. 

I try to keep the work they’ve done throughout the year to compare with the beginning. The end of the year growth is amazing.

The main reason I don’t give more instruction on how and what to draw is two-fold: 

  • I want to encourage their own processing
  • I’m not an art teacher and have no idea how to teach more

When picking pieces to draw to, they should have clear style. This helps with inspiration. 

Some of my favorite pieces to do this with are; 

  • Pride of the Wolverines by John P. Sousa
  • Beethoven’s 5th Symphony 1st movement (partial) 
  • Flight of the Bumblebee by Rimsky-Karsakov
  • Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, 2nd movement
  • Ballet of the Unhatched Chicken by Mussorgsky from Pictures At An Exhibition
  • Great Gate At Kiev by Mussorgsky from Pictures At An Exhibition

#6 “Worker” Game, Also Called The “Computer” Game

This is a simple movement activity I came with in relation to Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5 (video below). 

Basically, it’s a dance and freeze game. When you face the kids, they freeze. When you turn, they dance. 

But I add a little twist by introducing it to students like this: 

“Alright class. We’re having way too much fun today. It’s time to get some work done. 

Start typing on your computers. I need that paper done by the end of the work day today. 

You know why? Because I’m the boss and what the boss says, goes!

So when I turn around, you better not dance in your spots as quiet and sneaky as you can.”

It’s here that I usually practice the movement game without music. I also reinforce the need for quiet, staying in spots, and watching for me to turn around. 

“Hmm…I’m not the meanest boss in the world though. I will let you listen to music.” 

Turn on the song and play. 

I try to align when I turn around with the phrases, especially when the music tempo and dynamic change. 

#7 Guess The Tune

It may seem simple but my kids absolutely love playing guess the tune. If there’s any time left at the end of class, I like to play this. 

By starting with the songs we did in class that day, I feel like it helps to remind them of what they learned and covered in the lesson. 

After that, I usually extend into other songs from music class or into movies and TV themes they may recognize. 

Another twist I like to do is play the songs on several instruments over time. I use the following instruments throughout the year along with others: 

  • Recorder
  • Piano
  • Guitar
  • Ukulele
  • Harmonica 
  • Tuba
  • Trumpet
  • Hand bells
  • Boomwhackers 

As I mentioned before, I start with songs from music class, then I like to play songs from other places. Learning these songs challenges my own ear. 

Here are some I use regularly: 

  • SpongeBob theme
  • Jurassic Park
  • Jaws
  • Star Wars
  • Hedwig’s Theme
  • Little Einstein
  • Barney song
  • Batman theme
  • Spiderman
  • Pokemon original theme

#8 Froggy In The Meadow

image froggy in the meadow notation

I love this song. I first heard it from John Feierabend in a First Steps In Music workshop. 

Then, I also heard a slightly different version from my host teacher. This is the variant I tend to use. 

This song is simple with a fun melody and activity. The basic idea is that students come up with different ways to move to the steady beat while “stirring” the froggy out of the bush it’s hiding in. 

Here are some extensions on the song: 

Add instruments – This song has a strong steady beat, so practicing with instruments just makes sense. The songs simple sol-la-mi tone set also means using pitch instruments such as xylophones on a do-sol drone pattern will sound great. 

Act out the song – Another fun activity to do with this song is to have students act out the song. Use froggy masks and have several students hide behind something. 

The class sings the song to stir the froggies. 

The hiding students hop out and around the space while you or other students improvise a pentatonic melody. At the end, they have to pick other students to take their spot. 

Pick different animals – Encourage student creativity by having them come up with new animals to insert in the song. Also challenge them to pick a new spot for them to hide in the song.

Then, the students can sing and/or act out the new animal. 

Examples include:

  • Worm-y in the soil
  • Birdy in the nest
  • Starfish in the ocean
  • Chicken in the barnyard
  • Black ants on the picnic

#9 The Rooster Story

The Rooster Story, also known as Mr. Stingyman, is a great, fun story and song I first heard from my host teacher, Paul Rose, recently retired from Mount Pleasant Public Schools in Michigan. 

He heard the song from Gemini Children’s Music (you can check out their lyrics and storytelling album at the link).

It’s based on a Hungarian folktale about a rooster who has a silver dollar stolen from him, and the hilarity that ensues as he tries to get it back. 

The songs are simple and catchy, and students love to engage in the story process. After my K students are more familiar with the story, we even act out some of our favorite parts (completely under control, of course ;)). 

The story can get quite lengthy depending on how you tell it. But sometimes it’s better seen and experienced. 

Here is a video I made for our state Kodaly chapter of me telling my version of the story with tips and real students (all students at the time signed explicit waivers for this video to be shown publicly on YouTube).  

Kodaly In Action 2: Storytelling

On a side note, for those of you wanting to improve your music teaching in an unusual way, I strongly encourage you to meet with and get involved with any local storytelling groups. 

I learned a lot just from hanging out with them a few times, and even met another storyteller who uses this song as part of her repertoire. 

For another example of variation, check out Aileen Miracle’s version of the song. 

Conclusion

I hope you found these 9 fun music activities for Kindergarten helpful. I have these songs and games in my back pocket at all times.

And these songs can be extended further and deeper to cover more and more musical concepts even beyond Kindergarten. Add some instruments, create movement, or ask students how they would like to experience the music today. 

You’d be surprised what they come up with. 

Speaking of fun music activities…

If you haven’t heard of Teaching Children Music, you should definitely check them out. They really helped me find ways to connect classical music with kids using great resources.

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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