Are you looking for fun music games to play with your 2 or 3-year-olds?
Do you want to give your kids positive musical experiences?
In my elementary music teaching career spanning over a decade, I’m asked this question by parents of young children all the time!
“What can I or should I do with my toddler for music?”
I decided to come up with a list of 11 great music activities for toddlers that work for any age level.
Music activities for toddlers should focus on having fun with music with high-quality songs and pieces. It should use movement, instruments, and singing. My favorites are:
- Singing Songs/Chanting Nursery Rhymes
- Telling Stories With Sound Effects
- Paint What You Hear
- Free Dancing
- Attending A Concert
- Playing Homemade Instruments
- Watching Videos/Seeing Of Different Musical Cultures
- Finger Plays/Circle Games
- Marching/Follow The Leader
- Movement With Props
- Sing What You’re Doing
From a teaching and parent perspective, these are simple, and they work, and you don’t need to be a music teacher to do them.
Let’s dive in!
List Of Best Music Activities For Toddlers
Here is the list of my recommended activities. There are obviously many more out there, but I’m approaching this from a parent and not a teacher’s perspective.
If you want a more focused set of music goals and lessons, check out these articles.
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Singing Songs/Chanting Nursery Rhymes
With the younger children like this, it’s all about picking the right tune or rhyme to do.
Your favorite tune or a sing-along tune is just fine.
There are literally hundreds of thousands of songs out there in the world to pick from.
Try to pick songs and nursery rhymes that are of high quality.
How can you tell? Here’s a quick test:
Listen to the song or chant 20 times in a row. Do you hate it now? If so, it’s not quality.
Quality songs have some staying power. Yeah, you may not like them after 100 repetitions in a row, but you won’t despise them.
Think classic songs like Twinkle Twinkle or rhymes like Hickory Dickory Dock. Those never really get old, do they?
It’s OK to pick a fun song and do them, but if you can add actions to your body, it’ll be even more engaging for your toddler.
Fun twist: Have your toddler do the song or rhyme for their stuffed animals.
Telling Stories With Sound Effects
Kids love stories (adults do too!).
Make their stories more musical by singing a related song. (Check out these vocal warmups for kids.)
For example, take a book about a rainy day and add songs like Rain, Rain Go Away, or It’s Raining, It’s Pouring.
A quick search on this website or on Google will give you any number of songs to add to the story.
The search string I recommend is:
kids songs about…
Another way to make any book you have at home more musical is to add sound effects to the story.
Use items you have around your house and insert them into the story.
For example, if your rain book has rain (duh!), consider using a box of noodles. If the book has a storm, explore what tapping a cookie sheet with a wooden spoon sounds like.
Let the kids do the exploring and help as needed.
This may not seem strictly musical, but it develops an awareness of timbre or type of sound.
Paint What You Hear
Here it is again. I think it’s on all my activities lists at this point.
Paint or draw the music you hear.
Pick a piece of classical music and ask your toddler to draw with crayons or paint on pieces of paper while they listen.
At this age, you may not need to give them any more of a prompt than “paint what the music sounds like.”
No answer is wrong. All paintings are right.
We’re just trying to connect the listening and imagining portions of the brain.
Check out this playlist for a few pieces I like to use:
Yeah, serious music is fun, but it’s equally good at this age (or any age) to dance to music.
Movement to music is essential. (Check out the best children’s books with movement.)
It gets the body moving and the ears listening.
Whether they have a favorite kids album or artist, or they like to listen to what you listen to, get off your bottom, and dance.
Believe it or not, you’ll develop beat skills just by moving.
And it helps provide fun family time!
Maybe dance like an animal. That’s a fun musical activity too.
Check out this playlist of popular songs with a strong, steady beat you may want to dance to.
Attending A Concert
There is no reason a child, even a toddler, can’t attend a concert, whether it’s rock, choir, band, orchestra, or whatever (other than if the material is appropriate).
Letting them listen helps your kids appreciate different kinds of music and actually helps them increase the time they can sit still.
I wouldn’t necessarily take them to a two-hour concert in a hall, though, unless you really want.
Outdoor summer concerts in your local pavilion or church are often great options.
Barring that, you can find concerts streamed or recorded live online to check out.
Think Disney’s Fantasia.
Here’s one you may buy that does an awesome job of engaging young kids:
Playing Homemade Instruments
There is nothing quite as fun for kids as playing musical instruments.
You don’t need to buy them “real” musical instruments, but I’d be careful with the cheap ones geared toward kids.
A lot of times, these are out of tune and have poor sound quality.
In fact, I’d rather you do what I loved to do with my own kids when they were young (I miss those days!!).
Make your own homemade instruments and play your favorite songs, recordings, classical pieces, or whatever types of music you want to a steady beat!
It develops motor skills and explores musical concepts around sound.
Here are some ideas for materials:
- pots and pans
- pencils and pens
- rubber bands
Watching Videos/Seeing Of Different Musical Cultures
I want people and children to realize there is music of all kinds out there, not just what we know.
But I don’t know how to perform those different cultures authentically (and that is critical!).
Fortunately, there are many videos out there of different performances done by authentic performers of that culture.
This leads to greater exposure to music and a variety of music too.
Finger Plays/Action Games
Look for musical games and songs that use fingers specifically.
These develop fine motor skills and are just plain fun!
These are songs with musical games like Where is Thumbkin? or the ever-popular Baby Shark.
Favorite Resource: The Book of Fingerplays and Action Songs
Marching/Follow The Leader
Find some marches with a clear and steady beat.
Have your toddler follow you as you march and move around the room.
Make sure it has a clear steady beat!
Here are a couple of good songs to do it with:
Movement With Props
Do movement with songs of all types and feelings, but use props.
My kids’ favorites were the streamer dance and paper plate dance.
Favorite Resource for Classical Music: Maestro Classics
Sing What You’re Doing
This one often scares a lot of parents, but studies have shown that singing and making up songs are as effective as reading to your children when it comes to language development in toddlers.
But it’s intimidating to think that you have to make up songs.
One simple trick that helps parents and toddlers alike is to sing about what you’re doing. Or instead of talking to each other, sing what you’re going to say.
It’s easy, but it makes a huge difference with your toddler (and they find it super fun and silly!).
I’m a big advocate for music activities for 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds, so I hope this list helped you feel less overwhelmed about making music with your kids.
You don’t have to send them to lessons. In fact, I’d recommend waiting until they were 7 or 8 before starting them on an instrument.
Whatever you do, know that you are enough and any music is better than no music at all.
All music-making will access the benefits of music at this age level, so don’t stress!
Have fun music-making!
Check out the best instruments for kids (sorted by age).