23 Preschool Music Lesson Plans And Activities

preschool music lesson plans

Teaching music to young children is a great way to start a student’s love of music early on.

Most people really struggle with this age group, but when you come armed with some great preschool music lesson plans and activities.

So I sorted through my favorite music lessons to share with you.

Note: You don’t have to be a music teacher to use these either. Preschool teachers can use these too.

Download our FREE Music Clapping Games eBook

This free mini-eBook give you three clapping games with notation, analysis, lessons, and instruction to use in your music room right now! (And they work!)

Peas Porridge Hot

This simple chant has been around for literal centuries, and it’s one of the first action songs I teach my preschool students.

The words go like this:

Peas porridge hot. (Ah!)

Peas porridge cold. (Br!)

Peas porridge in the pot

Nine days old. 

Some like it hot. (Ah!)

Some like it cold. (Br!)

Some like it in the pot

Nine days old. 

With this chant, I like to have them practice the steady beat on different body parts.

Body percussion is the best way to reinforce the steady beat at this age.

Percussion instruments are great, but the students get too distracted right away for real practice.

Do a little bit of moving every time, and then hand out instruments.

(Really, any of the nursery rhymes will do a great job in preschool.)

The Ants Go Marching One By One

When it comes to movement activities in preschool, we really want the kids to do two main things:

  • Move to the steady beat
  • Move freely, matching the feeling of the music

Of these, the most important thing, in my opinion, is keeping a beat.

This song is one that most people have heard of, and it’s great for steady beat movement.

March around the room while singing or listening to this song.

As a bonus, it’s appropriate for the preschool grade level, too, as it features counting.

The Crabfish

The Crabfish is a great songbook with a haunting melody.

Either sing the folk song and book yourself or listen to it and follow along with the recording at the link.

Or better yet, do both!

This is one of my favorite songs to do with any level, and it’s a regular in my preschool classroom.

Check out The Crabfish lyrics and history in my article at the link.

Johnny Works With One Hammer

Movement games where we add in more moves, taking a simple song and making it even more fun for music time is always a blast.

This song adds in motions and works on gross motor skills.

It’s silly, and the kids love it.

Shake And Shake And Freeze

Here is a game with a bit more practice on fine motor skills for preschool on top of the musical skills we work on.

Listen and move to the video first, and then break out the egg shakers.

Egg shakers (or shaker eggs, as they’re sometimes called), for those who don’t know, are plastic eggs with little beads inside, just like maracas.

Found Sound Band

I love doing Found Sound Bands.

I take a simple song and add a steady beat.

Then, I show them how we don’t need “real” instruments to keep the beat.

We can use a lot of different sounds to make a unique band. 

After setting a few safety ground rules, let kids explore and find their own ways to make music and play different instruments.

This is always a favorite from 3 year olds to 10 year olds! 

Herman The Worm

Sometimes, you just have to be silly. 

A lot of preschool music is creating fun, musical experiences where the students can hear different types of music and practice the steady beat. 

Herman the Worm is just another example of this (with emphasis on the silly part!). 

Check out the video and learn it yourself to sing with them. 

You may want to slow it down a bit when you teach it to them the first time. 

Aquarium Movement From Carnival Of The Animals

Classical music and expressive movement shouldn’t be ignored. 

Aquarium from Carnival of the Animals is one of the perfect pieces for this age level. 

It’s short enough that it’ll hold their attention, and there are enough changes in the song to make the movement go well. 

Check out more directions for what I do with this (and other classical pieces besides) in my list of classical music to teach emotion

Download our FREE Music Clapping Games eBook

This free mini-eBook give you three clapping games with notation, analysis, lessons, and instruction to use in your music room right now! (And they work!)

Mother Goony Bird

I decided to bookend the previous preschool music lesson with two silly activities, I guess! 

This silly song is similar to Johnny Works With One Hammer. 

We move to a steady beat and keep adding moves until we look pretty silly. 

Bumping Up And Down In My Little Red Wagon

Maybe it’s just music teachers from my generation, or maybe it’s just me, but I love Raffi. 

His fun songs and shows for kids were part of why I wanted to become a music teacher. 

This song is one of my favorites of all the ones he’s done. 

You get to bump up and down and invite students to pick different tools (or silly things) to use for movement prompts in practicing the steady beat as we fix the wagon. 

Marching Band Follow The Leader

Following the leader is another great way to engage the body while moving to music. 

I’m a marching band fan myself, so it’s no surprise one of my go-to’s is to pop on a standard march and lead the kids around the room. 

Give them egg shakers, rhythm sticks, or hand drums if you feel brave. 

I usually come with different beat motions for the first few times we play before adding in the non-pitched percussion.

One of my favorite marches to do this with is the Stars And Stripes Forever.  

Pro-tip: Stick with easy moves for a while first (patting, tapping nose, touching the head) before doing harder ones like crossing the midline (great for brain development). 

Did you know that following the leader requires students to focus on one person? (Duh!)

This helps a lot with social skills too.

Little Bunny Foo Foo

Little Bunny Foo Foo is a classic finger play activity with a great steady beat. 

After the students know it really well, I like to extend the learning in a couple of different ways: 

  1. Acting out the story
  2. Adding instruments to match parts of the story
  3. Playing the steady beat while singing
  4. Watching/reading other variations and discussing how they’re the same and different. 

Apples And Bananas

Who doesn’t love this song with preschoolers?

It’s so much fun! 

Plus, you get to practice some good vowel sounds. 

Any time we can get cross-curricular with important concepts like speech and letter sounds is a big deal with this age group. 

B-I-N-G-O

When I was first teaching, I remember standing with one of my pre-K teachers in the hall as her kids took a bathroom break. 

Those waiting in line were a little impatient about how long another one of their friends was taking. 

I jokingly said: “Well, these preschoolers don’t have a lot of patience, do they?”

She looked at me deadpanned and responded: “That’s the understatement of the century!”

In music, we can help develop self-control and patience through songs that require focus and waiting. 

B-I-N-G-O removes a letter each time on the chorus, forcing the students’ brains to wait for the spot where those words would be. 

Bonus: It also prepares them for learning quarter rest faster in their older grades. 

Hokey Pokey

Fine motor control and knowledge of body parts are two of the key elements of preschool education. 

And this song hits both of these in spades! 

Play this song for maximum fun and learning with music.

10 In The Bed

Counting backward is almost as important as counting forward, and doing it with a song helps the students learn it even faster! 

There’s a reason there are so many catchy kid songs and music activities that help them learn better. 

We’re On Our Way

This is a fun one I like to use as we’re getting closer to a holiday. 

Even if they’re not going anywhere for a break, the students can still sing about the stuff they’ll find at home. 

It provides a great chance to get to know the kids when you only see them for a limited amount of time. 

Musical Coloring

Art and music go together really well. 

Whether you tell students to simply color what they feel or tell them a story to draw while music plays, musical coloring is a slam dunk in terms of creativity and listening. 

Classical music works best here, especially if it has a clear feeling to it. 

Check out these classical songs that teach dynamics in our article at the link.

Name That Tune

For Name That Tune, you’ll want to make a playlist of kids’ songs they know well (Disney songs, for example) or learn how to play them yourself on an instrument such as the recorder or piano. 

Then, give them a hint of the song or play it without words to have them guess what it is. 

Split into teams or keep track of how many they got right to keep it even more interesting. 

Pro-tip: Make your last tune the next one you want to sing or play with on your preschool music lesson plan. 

Build Your Own Musical Instruments

Building your own musical instruments is a big undertaking, but it’s one a lot of people love to do. 

I’ll admit I don’t have much experience in this, so I’ll link you to this article for specific ideas on building DIY instruments. 

Freeze Dance

Freeze Dance is always a blast. 

Put on a song they know and tell them to dance. 

Give them specific dance moves if they don’t have ideas for how to move on their own. 

Then, pause the song regularly to “trick them.”

When the song pauses, they have to freeze.

Some people make it a competition and make those who don’t stop fast enough sit out.

I don’t always do that, but if I do, I’ll also let everyone back in after a minute of sitting out. 

Check out my article on how to play freeze dance for more ideas.

Scarf Dancing

Getting out fabric scarves and adding them to your movement refreshes the same activities you did before, but now it feels new to your kids. 

Do this with classical music or songs that have a motion to them. 

Check out my dancing with scarves lesson plan template for help in organizing and teaching with these. 

Trust me, adding onto activities with scarves is a lot easier on your lesson planning than always coming up with new stuff.

Online Music Games (PBS Kids)

If you have access to technology, it may not be a bad idea to offer them some time (on occasion) to explore music games. 

I don’t like to use too much of this as it’s nowhere near as good as making actual music. 

But if you show them certain games on PBS Kids or Chrome Music Lab, they can explore more at home too! 

Check out our list of the best online music games for the classroom

Download our FREE Music Clapping Games eBook

This free mini-eBook give you three clapping games with notation, analysis, lessons, and instruction to use in your music room right now! (And they work!)

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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