Making Music with Your Child – Fun Activities for Motor Skill Development
We all know that kids love music. It is one of the most fun, enriching and motivating experiences for them. But do you know how to harness the power of music to create rich learning experiences for your child? As a board certified music therapist, this is what I do all day long and I want to share some easy songs and activities to get you started. Let’s dive right in!
Movement to Music
Dancing and moving to music can be a great way to address gross motor skills. There are a lot of great movement songs out there, but why not create your own? This will give you the ability to tailor the movements to the specific needs of your child. Now, I know what you are probably thinking, “I don’t know how to write a song! I don’t have a musical bone in my body!” No problem, I’ve got you covered. First, think of a fun children’s song that you already know and that your child likes. Let’s work with “Brother John.” The trick is to change the lyrics to make them movement based. In the following example, I have put the personalized lyrics under the modified ones to make it easier for you to follow.
Are you sleeping, are you sleeping, Brother John, Brother John?
Are you jumping, are you jumping, little Max, little Max?
Morning bells are ring-ing, Morning bells are ring-ing,
Jumping up and down yes, Jumping up and down yes,
Ding Dang Dong, Ding Dang Dong
You’re the best, you’re the best
See, that wasn’t so hard! The key is to keep it simple. We’re not writing a symphony here so don’t get too crazy with the lyrics. The one element that I encourage you include, is your child’s name. This creates a bond and connection that you won’t get by singing a generic song to your child. It can also help keep them engaged and motivated.
In order to spice this song up and add other motor movements you can substitute other actions such as hopping, balancing on one foot, walking up stairs, bear crawling, side-stepping, marching, etc. One of the keys to making this a successful activity is to make it fun and lively. If you have some percussive instruments such as a drum or a tambourine, play along and reflect their actions. For example, with jumping, you can hit the drum right when your child’s feet hit the ground. You can also use clapping to accentuate these movements.
Fine Motor Skill Activities
Fine motor skills can also be addressed through musical activities such as fingerplays. Fingerplays such a “Where is Thumbkin?” can be great for working on isolating individual fingers. The most important finger to isolate is the pointer but the thumb and pinky are also good ones. The best resource I have found for fingerplays is the songbook “Wee Sing Children’s Songs and Fingerplays” by Pamela Beall and Susan Hagen Nipp. These songs are available on iTunes so in case you don’t know them, you can take a listen.
Musical apps can also be a great way to have fun while working on finger isolation, a.k.a. finger individuation. One of my favorites is Boogie Bopper by Tickle Tap Apps. This is perfect for isolating one finger and targeting small circles to create melodies. With my clients who are working on this skill, I will also do a pinky and thumb round where they can only use their pinkies or thumbs to touch the iPad. It’s great to add this challenge, but remember, if it starts feeling like the work is overriding the fun, drop your agenda and get back to having fun!
The Limitless Potential of Music
I hope that you have some new ideas of how you can use music to connect with your child, have fun and work on motor skill development!
If you are interested in learning more about music therapy and want to see my work in action, please visit my website and video blog at www.TheRhythmTree.com. I also have a free monthly newsletter that gives great suggestions and resources for using music with your child, so please sign up at www.therhythmtree.com/user-registration.