Out and About with Preschoolers: Make Some Music

It’s a beautiful day to be outdoors with the children. But is there any way to help them meet music benchmarks outdoors? Yes, there is! Go ahead—take music outside! Preschoolers can have fun investigating dynamics, rhythm, and other elements of music while they participate in music activities outdoors. (See the Illinois Early Learning and Development Benchmarks 25.A.ECa, 25.A.ECc, and 26.B.ECa.)

Outside is a great place to play with dynamics.

  • Choose a place outside where children can sing with big voices, without disturbing anyone. Let them sing songs they know, as loudly as they want. Then invite them to clap hands, stamp feet, or play rhythm instruments loudly. Ask, “What did you do to make those loud sounds?”
  • Ask the children to use their voices, hands, feet, or instruments to make the softest sounds they can. Invite them to talk about what they did to produce the quiet sounds.
  • Try call-and-response activities. The children can stand in two lines facing each other a few yards apart. Using songs or chants such as “Did You Feed My Cow?”, one side will be the callers, and the other side will respond. Ask the children to vary the loudness: “This time, the callers whisper, and the other side can shout.”

Outdoor rhythm activities let children make music together.

  • Ask the children to stand in two lines, a few yards apart. Help children in each group take turns using their hands and feet to create sound patterns for the other group to copy, such as, “Clap-stomp, clap-stomp.” Let them invent complex rhythms, too!
  • Help children form a rhythm band. Start with two groups. One group might be the Clappers and the other group the Stompers. Stand where both groups can see you. Tell them, “When I point to the Stompers, people in that group stomp one foot one time. When I point to the Clappers, people in that group clap one time.” At first, direct slowly with very simple rhythms. Then try harder patterns such as “Clap-clap-stomp-stomp-clap.” You might add a group that slaps knees or says a word such as “Beep” or “Pizza.” Let children try directing the band.

Action songs bring movement and music together.

  • Show the children how to play active singing games such as “London Bridge” and “Bluebird through My Window.”
  • Invite children to invent expressive movements for well-known action songs such as “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” or “Alice the Camel.”