Music is such an integral part of most people’s lives. If you had toddlers during the release of Frozen, you especially realize how important it is to kids. But it goes beyond just a cute toddler belting “Let It Go” over and over again. A 2016 study from the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute concluded that a child’s exposure to music led to accelerated brain development, especially in the realm of language acquisition and reading skills.
Another study found “Early musical intonation development plays the crucial role in the formation of musicality, creativity and affective well-being in young children.” With all that in mind, we’ve gone ahead and curated a list of the absolute best and most fun music games and activities for kids that’ll add the funk to any party. These fun, music-centered games are also great ways to incorporate tunes into their playtime.
1. Mini Maestros
Teach your kids the basics of songwriting long before they ever learn music theory. Think about sounds they can make: Clap, stomp, hum, squawk, etc. Using a pencil and paper, help them come up with symbols for each sound. Next, they can use those symbols to write out patterns and songs with their noises.
2. Pass The Parcel
Wrap a prize in multiple layers of gift wrap. Have kids sit in a circle and pass around the parcel as you play music. When the music pauses, the child holding the parcel gets to unwrap the first layer of wrapping paper. The off and on pattern continues until the “winner” unwraps the last layer of paper and reveals a prize.
3. Animal Dance Party
Start playing some funky music and get everyone dancing. Next, shout out an animal and watch as the kids try to interpret how that animal might dance. If you’re not afraid of a little noise, encourage them to make the animal sounds, too.
4. Freeze Dance
Play some upbeat music and dance around with your kiddos. Randomly pause the music and make them freeze. The dancing is fun, but seeing the silly poses you each freeze in is worth even more giggles.
5. Turn Into…
Similar to “Freeze Dance,” when the music stops, dancers will need to “freeze” in place. This time, however, before pausing the song, tell kids how they should freeze. “Turn into a fish,” is a great example. Kids might make fish faces or freeze like the have fins. The person who did the worse job of freezing to your demands each round is out.
6. Musical Charades
This is just like regular charades, but all the answers will be song titles. You can ask for suggestions, but you might have better luck if you come up with your own song selections ahead of time. After all, “Baby Shark” is easy to act out. “Apples and Bananas,” not so much.
7. Telephone Tune
Divide your kids into two teams and form two lines. Hum a tune to the first person in line and let them “pass” it along to the next kid. The first team to correctly pass and name the tune is a winner.
8. Lip Sync Battle
Split kids up individually or into pairs and let them pick a song they love. They must create an accompanying routine, complete with singing along and making up dance moves or dramatic interpretations of the lyrics. Prizes can be awarded for the people who seem to know the words best, most creative interpretive movements and best dance sequence.
9. Share The Groove
Queue up some music and have your kids stand in a circle. Choose a person to go first (birthday boy, oldest girl, youngest sibling are all good determining factors) and let them show off one cool dance move. The next person must repeat their dance move, then add their own. This continues around the circle, the dance routine becoming more complicated the longer they last. If a person messes up, they’re out. The last person standing who can do all the dance moves is the winner.
10. Musical Clothes
This is a bit like musical chairs, but a little more fun. Fill a tote bag full of funky clothes (silly hats, crazy patterned shirts, etc.). With kids sitting in a circle, play music and have them start passing the bag around. When the music stops, the child holding the bag must pick out a random item and wear it. The game ends when the bag is empty. Winner is the person in the silliest outfit.
How low can you go?
12. Name That Tune
There are two ways to play this. If you’re in the car, you can set your radio to scan and see who can name each song the fastest. To keep it more kid-friendly, maybe make a mix CD of their favorite jams. Another option is to take turns humming a song until another person can guess what you’re humming.
13. Musical Keep ‘Em Up
Place a music-related task in each balloon before blowing them up. (Think: Crazy dance moves, air guitar or lip syncing.) Give each child a balloon that they must keep in the air while the music plays. When you pause the music, the first person who has to touch their balloon to keep it from falling must then pop their balloon and perform the task.
14. Musical Chairs
You know this one, right? Line up one less chair than there are party-goers and have everyone walk around the chairs to the beat of some music. When you stop the music, the kiddos must sit down. The person without a seat is out. They take chair with them and the game is repeated until the winner and runner-up fight over the very last chair.
15. Spin The Microphone
Have everyone sit in a circle and spin a toy microphone, like you would if you were playing Spin The Bottle. Whomever the microphone lands on has to sing a song. If you don’t want to put anyone who might be shy on the spot, you could also just have them tell everyone their favorite band, song or instrument.
16. Name The Instrument
Find a great CD or YouTube video with snippets of sound from different instruments. Let your kids guess what each instrument might be. Give bonus points for extra obscure instruments.
17. Karaoke Competition
If you have a budding diva or rock star in your bunch, it might be time to invest in a karaoke machine. Once you start collecting discs, the options are endless. You can keep it focused on soundtracks or kiddie songs. You can even do a Christmas themed competition.
18. Mood Music
Make a playlist full of music depicting different moods. Talk to the kids about how different music can have different feelings attached. Cycle through the songs and have them try to interpret the song into a dance that goes with the mood. Think: Thrashing and moshing to angry music or swaying and sagging to something sad.
19. Draw the Music
This clever combination of music and art is perfect for a rainy day. Just pop on some music, and tell your child to draw what they hear. That can be everything from the characters of a song, to what they think the music itself looks like (zig-zag lines for rock music, wavy lines for classical, etc).
20. Bathroom Music Hall
Why not turn bath time into an extra-special sing-along? Have your kids test out the acoustics in the bathroom by singing their favorite songs. You can even turn this into an impromptu recording session by whipping out your phone. They’ll get a kick out of hearing themselves perform.
21. Feel the Music
Similar to the having children draw the music they hear, this activity centers around them acting out and/or dancing to different types of music. Start out with something slow and mellow, then make an abrupt change to something loud and chaotic. Have them move their bodies to the tunes and explore different sounds.
22. Make Your Own Drums
Kids love making noise, and therefore gravitate towards the drums. Don’t have a kit at home? Let your child get creative by finding household objects that can double as drums, like buckets and pots. And don’t forget the wooden spoon drum sticks!
23. Hot Potato
An oldie, but a goodie! Have a group of kids sit in a circle on the floor. Pick an object to pass around (though in 2020, you may want to steer clear of an actual hot potato if you don’t want other parents on your case). Tell the kids that as long as the music is playing, they need to keep passing the object. The person left holding the proverbial hot potato when it music stops is out. Continue the game until there is a winner. (If this keeps a group of kids occupied for more than 10 minutes, the winner is you.)
24. Draw What You Hear
One of the most important things you can teach your kiddo about music is to consider how it makes them feel. Not only will this help them learn to identify and acknowledge their feelings, but it will also help them learn to express those same emotions. Most importantly, learning how music can affect your mood can go a long way in the efforts to lift poor spirits. This takes time for kids and will start out very literal. If you’re an Ozzy fan, expect that their first drawing associated with “Crazy Train” will most likely involve a train. It won’t be long, though, before they can even interpret the emotion behind Vivaldi.
25. Write What You Hear
One of the coolest assignments I ever received while attending an arts magnet school was when my teacher applied the same principles for interpreting music but asked us to write a story to accompany it. This can work for songs with or without lyrics, as long as you encourage your kids to go beyond the exact lyrics. Just remember to keep your feedback positive so you don’t inadvertently squelch a blossoming love for writing.
26. Name That Tune
Got a few minutes to kill in the car? Scan through the radio stations or spin the “wheel” on your iTunes and see who’s fastest at guessing the song that starts. It’s a music-based activity that requires minimum effort but offers great fun.
27. Chord-Building With LEGOs
The genius mama from the blog And Next Comes L has an amazing musical activity to incorporate music theory with many kids’ favorite toy: LEGOs. Using white dot stickers (like the kind you use for yard sales) stuck to LEGOs and a custom printable, she and her son worked together to build cords. Bonus points if you can play them for your child afterwards.
Okay, so maybe this is more dance and balance related than music. However, desperate times call for desperate measures. These days, especially, we sometimes just need a reason to get our kids moving. You could use playing Limbo as a way to teach your kids how to listen for a rhythm and move with it.
29. Lyric Change-up
Think: The “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells” with this activity. Help your kiddo take their favorite song and change the words entirely. Maybe you need a clean-up song, so you’re reworking that Rihanna jam. (No judgement here!) Another option is to test your kids lyrical knowledge by singing a line from a song they know but changing one word. Can they point out where you made a change?
30. Group Tune Creation
Start by sitting your kids in a circle. Next, give each child a different instrument or a noise to make with their mouths. Start by clapping a simple rhythm, then have the child to the right of you use their instrument or sound to add to the “song.” Once you two have worked out a nice rhythm, add a third person in. Carry on until everyone is participating.
31. DIY Music Instruments For Kids
Did you know you can make your own musical instruments? Yeah, girl. You can. Time to combine Arts & Crafts and Music class.
32. Build An Outdoor Music Garden
Not every part of this idea is kid-friendly. You can incorporate your kids into the planning of a music garden (or outdoor music station) by letting them help you decide what sounds they want to make in their garden and brainstorming materials to use. The actual build will mostly require grown-ups. However, once the project is finished, your music garden will be a great place for your kids to get rowdy and make some noise.
33. Sound Scavenger Hunt
If you have access to a bunch of instruments in your home, you could consider coming up with a scavenger hunt where your kids hunt down instruments that match a description or a sound you play. And if you’re not very musically inclined or lacking an excess of instruments? Try sending your kids on a “sound scavenger hunt,” instead. What can your kids find that will make cool sounds when singing songs?
34. Dance Your Feelings
Once your kids have grasped the concept that music can make you feel emotions, another great musical activity is to let them “act out” those emotions in dance. How do you dance to sad music? How do your moves change when a song is angry? Get involved and have fun with this.
35. Musical Sleeping Bags
This is a fun variation on musical chairs for a slumber party. The idea is exactly the same: line up sleeping bags with one less than players, have kids walk around the bags while music is playing. As soon as it stops kids will have to run to the nearest sleeping bag and climb in, leaving one player out in the cold. And so on and on until there’s only one winner left.
36. Finish That Song
Start singing a song the child or group of children are familiar with, stopping short of finishing the line or lyric. Let the kids sing and shout it at you.