I’m a music teacher who is now a stay-at-home mom. While my current role is different – I’m at home with my own children instead of a music classroom – I still love teaching age-appropriate music lessons to my kids! I frequently come up with new ideas, and I have a great session you can do with kids as young as two years old. This music lesson is simple and customizable for children preschool age and up, no teaching experience needed! Read on to learn how to do a simple music listening activity with your kids!
The Main Idea
This is going to be a listening activity, paired with some art. You can adjust how advanced and intricate you want to get, based on the age and the attention span of your child.
The goal here is to really get your kids to listen actively, and not just hear the music. They’ll be doing a visual representation of what they see in their minds eye, so there are no wrong answers! It’s simple and open-ended.
I love to really open the ears and minds of my kids, and help them to realize that music isn’t just “background noise.” It can tell a beautiful story, enhance your favorite movie or show, and make you feel all kinds of emotions… without ever seeing a thing or hearing a word spoken.
What You’ll Need
Like any great formal teaching lesson, you need to do some prep work. We’ll talk about physical supplies in a minute; first, I want you to get inspired and pick which music you’d like to use as your focus!
There are tons of examples of music you could use here, in every genre; however, here are a few classical pieces I recommend for this kind of listening activity. They’re great for associating something visual with what you hear!
- The Firebird Suite – Stravinsky
- Carnival of the Animals: The Cuckoo, The Aquarium, The Aviary, Fossils, etc. – Saint-Saens
- Night on Bald Mountain – Mussorgsky
- The Planets: Jupiter, Mars, Venus, etc. – Holst
- Rhapsody in Blue – Gershwin
- You can also use classical soundtracks to movies or shows your kids know and love. I do suggest picking music without lyrics, as you want your kids to use their brains and their imagination, and not get too much direction of what to do from the song itself.
The Art Supplies
Feel free to pick and choose the art supplies which you think would be appropriate for this listening activity! We have a box full of things like:
- Crayons, colored pencils, markers, chalk
- Alternatively, you could have your kids sculpt or carve in clay or Play-Doh.
What to Do
If you have time, play the piece once first without giving your kids any supplies. I try to do this with as little talking as possible. It’s fun to make your kids really open up their ears instead of being explicitly told what’s going on or what to do. Just… listen.
What do they hear? You can have a discussion after the recording is complete, and ask them to answer simple questions about what they heard, like:
• Loud or soft?
• Fast or slow?
• Happy, sad, angry, mysterious?
• What did the music make you want to do?
• What colors or shapes did you see in your mind?
Then, after your kids have some idea of what they want to create, pass out the music supplies and play the music again!
Final Thoughts to Keep in Mind
Really encourage your child to just make what they want: there is no right or wrong answer. And sometimes they may be so transfixed with their new musical epiphany that they don’t make much art at all. That’s ok! The goal here is to open their ears and make them active listeners.
If I’m doing this lesson with multiple children, I try to position them in a way that they can share supplies without really looking much at each other’s work. This may be a new concept for your child, especially if they’re drilled on traditional “there’s only one right answer” schooling. As long as they can justify why they did what they did, their creation is perfectly fine. Even if it looks completely different from someone else’s.
Some follow-up questions you could ask your child:
- How did this music make you feel?
- Why did you choose the colors that you did?
- Tell me the story that you drew here.
- If this music was a food, what flavors would it be?
Additionally, you could do this same music lesson, with the same piece of music, with your child in a few months or a year. See how their art has grown, and what ideas they come up with next!
Want to print this out for later use? Here’s the PDF version of the lesson plan!
For more lessons and activities, check out Teachers Pay Teachers. You can shop for teachers’ real lesson plans and handouts, and help support them at the same time!