The sounds children produce with tambourines, rhythm sticks, and every instrument in between give rise to spontaneous movement and dance. As adults, we can help to guide children as they achieve a delicate balance between creative chaos and creative expression. This balance can be found—at least in part—by helping children explore the relationships between sound and movement.
Wear wrist bells as you clap along to music with infants. Continue the clapping game by clapping quickly, then slowly, then "clapping high," and "clapping low," encouraging babies to do the same. Later, sit close to children as you clap to the tunes, gradually moving short distances away then back again so that babies can hear the differences in the sounds of the bells.
Tunes by Toddlers
Toddlers enjoy banging, so any percussion instrument (or anything that children can safely bang on) can become a rhythm instrument. Tambourines can be carried and tapped as children march around in a circle. Encourage children to tap one time for each footstep; they can tap faster as they change from a slow march to a fast march. Select music that children can listen to and play along with, including selections ranging from songs children are familiar with and particularly enjoy to classical music.
Preschoolers: Prancing in Pairs
Preschoolers can be challenged to explore the relationships between kinds of sound and types of movement.
For example, a triangle produces a high-pitched sound that may encourage tiptoeing or prancing. A drumbeat produces a low-pitched sound that might encourage plodding movements or stomping. Select a variety of pictures of animals and a matching number of rhythm instruments. (Include "found instruments" such as plastic bowls and pot lids too). Display the pictures and then strike or play one of the instruments, asking children to identify the animals that match the sounds. For example, a triangle might sound like a mouse scurrying about, but it might also sound like a lion creeping up on its prey. After children have matched a sound and an animal, invite them to try to make the sounds and move like the animals. This could be done in pairs - one child playing the instrument while the other moves, and then reversing roles.
Kindergartners can explore different ways to play rhythm instruments as they move to the sounds they produce. For example, kindergartners can be encouraged to play their instruments behind their backs, over their heads, stooping, or bending. Then ask children to team up in threes and play musical frogs. One child can play an instrument to represent the sproing of the takeoff, another the "glide of the leap," and another the "thump" of the landing. Invite other children in the group to pretend to be frogs, "taking off," "leaping," and "landing" to the sounds they hear.