5 Easy Activities to Promote Early Music Literacy in Toddlers

Big thank you to Rachel for being a guest here today! Here’s some background on Rachel for ya, then love her practical ideas for promoting a love for music and using music to teach your toddlers! -Bethany

Rachel Koller is a full-time mama trying to make her way in the music world. Ever since she was 8, when she wrote her first piano composition, she knew she couldn’t just stop there. She began performing vocally when she was 17 because her friend forced her into it, and she has been so grateful ever since. Rachel graduated with a BM in Media Music studies, and has been teaching piano and voice lessons since, as well as recording her own solo music, which included a side project with Mayday RED. Now, a mom of two she juggles writing new music…and spit-up 😉 Rachel is in the process of recording her second EP (which she is giddy about, to put it lightly), as well as posting music videos on YouTube.  She is so excited for the adventures ahead and would love to have your friendship and support as she does this!

When it comes to “mom-ming,” I think one of the most stressful questions that constantly runs through our minds is “How the hay am I gonna keep my child entertained all day?!” 

I like to consider myself a scheduled and organized person, but as soon as I had kids, those things KINDA flew out the window. I feel like I have a plan of how the week will go—different activities I will do with the kids, dinners I will make, when I will be teaching lessons, etc but then two students ask for a last-minute reschedule, my kids don’t fall asleep at their normal nap time which cuts down our time for activity, and nooooooooooo, I am missing a key ingredient for that easy meal I was relying on throwing together for dinner. 

I’m not complaining, just being real. 

So, when it comes to all of these beautifully Pinterest-ed activities that I just keep forgetting to do with my kids or can’t, because I would have to make a hefty visit to the craft store, weeeeellllll, then I just start feeling REALLY overwhelmed, 

like, maybe I am failing my children. 

Friends. FRIENDS. I feel I am not alone in this. THEREFORE, I have put together a list of very simple, often overlooked, activities to do with your toddler that will increase his/her appreciation for music AND be an overall bonding experience, which is what matters anyway, right?

Aight, here goes nothin:


Um. Yeah. Isn’t that kind of what songs are…sound? I couldn’t think of a clever title. 

Please forgive. 

“Sound Songs” consist of songs that require noises to be made as a representation of a person/animal/object/etc. Examples include, “Old McDonald Had a Farm,” “The Wheels on the Bus,” etc 

Instead of having yourself lead the song, let your toddler do it. Have him/her choose which person/animal/object/etc will be represented for each verse (we frequently sing about Elsa haha), AS WELL AS the sound it makes. 

You might be surprised what different things sound like 🙂 

For example, my toddler and I were singing “The Wheels on the Bus” and she chose “mommy” for the person…I was obviously really intrigued to see what the mommy on the bus would say. This was how it played out…

“Okay Ella, who’s next?”

“Okay…[we start singing] the mommy on the bus goes…what does the mommy say?”

“stinky diaper [as she pinches her nose and waves her other hand in front of it]”

Needless to say, I reconsidered my day job for a sec there.


I’m telling you, if you are looking purely for entertainment, this is it.


Okay, next item of business!

“Active Songs” consist of songs that require movement as representation for verbs within the songs. This would include songs like, “Popcorn Popping,” “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” “Do as I’m Doing,” “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” (“The Wheels on the Bus,” would also work for this), etc. 

Having your child learn the songs with the movements makes it even MORE fun for them, then just learning the song itself. However, my favorite songs are those where they choose the movements themselves—“If You’re happy and You Know It,” “Do As I’m Doing,” “The Wheels on the Bus”—to name a few. 

I love giving my child any opportunity possible to use her own creativity instead of having it be told to her. Having yourself lead out in the songs is definitely not a bad thing, and may be the best way to get going (to get their brain juices flowing), but why not let your child try choosing? 

It’s a good way to get a glimpse into their brain 🙂 

Side note: I love “Itsy Bitsy Spider” because then I can pretend my fingers are a spider crawling up my child, which then gets to tickle my child whenever “it” wants during the song. She loves it and will start laughing before the tickling even starts…sometimes before the “spider” even makes contact. 


If freeze tag and musical chairs had a child, this would be it. 

Turn on a song for your child to dance to, and then randomly pause the song. Every time you pause the song your child has to freeze in whatever position they were in. 

This is PERFECT for every kind of weather. During the cold months, it’s a wonderful way to get your kids active without having to brave the frigid outside. 


And during the hot months, it’s also a perfect staying in activity to escape the heat. HOWEVER, you can kick it up a notch in the hot months and have them do this activity outside in the sprinklers. SO FUN.


Side note: My child started getting very frustrated that I kept interrupting her song, soooo, ya know, if “freezing” isn’t working, then just let your child go crazy, no interruptions necessary 🙂


A lot of conversations I have with other moms that is that wish they were musically-inclined so that their children could be too (which is totes a false theory, btw, but that’s another post for another time), so I think when it comes to doing musical activities, moms who haven’t taken music lessons think that the only way you can become musically-inclined is to own actual instruments. 


Obviously, this is something you would want further down the road, depending on how serious you want your child to become musically, BUT if you don’t own any instruments…make them! 

“How We Learn” has a lot of wonderful ideas when it comes to making your own instruments for your toddler http://www.howweelearn.com/spectacular-homemade-musical-instruments/ 

Props to you, if you make all of them! But if you are like me, and tend to fly by the seat of your pants, the homemade guitar requires no skills and no extra visits to the store for supplies (all you need is a small box and rubberbands. Boo yes.) 

If you want to make it a little more fun, just use the multi-colored rubberbands, AND/OR rubber bands that vary in thickness and elasticity. My child LOVED being able to choose out which colors she wanted, and the difference in elasticity will make higher or lower sounds, depending on the stretch, which adds more sound variety! 

It took less than 5 minutes to make, and she and my infant loved it. Win.

**Side note: If you don’t wanna make anything, or don’t have a box and rubber bands (totes happens), just let your child rummage through the kitchen cooking utensils drawer and drum away with anything that looks appealing. 


I’m sure you’ve already heard all about the importance of unstructured play time for your child—it promotes creativity and imagination, as well as independence, etc—but I am talking specifically about those of you who own instruments—from a train whistle to a baby grand piano—ANY type of instrument. 

Simply hand it to your child/position them in front of it, and LET THEM PLAY. I am a huge fan of letting my child play away on the keyboard or ukulele. It builds her comfort with the instrument, as well as her confidence. In fact, she now writes down her own “compositions” on paper, and plucks out the keys while she plays, as if she knows what she’s doing. 

My heart. I can’t even stand how much I love it.

Now, I know a lot of these activities seem like no-brainers, but I guess that’s the point I am trying to make. Teaching your child to appreciate music is SO EASY—why complicate it? 

Life is complicated enough all on it’s own, so don’t add to it. There is SO MUCH BEAUTY in the simple. Your child has no idea how simple these activities are. In fact, I believe children like it more simple. It leaves more room for creativity and experimentation, which is something they THRIVE on.

One of the biggest things I have learned, from my experience as a piano/voice teacher is that, if the experience is too forced and structured, your child won’t enjoy it, which means they won’t want anything to do with it. This is why I advocate letting your child lead in the activities. You start the activity, but then they get to take it and run in whichever direction interests them the most, which means that they will more than likely want to do it again later. Plus, it’s fun to watch what interests your child the most as they gravitate to certain things. 

Cut out the complications, plant little seeds of ideas, and let your child fly.

~Rachel Koller~

Check out more about Rachel and her awesome music! Her cute kiddos show up in some of her youtube videos so you don’t want to miss those! 🙂

WEBSITE: Rachel Koller Music


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YOUTUBE: Rachel Koller

INSTAGRAM: @rachelkoller.music