Multi-Sensory Music Fun



In many of our Inside the Orchestra performances, we work with dancers to show what music “looks like.” It’s a fun concept. After all, music is more than just sounds – it reaches so many different parts of the brain. Listening to music can spark memories or bring forward unexpected emotions. Music changes the mood of movies and can even alter the way that food tastes.

If music crosses the barriers between senses naturally, why not have some fun with it? Here are some great multi-sensory activities that you can do with your child(ren) to explore and connect their senses.


Hearing

Multi-Sensory Playlist

Use this playlist throughout the other sensory activities, or keep it simple and just listen to it as you go about your day.


Touch

For each of the “Touch” activities, use the playlist above.

We use object descriptors to talk about music all the time (e.g., some music sounds soft, some heavy, some smooth, and some is rough).


Babies – Elementary School

Have your little one(s) experience these sensations in a hands-on way.

  1. Line up a variety of objects that they can touch or hold that have a distinctive quality: a feather, a heavy rock, a soft blanket, play dough, sandpaper, etc.
  2. Play them some short music samples from the playlist and have them pick the object that the music reminds them of the most.
  3. Let them tell you why: what is it about the piece that sounded light? What sounds made it seem rough? Then, wait for all of the interesting answers! Note: though your littlest one(s) will be doing more touching and less explaining, their sensory synapses will still be firing as they explore.

Toddler and Preschool

We promise this activity isn’t as messy as it may seem (especially if you use less shaving cream than we did!). Let your child get fully hands-on with a multi-sensory experience that’ll engage their sense of touch and perhaps smell as well. In terms of clean up – because shaving cream is meant to easily rinse off skin, this is so easy! A damp towel is all you’ll need.

Child playing with shaving cream

Directions:

  1. Give your child a pile of shaving cream.
  2. Let them explore the new sensory feeling.
  3. Use drops of food coloring to change the color.
  4. Ask them what color the music they’re listening to reminds them of and create that color for them.

Smell


Smell

Smell is one of our strongest senses. Just like listening to music, certain smells can bring us right back to a specific time and place in life. Similar to the touch activity, set out “smelly” objects for your child and have them choose which smells sound the most like the music they’re listening to.

Child smelling a plant

Some things to pique your child’s nose might include:

  • Perfume or essential oils
  • Coffee grounds
  • Lemon
  • Vanilla
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Mint leaves

Taste

Food fuels the body, and music fuels the soul, so why not combine the two? On Top of Spaghetti is a fun kids’ song that will let you do just that. Using the music from the folk song “On Top of Old Smokey,” it tells the story of someone whose meatball grows into a tree after a big sneeze blows it off the table and all the way outside. Let your kids listen to the song and learn the silly lyrics. You can then top the experience off with a spaghetti party. Just make sure there aren’t any meatballs that go flying…


Preschool and Older

Child with pasta

Make your own linguine at home

No machines required! Depending on the age of your child, this recipe is simple enough that they’ll be able to take charge and make the pasta entirely on their own, without your help. Younger kids can get involved with the guidance of a grown-up or older sibling. They’ll be so proud to have made a family meal from scratch!


Sight

There are so many ways that children of all ages can explore the visual elements of music.

Dancers
  • Have them watch videos of dancers online or take them to a performance.
  • Let them draw pictures of the music they hear and then have them explain to you why they chose those colors or shapes.
  • Ask them to close their eyes while listening to music and imagine a scene or a place.
  • For a literal visual representation of music, check out videos like this one. Watch how the music moves up and down and see how different shapes were used to represent different note lengths.

Bonus Sense: Kinesthesia

Kinesthesia is the body’s sense of motion and movement. It is not at all hard to think about the many ways that a child can choose to move to music. Our favorite, however, is even more creative than just dancing.

Toddler through Elementary: Musical Movements

Play the music samples and have them walk around in a style that imitates the music they’re hearing. Light pizzicato string instruments? Maybe they’ll tiptoe. A fast orchestra piece? They might start running. Up the fun by having them freeze every time you turn off the music to switch to a new piece.