The best first step to performing music is to understand it and the way it feels. This multisensory activity is a fun way to help students gain additional vocabulary to describe music.
Use this playlist throughout the other sensory activities, or keep it simple and just listen to it as you go about your day.
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).
Have your students experience these sensations in a hands-on way.
- 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.
- Play them some short music samples from the playlist and have them pick the object that the music reminds them of the most.
- 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.
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.
Some things to pique your students’ noses might include:
- Perfume or essential oils
- Coffee grounds
- Mint leaves
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…
There are so many ways that children of all ages can explore the visual elements of music.
- 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.
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.
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.