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6 Ways to Engage Your Toddler or Preschooler with Outdoor Musical Activities
Well, summer is here and your little ones will probably be spending more time outside. Or, at least, you would like them to spend more time outside. If that’s the case, then I’m here to share with you 6 great outdoor musical activities that you can do with your toddler or preschooler.
So, what are some of the ways your can encourage outdoor play with music? I’m glad you asked! Because below, I’m giving you the very best ideas for outdoor musical activities to try this summer! And while these activities are geared for preschoolers and toddlers, just know that any young child could try these outdoor musical activities!
As you’ll see below, these activities can be based on what you have in your own house. There really are many items around your house that you can use for musical play. So, there’s no need to go out and buy new musical toys.
But because you will be using household objects and letting them play with water (like in a kiddy pool), it should be said: You are the best judge of your child’s capabilities so make sure the items they play with are child safe. And also, always stay with your child while they are playing in and around water.
What’s so unique about engaging in outdoor musical activities?
Often, we only make music or sing indoors. Think about it: the concerts we attend are in concert halls, our music classes are in specific indoor rooms, and even in our own home we almost always make music inside.
And just think about how often we sit while making music in the above instances. These outdoor music activities encourage movement and making music in different positions! Because we almost always sit during concerts or a music class, your child will enjoy the chance to do these kinds of activities while moving, playing, climbing, running, or even standing.
Changing positions while making music might sound insignificant, but it’s actually important for little ones. There are changes in posture and how a child holds an instrument (a handheld drum for example) while sitting and standing. It’s these small changes that helps a child learn of all the different possibilities.
What are some ideas for outdoor preschooler and toddler music activities?
Thankfully, there are a several ways to bring the music outdoors. And these musical activities are all quite simple to set up, using things you probably already have around the house. So, allow your little ones to be creative and exploratory with their outdoor play. You can get involved if you want, but also just setting the activities up and letting them explore on their own will be fun for them!
Now, just remember, your little one is probably just happy to explore the foundations of music. So, there really isn’t a need to teach them music in a regimented manner at this point. The activities below introduce the foundations of music and include listening, singing, and trying out new sounds.
Without further ado, here are my top 6 recommendations for outside musical activities that you should definitely give a try this summer! Plus, one additional musical activity for those rain days (or when it’s just too hot!).
Sing Songs About Summer – Outside!
Now, this idea might seem a bit silly, but of all the parent’s I’ve talked to, very few sing to their children outside! Almost always, singing is done indoors.
But singing outdoors will help your child learn that music is something they can always have with them. Not just when they are indoors and no one is around.
Encourage your toddler to belt out a song if they are outside! Let them sing a bit louder when they are outside. That way they can experiment with their own volume levels, from quiet to loud. Let nature be their inspiration for making up a song, too.
if you want some of the easiest children’s songs, then look no further than this list of 12 songs every parent should know! These are standards all parents can easily learn and you’ll learn just why these are so valuable for your child. But if singing one of these songs doesn’t sound right for you, try learning a piggy-back song.
What’s a piggy-back song?
Well, it’s simply a variation of one of a well-known tune. As an example, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, “The Alphabet Song” and “Baa, Baa Black Sheep” all use the same melody. Essentially, they piggy-back off the melody by changing the lyrics to make a new song.
Here is an excellent example of piggy-back song “Summer’s Here”, which uses the well-known melody of “Are Your Sleeping?” This song just changes up the lyrics a bit to give you the perfect summertime song!
Summer’s Here (sung to Frere Jacques)
Days are longer, sunshine’s stronger.
Summer’s here! Summer’s here!
Lets jump through the sprinkler,
Lets make lemonade,
Summer’s here! Summer’s here!
With this song, you could even consider drinking lemonade and jumping through a sprinkler – just to make it more interactive. So, whenever you get the opportunity, sing a song with your child about your garden, your vacation, or the weather. And make sure to sing it outside, too, especially since many of those songs are about summertime activities!
Make an Outdoor Xylophone
The idea of making a garden xylophone is brilliant! I mean, what child doesn’t enjoy banging on pieces of wood or metal pipes with a stick. This just gives it a musical twist.
Outdoor xylophones are great stand alone instruments that can be added to a musical garden (explained below). The vast majority of music gardens that I’ve seen have rhythmic instruments or percussive instruments. So, this will be a great melody instrument if you already have a music garden.
Any google search will give you lots of results, but my favorite one is from And Next Comes L. The instructions are clear and easy to follow. I’ve definitely got this on my to-do list for the summer, so keep an eye here for pictures on what the finished project looks like!
Another option that would be a blast for kids is a melody pole! It’s essentially a few PVC pipes secured around a large pole (like a tree trunk). This would be an excellent way to use any old pieces of PVC pipe you might have tucked away. Or, if you want to make one from scratch, consider using a more sustainable option like bamboo poles! Again, this is on my to-do list as a summer project!
With younger children, it’s not terribly important that the xylophone makes a complete scale. Or even that it plays specific pitches. So, for the sake of ease, don’t worry about each pipe or board making a specific tone! Your little ones will have fun exploring the different sounds either way.
Make Your Own Outdoor Musical Garden
Now, there are tons of people who have already written about this idea, so you’ll almost certainly find something that suits your needs. And this really is one of the most flexible outdoor musical activities there is!
If you feel crafty or are good with building, then try one of these musical garden projects. Some people have really great ideas about how to build musical walls (using household supplies) or music stations in their garden. Check out a few to see if you can also build similar musical garden.
But, if you are like me and not crafty, just use what you have on hand! Make it easy for yourself, because truth be told, these aren’t generally meant to last! If your kids have as much fun playing with these things as mine do, it will get a bit worn. But that just generally means that they’ve had fun playing with it!
Since we have some fruit trees in our back garden, it was super easy to hang a few empty tin cans of various sizes and an old frying pan from a low tree branch. I added to that a few various sized glass jars, some shaker-style instruments, and a few utensils in a waterproof storage box. Then they can explore with these a bit as well!
And, as the image above illustrates, the simplest version is to take any kid’s musical instruments you might already have and lay them out on a blanket. Let your child explore how they sound outside, let them explore different outdoor items as mallets (sticks, rocks, grass even) and let them explore with how hard they can strike those percussion instruments (within reason, of course).
Music and Water Experiments
Because the hotter summer months require cooling off, why not explore all the different ways water makes and changes sounds? This type of activity is a wonderful way to let your toddlers and preschoolers explore on their own while cooling off with water. Luckily, there are several ways to explore sounds with water!
Probably one of the most common outdoor musical activity that involves water, is the water xylophone. I’ve seen fancy ones with each glass being a different color, but honestly, your toddler will probably just combine the water anyway! It will certainly look beautiful when it’s first presented, but I’d rather save myself the hassle of coloring each class and just let them play!
Essentially, for toddlers and preschoolers, just add various amounts of water to various sized glasses. You’ll get different tones, but again, you definitely don’t have to worry about creating an entire scale. The main point is to show your little one that by changing the water amount, the tone also changes!
Let them explore and pour the water into different glasses. They’ll mix, pour the water out, stick their hands in it, and almost certainly come in all wet. But just let them see what sounds they can make.
Another option is to play with various objects in a paddling pool. Alec Duncan over at Child’s Play Music has an incredibly useful video about all the sounds you can make. The video is within the blog post and both explain the general idea. This is, by far, one of the best posts I’ve found of ways to let your toddler or preschooler explore the ways water makes music!
Play Outdoor Musical Games
There is just something to be said about playing outdoors during the summer months – especially for young children! Like so many other ideas, there are several great outdoor musical games out there. By far, one of my favorites is the musical scavenger hunt from Beth at Days With Grey.
She combines a standard scavenger hunt with learning colors – all while playing a musical freeze style game. But instead of freezing when the music stops, your little ones will run off to find an object that matches the color they’ve landed on. Seriously, your little ones will be practicing their colors, listening to their favorite songs (especially if you let them pick the music), and getting lots of movement in for the day.
Want a printable version of a scavenger hunt? Then take a look at this printable bundle of musical scavenger hunts! You’ll find 5 pages of scavenger hunts, each based upon a well-known children’s song, like “The Ants Go Marching” or “5 Speckled Frogs”. So print out a page, try to find as many items as you can and sing the song as you go! These are an amazing way to engage your child with the environments of each song.
And if you want any more ideas for outdoor music games, then be sure to check out Sara’s 10 Ways to Make Your Summer Musical over at Let’s Play Music. You’ll find plenty of further inspiration to get your little ones engaging with outdoor music making in no time.
Play Outdoor Musical Games with a Focus on Listening
Now, because you are in the summer months, you probably aren’t going to want to have your little ones run around ALL day. Being from Texas, I know that there are certain afternoon hours where it’s just too hot to run around outside. So, why not try a calmer listening game?
And while you are only listening for sounds (which form the basis of music), listening is a crucial aspect of learning music. They’ll be learning to determine where sounds are coming from, how “same” sounds can differ (like 2 different dogs barking), remembering and mimicking those sounds as well as understanding what is actually making different sounds. This all forms the foundations of listening.
Musical Bingo is a fantastic outdoor option for working on those listening skills. Simply make a list of all the sounds you might hear in your own backyard (or the park even) and place them on a bingo card. While you are outside with your toddler, make sure to check off the items on the Bingo Card as you hear them.
This type of game can be played anywhere, so explore your different options. How might the sounds be different in the park? Or at a playground? Or even inside your home on a rainy day? This game gives your young child an excellent opportunity to have a calmer type of game.
Visit an Outdoor Concert
Now that the evenings are getting a bit longer and the temperatures a bit warmer, there are bound to be more outdoor concerts. And if you are hesitant to attend an indoor concert, going to an outdoor concert seems to be an excellent option.
One great thing about outdoor concerts is that they are quite informal. These make it a great option for your young ones if they just can’t sit still and quiet for a full concert. Which, is basically almost every toddler! So let them run around in the park while the band in playing. Or jump and dance to the music as they please!
Your best option is to check your local cities calendar of events. Almost any national holiday (like the 4th of July for Americans) will include some sort of festivities. And these outdoor activities almost always include a concert in a park. Or perhaps even a marching band in a parade.
And they don’t have to be pure music concerts either. Look for musical theatre productions, or storytelling events for children. These often include music anyway. Just always check to make sure they are recommended for your child’s age group beforehand.
BONUS: Find an indoor musical game.
Some days, it’s just too hot to go outside. Growing up in Texas, there were hours on some summer days where it was simply too hot to be in the sun! And, sometimes, there are the occasional thunderstorms. So, on those days, grab a worksheet or printable game and engage them for a bit indoors.
Give these Musical Memory Games or these Song-themed Worksheets a try. You’ll find a memory game which introduces basic music concepts and instruments and one version that is based upon well-known children’s songs. These are perfect for helping them learn while having fun! They are all printables are can be ready in an instant.
Thankfully, there are several options for making music indoors, too. You can let them paint or draw while listening to to music, for example. There is no wrong way to go about it either.
Either way, your little one can engage with a musical subject. Because there are those days where sometimes you just want to stay inside!
So, there you have 6 excellent ideas for outdoor musical activities. Plus, one additional idea for those days where it’s either too hot or a rainy summer day.
These activities also allow for quite a bit of free play, which engages your child’s creativity to explore and see what they can discover by themselves. Learning through playing really is essential for toddlers and preschoolers.
But these activities also allow you to engage with your child if they want, too. Talk to them about the sounds they are creating or hearing. Ask them questions. You can help them learn all sorts of concepts related to these activities. Because sometimes, your toddler does want you to play with them!
Which activities have you tried? Make sure to let me know in the comments below.
Happy outdoor music making,