30 Engaging Song Activities for Preschoolers and Toddlers

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Babies playing together with maracas - One example of a musical, song activity

30+ Clever Song Activities for "The Itsy Bitsy Spider"

Did you know that a single children’s song can provide you with a month’s worth of musical activities? Yes! It’s definitely possible – and so very easy. Below, you’ll find 30+ concrete examples of  song activities for “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”. 

As a parent of a preschooler or toddler, you probably already know that your little one has a favorite song. It’s a song they sing or hum over and over, most likely when no one is listening. They probably even ask you to sing it to them multiple times a day!

And let’s be honest – as the parent, you probably aren’t over the moon about singing that song 36 times in a single day! But you do it anyway (most of the time).

So, are you ready to take out some of the monotony of singing the song over and over? Do you want over 30 musical activities that will keep your preschooler or toddler singing their favorite song AND engaging with music?

Then keep reading! And make sure you save this post for later (Save button is there on the right-hand side of the screen.) 

Or, if you are short on time, then you can use the sign-up form here to have a handy PDF of the song activities sent directly to your mail box!

Each of these activities below is specifically discussed with regard to a single song. And today, I’m giving you those 30 song activities for your preschooler or toddler for the song “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”. 

Seriously, you have so many options! And, if you haven’t seen it already, the activities mentioned below came from this post. You can spread the activities out over an entire month. Or, pick a few activities each day over the span of two or three weeks. You have the freedom to choose based on your schedule.

Can my preschooler or toddler do these song activities with other songs?

Absolutely! You can read here about the 30 musical activities you can base around any song. The good thing is that these activities are foundational activities that can then be modified for whatever song your little one likes best.

Just look at what the song offers in terms of related activities. Even the traditional children’s song “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” is perfect for facilitating language learning. This song is based on a nursery rhyme, so it lends itself well to language skills, like rhyming, rhythmic words, and even words that start with ‘s’. Preschoolers could even use this song as a springboard for learning shapes!

As another example, if your child really enjoys “5 Little Ducks” or “The Wheels on the Bus” you could still do ALL of these activities. Some songs lend themselves extremely well for counting activities, like addition and subtraction. Other are great for facilitating language skills. And still others are excellent examples for music and movement songs.

Be creative with these song activities. If you want a well-known, timeless children’s song to start with, then take a look at these 12 classic children’s songs.  Look at what that particular song is about and go from there. And, if you are interested in a particular song, let me know in the comments below!

Like the idea of these activity pages based upon a classical children’s song? Then make sure you sign up below and I’ll send you a sample of the preschooler’s “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” Activity Workbook. In total, the entire workbook has 30+ pages of activities that enable language and maths skills. But by signing up, I’ll send you 8 pages for free!

What makes these song activities so great for toddlers and preschoolers?

First, each activity is designed with absolutely no set-up! Only the BONUS song activities require a bit of set-up. Many of the activities below get you talking to your little ones about how and what they think about a song, learning about foundational language concepts, and even experimenting with their own musical talents!

Second, the song activities listed below generally take up less that 5 minutes at a time. This is perfect for many parents who just don’t have the time for full-blown music lessons all the time! So, you can pick and choose one or two song activities each day to maximize your child’s exposure to music and the related topics.

Just remember, two 5-minute activities every day (that’s only a maximum of 10 minutes a day!) can be more impactful than a 30-60 minute lesson once a week! So, aim for one or two activities each and every day.

How do these song activities boost your preschooler’s or toddler’s development?

Great question! These activities are varied and can provide an all-around boost in their development. In fact, many of the activities engage numerous, important developments skills for both toddlers and preschoolers. Here are some of the developmental areas that these activities can engage:

  • Language/Speech Development
  • Cognitive Development
  • Social Skills Development
  • Fine and Gross Motor Skills
  • Critical Thinking Skills

Just keep in mind that making music helps to support these areas of development. The most important part of these developments is your engagement with your child.

And making music is not the only way to improve these skills! Music is simply ONE way to support your child’s development. Keep in mind that doing ONE skill once a month won’t give them as much of a boost as it would if you engaged in that fine motor skill once a day every 2-3 days.

It’s impossible to do every activity every single day, so that’s the reason there is plenty of variety. Change things up, keep it interesting, and you are more likely to keep your preschooler’s or toddler’s interest levels up, too.

So, let’s get into our case study today: “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”. Here are 30+ song activities for your preschooler or toddler.

30+ Incredibly Engaging Song Activities all derived from "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" - Perfect for Preschoolers and Toddlers
#1: Ask your child what they think the song is about.

The main emphasis here is to talk to your little one about the song. Encourage them to think about the words, actions, and sequence of events that are happening in “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”. Consider the following questions to engage your child with the song:

  • What is the spider doing in this song?
  • Can you tell me what the spider looks like?
  • What happened when the rain started coming down in the song?
  • Ask your child to summarize the sequence of events that happened in this song.
#2: Ask them if they know what all the words mean.

Because nursery rhymes were often written a few generations ago, some words are sometimes a bit outdated. Other words are only used in a particular context. Think about ‘fetch’ and ‘pail’ used in “Jack and Jill went up the hill” or ‘doth’ used in “The North Wind Doth Blow”. 

Luckily, “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” is a relatively new children’s song – from the 1940’s – so you won’t have to worry about any old English words here! If this song is new to them, ask them if they know what all the following words mean:

  • Spider (Ask them to describe what a spider looks like. How many legs does a spider have? What color can spider be?)
  • This is one of those words that’s particular to a specific item. If you have a garden, show them what the waterspout looks like.
  • Itsy bitsy. This word provides a good opportunity to talk about synonyms. Ask them what other words might describe the spider. What other words do they know what mean ‘itsy bitsy’. Some songs even sing “the teeny weeny spider” or “the incy wincy spider”, so you can talk about how those words mean the same thing.

For older children, you could also consider talking about other terms that are related to specific words within the song. For example, spiders are classified as arachnids, itsy bitsy is sometimes sung as icy windy, or even that rain drying up is called evaporation.

#3: Discuss the topics/themes within the song.

With “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” in particular, there are many topics and themes you could consider discussing with your preschooler or toddler. Here are a few options:

  • Talk about the changes in weather from raining to the sun coming out. What other types of weather does you child know?
  • Although spiders are not technically insects, you could use spiders to talk about the difference between “arachnids” and “insects” is. What other insects do they know about?
  • You can talk about spider webs and how spiders catch their food.
  • Environments where spiders live. Perhaps this spider was in a garden. Where else do spiders live? What other little critters live in gardens with the spiders?
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#4: Read a book with that song’s lyrics.

For the most common children’s songs and nursery rhymes, there are often many options for books written with the song text. “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” is no exception and are that several good books to choose from.

  • The Itsy Bitsy Spider, by Iza Trapani. This book include multiple additional verses to tell a complete story of the spider. To see how you can use the book and sing all the additional verses, check out this video.
  • The Itsy Bitsy Spider, by Kate Toms. This book contains the lyrics to the song but goes further to talk about what happens to the spider when she tries again and again to get to her web.
#5: Read a book about a similar topic.

Luckily, there are plenty of good books about little critters, especially spiders. You can choose any book about any of the topics of themes mentioned above, but here are some of my favorite books with spiders as the main character that teach valuable lessons to children. As an alternative, look for nursery rhymes on similar topics, like Little Miss Muffet.

  • The Very Busy Spider, by Eric Carle. This book is an absolute classic! Your little one can practice the animals sounds as you go and see what the spider is busy building.
  • Walter’s Wonderful Web, by Tim Hopgood. This is a great book about a spider who builds web’s that look a bit different than all the others. See what Walter’s most magnificent web looks like at the end!
#6: Focus on the language concepts within a song.

These nursery rhymes and the songs based on them are a great source of rhyming and repeating words! In fact, you can find many language concepts that are used in nursery rhymes. Because the words are often simpler, you could pick many words to use as sight words. Or look for opposites, figurative language, or more complex concepts like metaphors or alliterations. Here are some of the words you can highlight from “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”:

  • Rhyming words: Spout and out, rain and again
  • Sight words: up, down, and, the, sun, rain, spider
  • Opposites: “…went up the water spout. Down came the rain…”
  • Figurative language: “itsy bitsy” or “teeny weeny”

Just know that some songs lend themselves incredibly well to language concepts (in particular “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and “The Wheels on the Bus”) because of their repetition, rhymes, and ease in learning.

However, other songs are great songs for practicing numbers, like “The Ants Go Marching” or “5 Speckled Frogs”. And almost any song can used to study environments or related topics (for example, the nighttime sky in “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or transportation for “The Wheels on the Bus” or ponds and other waterways for “5 Speckled Frogs”). So, whatever the song or nursery rhyme, be sure to focus on one of those aspects (language, math, or environment).

#7: Listen to various versions of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”.

It’s always beneficial for your little ones to hear various people sing the same song. This helps them learn that there are different ways to sing the same song. While the links below are for YouTube videos, as always, you are encouraged to let them just listen to the music rather than watch the video. Typically for younger children, videos command their attention more than the audio aspect. So, they might not necessarily hear any differences when they are watching the video.

  • The Itsy Bitsy Spider”, from CocoMelon. (Note: I’m not a huge fan of either version but without the video, you child can hear two other versions of the song.)
  • “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”, from Twinkle Little Songs. See if your little one notices the slight variation to the part of the melody.
#8: Listen to songs about a related topic.

By now, you’ll probably know that my favorite children’s artist is Nick Cope. His music is real and enjoyable for adults as well. Because, let’s face it, you’ll have to listen to the music if your child does and it’s important that it be enjoyable for you, too! And luckily, he has a few songs that fit well:

  • “Don’t Stamp on an Ant”, by Nick Cope. It’s a great song to learn about being gentle with all the little insects we might come across.
  • “It Rains the Same Old Rain”, by Nick Cope. This song is great for explaining about rain going down a drain and then drying up – which is exactly what happens in “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”.
#9: Engage your child’s fine motor skills.

“The Itsy Bitsy Spider” lends itself quite well to the fine motor skills. There are a variety of hand movements that are well-known and accompany the song. They’ll work on “crawling” their fingers together in an upward to mimic the spider legs, wiggling their fingers in a downward motion to indicate the rain, and even making a circle with their hands to indicate the sun.

You have multiple choices here so find movements that are natural for you and that your child is able to do themselves.

#10: Engage their gross motor skills.

While this song is particularly well-known for its fine motor skills, it also provides an excellent opportunity for those whole-body movements as well. Encourage your preschooler or toddler to focus on the main action words in the song as the basis for their movements and make sure they are engaging their whole body.

In one version of the song, it goes “The itsy bitsy spider, crawled up the water spout.” Have them show you how they think a spider crawls. Or, mimic how the spider might get washed out when the rain falls. And, they could even use their whole body to show how the sun goes way up high in the sky to dry up all the rain. There is no right or wrong, so let them be creative!

music and movement song activity
#11: Ask your child to create their own movement to a song.

As with any song, there is always room for interpretation. In contrast to the well-known finger movements, have your preschooler create their own movements for the song! Ask them how they would choose to mimic the spider. For example, how could they use their body to portray the sun coming out? This works with their creative and imaginative abilities, so encourage them to do what feels right for them and try to avoid “correcting” what they come up with.

#12: Dance to the Music.

Dancing to the music will probably be closely related to their movements in the previous activities. But rather than making specific movements to represent a specific idea, encourage them to move freely to the music. Skipping around, waving their arms, twirling about – all these also encourage creativity and movement.

When dancing to the music, you can either sing for them while they dance or play the music for them on a streaming device. Both allow for differences in dancing styles. Their movements might not be so big and wild if you are quietly singing the song.

#13: Get your littles to move rhythmically to the song.

This activity is again similar to the previous music and movement activities. But this activity, however, encourages your little ones to find a pulse, beat, or rhythm to focus on. One of the easiest starting points is to find the steady pulse, like a heartbeat, that runs throughout the song. Your little ones might fluctuant between pulse and rhythm so encourage them to move in a steady beat.

For example, if they choose to crawl, have them crawl rhythmically to the song. Or they could even march or skip in a circle while finding the steady pulse.

#14: Use props while moving to the song.

Using props while singing is an incredibly great way to make singing a song loads more interactive for your toddler or preschooler. And, without a doubt, using lightweight, see-through scarves, like these, is an excellent addition to any song.

There are tons of ways to use just these kinds of scarves for loads of song. For “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”, think of how the scarf could be ‘scuttling’ across the floor or up a wall to represent the spider’s movements. You could also wave the scarf in a downward, wavy motion to represent the rain falling. Or, twirling the scarf in a circle way up high to represent the sun. The scarf can be used however you or your little choose to use it. So, again, be creative!

A young preschooler dances to music. Save for 30 simple musical activities for preschoolers.
#15: Play a game of musical memory related to that song’s topic.

There are so many musical games to play while singing or listening to a song. But musical memory is one of my absolute favorites. Why?

You can read all the ways to play musical memory as well as they benefits here, but generally children like the challenge of playing memory! You can download the musical memory game with The Itsy Bitsy Spider images below, but it’s a great way to have your child them use the cards and place them in the correct order of events afterward!

It’s not always about who gets the most cards at the end, so have the game be interactive. Once all the cards have been paired, sing the song with your child and have them point to the image as it’s being sung! This helps them learn all about the ordering of events.

#16: Clap to the song as you sing it.

When you clap to “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” just clap the rhythm or pulse that feels natural to you! Encourage your toddler or preschooler to clap along with you. Children are, from birth, extremely perceptive to rhythmic patterns. So, let them clap along to the song for a bit as well.

#17: Clap the rhythm of specific words within a song.

With this clapping activity, you’ll focus on the rhythm of specific words. “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” is a great song for various word rhythms, too! If you are interested in the rhythms of each word, check out the free printable Word Rhythms Worksheets below!

You’ll find many of the most popular children’s songs with the rhythm of most words explained! Once your little one is a bit older, they can begin to sort out and discover the rhythm of other words, too!

#18: Encourage your child to use a shaker while singing.

When using a shaker (or any other rhythmic instrument, like rhythm sticks or a rattle), you can use the instrument to highlight the underlying beat OR the rhythm of the melody. This will allow your child to hear the difference between the short and long syllables, the rhythm of specific words, and the rhythms used in the melody.

Use the shaker and sing particularly slow. This will allow them to hear whether the notes or syllables of the words are long, short, or the same!

#19: Have your child play a melodic instrument while you sing!

The previous song activity focuses more on rhythm, so by letting your child pick a melodic instrument, they can play along while you sing! Some of the most common melodic instruments for preschooler or toddlers include the xylophone, a children’s ukulele, or even a recorder. 

By choosing a melodic instrument, you child can hear how the melody goes up and down, or even stays the same! Let them explore making their own melody while you sing. For most preschoolers, this type of song activity is just experimenting with the sounds – so you don’t have to emphasise playing the “right” pitches. 

#20: Let your child choose an instrument to represent a subject or topic within the song.

As we discussed earlier, there are many subjects that your child can focus on when choosing an instrument. And picking that subject might encourage them to pick a different instrument!

The could focus on the rain falling and then drying up. To do so, perhaps they choose a xylophone to represent the “falling” and “up” motions of the rain. Or perhaps they could use the xylophone to represent the spider crawling about! Ask them how that might sound?

Babies playing and experimenting with various musical instruments together.
#21: Sing the song to and with your child.

There is certainly a difference when you sing a song to yourself and when you sing to your child. So, it’s really important that you engage your child when you sing a song for them.

Make sure you a not doing anything else, but singing to or with them. You can make eye contact while singing and doing hand movements, make facial expressions, and get down on their level! Sitting on the floor makes it easier for them to see you and your actions.

#22: Learn additional verses to your child’s favorite song.

Now, “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” is generally known as a single-verse song. But you can easily create small variations to the song. Or, take a few extra verses from the book The Itsy Bitsy Spider, by Iza Trapani, which tells the entire adventure of the spider trying to get to its web.

#23: Sing the song in a different voice.

Singing in a different voice is an incredibly easy way to liven up any song! Try singing the entire song like a spider (perhaps a small, scratchy voice?). Or change up the emotions and sing happily when the spider is climbing up, and sadly when the spider is washed out.

Singing in a high voice or low voice or any other style teaches your child to experiment with how they can sing. Singing loudly or softly can also help them learn to control their singing voice.

#24: Add your child’s name somewhere in the song.

Singing your child’s name is also a great way to make the song attention-grabbing for them. So, try something like “The Itsy Bitsy Emma” or “The Itsy Bitsy Andy”. Even if your child’s name is not the same length (two syllables) as the word spider, you can still use their name.

Just try to singing the name as you speak it. If the song has one extra syllable, it’s not a big deal! They will truly enjoy your singing a song with their name in it!

#25: Sing the song at a different tempo.

Similar to the activity above, we tend to sing children’s song in a single tempo. But by singing the song in a faster or slower tempo will be fun for your toddler or preschooler, too! Make it even more engaging by making faces while you sing super slow or lightning fast.

Try asking your little one if they’d like to sing it fast or slow. You can absolutely exaggerate this as well! Perhaps it’s sung so fast, it’s all just a blur of notes together. Or, you sing it so slow, almost at a snail’s pace rather than a spider’s pace. Exaggerate the tempo and I guarantee you, your little one will be laughing in no time!

Chanting and Clapping together. 30 musical activities for preschoolers.
#26: Recite the song as a chant.

A great way to break up the boredom of singing the same song over and over is to drop the melody! Just chant the words instead.

You could think of it as a pre-meal chant. Even consider clapping or tapping your fingers on the table while chanting the words.

The words of many children’s songs are highly rhythmic themselves. So, when you leave out the melody and just say the words, you are highlighting the fact that the words are musical (in this case, highly rhythmic), too!

#27: Let your little one sing the word at the end of each phrase.

For younger children, like toddlers, this is an excellent opportunity to get them to fill in the blank. In fact, children learn the last words of phrases quicker than the other parts.

So, you could sing “The itsy bitsy _____” and let them fill in the blank. If they sing something else, like “bird”, then go with that! Make it fun. And please remember that your child is exploring so even if they sing a word that we weren’t expecting, it’s not wrong!

#28: Get your little one to sing their own, made-up song about that topic.

Choose a topic from the song and ask your toddler or preschooler to sing about that. Most likely, singing about spiders is very relevant if you’ve just sung “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”. But ask you child “Can you sing me a different song about a spider?”.

For toddlers, this could be quite short, often repeating a single pitch for multiple words. And for preschoolers, they may be able to create short melodic fragments about a spider. There are no hard and fast rules about what their song should sound like. So, let them explore their creativity and applaud whatever it is they create!

#29: Have your little one sing the melody on a neutral syllable.

Now, you’ve probably done this exercise without knowing it and your little one probably has, too! Pick a neutral syllable, like “la” “ma” or even a more challenging one, like “ga” and have them sing the entire song using just this syllable.

It will more than likely sound silly to them, but it’s a great first step in adding new words to an existing melody! And, by singing a syllable over and over, they can work on their speaking skills, too!

#30: Encourage your little one to create a new song (choose new words) based upon the melody.

For toddlers, this might come as quite the challenge! And more than likely, it will sound a bit different than the chosen melody. If they aren’t quite ready to sing new words to a melody, just have them sing the melody on a neutral syllable (see next activity).

Preschoolers, however, could be able to sing new words to an existing melody. Of course, there is always wiggle room for added notes for more words. But this exercise is an absolutely creative endeavor and should help your preschooler see how existing melody can be used to create new songs!

And with that, you’ve got 30 AMAZING song activities that you can do with “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”! Technically, you could fill a whole month with these musical activities, but you also have the option to pick and choose a few each day for about two weeks.

This will keep both you and your little engaged with the song through discussion, creative activities, reading, and even expanding their own musical creativity!

Tell me below, which is your favorite song activity?

Happy music making,
Liz

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