Engaging Activities for Young Children in Music Class

I am spending most of this week at church, teaching music to a bunch of 4-10 year-olds at Vacation Bible School. This is why my posts are coming later than usual. This is why I am making sad faces at perpetual morning person Rumple Station from 8 AM to at least 10:15. But we have made it to Wednesday, and I finally have a handle on what children are interested in, and how to really engage them in music ministry. Here are a few things that I have learned, and that may help you if you ever find yourself standing in front of a group of kids, tasked with teaching them music.

WHAT THEY DO NOT LIKE:

Learning Music
Yeah, not so much. There is nothing kids like less than doing what they are supposed to be doing. Forget that.

WHAT THEY DO LIKE:

Running Around Like Maniacs
If permitted, all the children would do would be to run laps around the sanctuary at top speed for three hours. Too bad I am not in charge of games. That would be the realm of Pastor Dark Murmurs. Maybe I should tell him this secret; it would make his job easier… Nah. Anyway, I managed to get the kids to sing a song by making the final dance move a move I call “run a lap around the sanctuary at top speed.” This was a brilliant idea. Now, if they don’t sing, they can’t run. So they all sing. That song anyway.

WHAT THEY DO NOT LIKE:

Listening to Things That I Say
I don’t know if they listen to anybody else, but as soon as I begin speaking that seems to be their cue to wander off and start doing something else. This is, obviously, thrillingly fun for me.

WHAT THEY DO LIKE:

Crafts
Today, instead of singing the song we were learning, one whole class of people wandered over to the small table at the side of the room and started making seahorses out of paper plates. Too bad I am not in charge of crafts. That would be the realm of Rumple’s daughter Stanya. Maybe I should tell her about the seahorse idea… Nah. Anyway, I did manage to sing loudly at them while they were coloring in their seahorses, so they probably absorbed some of it, right?

WHAT THEY DO NOT LIKE:

Doing My Dance Moves
I have, quite thoughtfully I might add, prepared some awesome movements for each of the songs that we will be learning, to help with the memorization and to make their performance more visually interesting. They do not like these moves. They like their own moves, which they make up on the spot. They like to make up stories and characters and run around creating new and interesting choreography. Too bad I am not in charge of the drama and stories. That would be the realm of Rumple Station herself. And I am not telling her anything! She is too chipper to speak to in the morning.

WHAT THEY DO LIKE:

Freeze Dance
What they really, really like is to play freeze dance. That is when I put the song on and they dance around, but when I pause the song, they have to freeze. They seem to enjoy that quite a bit. And hey, at least they are listening to the song, right?

WHAT THEY DO NOT LIKE:

Behaving Themselves
What is the opposite of behaving themselves? What includes giggling, running behind the scenery, flopping about on the floor while ignoring me, and attempting to find a working microphone to yell into? Because that is what they like. Whatever that thing is, that is their favorite.

WHAT THEY DO LIKE:

Instruments
This is key. Get some shakers or bangers or jinglers and let them use them during the songs. They are much more likely to cooperate if you let them have percussive instruments.

And now that I have finished telling you about my own children, perhaps someday I will tell you the hi jinx of the other 15 children in my care who are not related to me! But though challenging, teaching music is also very rewarding. There is nothing like hearing the kids walking around humming a tune you taught them, or even singing a song you taught them last year! It’s awesome; you should do it. So I hope you are able to use these tips and tricks as you endeavor to mold the next generation of musical people. I know I have learned a lot in three days. And hopefully the kids have learned something too. Something like their own personal top speeds.

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Posted in Church, Music, Singing, Vacation Bible School.

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