This semester, my preschool music class theme is numbers and counting. There are so many wonderful counting songs and stories for children, and they nicely complement many musical concepts. I wanted to make a point to help children and their families recognize how many parallels there are between music and numbers.
For example, counting beats of music is an obvious correlation, but also numbering scale degrees, understanding rhythmic values and learning finger numbers and sequencing are other valuable number-related skills that musicians work with.
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We’re only halfway through the semester, but I wanted to share some of the songs and resources we’ve used so far.
My kids recently got this book from our local Talk Read Sing event. I hadn’t heard of it before, but it has become a favorite. On each page, the dots represent parts of the pictures, such as seeds, wheels of a train or balloons. Each number is featured twice, so there is plenty of repetition to help little ones practice counting.
This book is always fun in music class since the words are singable. I usually teach the children the song without the book for a couple of weeks, then when we read the book they can sing along and the pictures and characters add a new development.
We try to work in Pete The Cat any chance we can! He’s always a hit in music class. The kids love singing along with Pete’s song. This story counts backwards from 4 as Pete’s buttons fall off his shirt. Each time a button falls off, there’s a page that show a math equation to help the kids understand the basics of subtraction.
Songs and Activities:
Five Little Monkeys – We’ve used this song in 2 different ways so far. First, we played a recording of it to use as a movement song. The kids could jump and and down and move freely along with the song. In another class, we laid our story time blanket out on the ground and placed 5 sock monkeys on it. Each child held onto the edge of the blanket to make it bounce up and down. We sang the 5 little monkeys song as they bounced the monkeys on the blanket and removed a monkey for each verse.
Rock Around The Clock – The rock ‘n roll beat of this song makes it the perfect instrument song. I tend to gravitate towards egg shakers for instrument songs, but drums, bells or sand blocks would work well too.
Numbers Lullaby – I discovered this great lullaby on YouTube and we’ve been using it as our rocking song to wind down with at the end of class. It counts to 10 twice, then continues on with the lyrics. The entire song repeats for 22 minutes, so I usually fade the volume after a few minutes.
10 On The Bed – This song is great for unaccompanied singing. There are a lot of movement components as well. The kids love rolling around and pretending to fall. When we sing it unaccompanied, we use names of students and their siblings in each verse.
5 Little Speckled Frogs – This is such a catchy counting tune and it’s another favorite to sing unaccompanied or with my ukulele.
1 Potato, 2 Potato – This fun rhyme involves so many different skills. We’ve been using the plush potato from this Hot Potato game that plays music. We start out passing it around the circle with the music turned off while chanting the rhyme. For small children who tend to like to hold on to toys, this is a really good opportunity to teach them to take turns and to continue to pass the potato. Once the kids get comfortable with the idea of passing it (with or without the help of their parents), there’s a good chance they will start passing to the steady beat of the rhyme. After a few rounds of chanting the rhyme, we’ll turn the potato’s music on and do a few rounds of traditional hot potato. Except, we don’t make anyone go out when the music stops, we just start over.
Zoom Zoom Zoom – I discovered this song from Jbrary, which is one of my favorite YouTube channels to find preschool music. We’ve been using it as a bouncing song where parents bounce the kids on their laps. At the end of the song, there is a countdown and blast off. The kids love getting lifted into the air for the blast off.
How Many Fingers Do You Have – We use this song to learn piano finger numbers. Instead of counting 6-10, we repeat numbers 1-5 on the other hand and point to the corresponding finger as we sing. We also change the last line of the song to say “fingers on my hand.”
Goodbye Song – I learned a great counting goodbye song from Piano Preschool. Each finger takes a turn waving goodbye and the note sung with each finger matches the degree of the scale. Kids can transfer the notes in each finger to a 5 finger hand position on the piano and play along. I always like to teach my preschool classes concepts that we can take to the piano. By the end of the semester, students will have a chance to play along with the 5 notes on the piano as they sing this goodbye song.
Carpet Squares Counting – Before working with students on a fine motor skill, like playing piano keys, we need to move through a series of gross motor skills to help them understand the concepts. (You can see this idea in action in my free course that teaches students how to play Hot Cross Buns on the piano.) One way that I do this is by taping the numbers 1-5 onto carpet squares. We lay them out in order so they are kind of like giant piano keys. The students can stand on the corresponding carpet square as they sing the correct pitches. This is a good way for students to start learning the concept that movement from left to right on the piano is low to high. It also gives them a chance to practice a gross motor skill, using their full body to prepare for the fine motor skill of playing smaller piano keys with a smaller body part, fingers.
Xylophones – Xylophones are another great intermediate step before moving to the piano. I have several sets of xylophones with removable keys, so I make sure that we only have the keys we need to prevent distractions and confusion. Striking a xylophone key with a mallet is once again much easier for young kids than playing with their individual fingers, so this is a good skill to spend time on.
For preschool lesson planning solutions, check out my course, Preschool Music Lesson Plan Crash Course. It includes a full year of lesson plans with activities similar to the ones discussed in this post. It also gives you all of the best tips and tricks for efficiently planning your own lessons.
If you want to take it up a notch, Teach Preschool Music is a full training program for teachers who would like to start a preschool music program. It covers everything from child development, lesson plans, business planning, logistics, communicating with parents and more.