Enhance Play-Based Learning with Music and Movement

Are you ready for the new school year and your new students? There’s a flurry of new people and new experiences, which are exciting but may be overwhelming.  It’s not unusual for some children to be apprehensive.  Most children enjoy music and movement activities.  As the year begins, these activities can help calm fears, engage the children and be a way to introduce them to one another.  If your program is play-based or child-centered, there are many opportunities to use music and movement to not only “break the ice,” but also enhance your curriculum. 

Play – whether building with blocks, painting, dressing up, throwing a ball or jumping – is known to develop many skills.  Eye-hand coordination, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving, social skills and cognitive development are known to increase with play.  Incorporating music and movement into your play-based curriculum provides a wealth of benefits along with a lot of fun!

Songs, especially those developed intentionally, are classroom-tested and proven, can contribute to vocabulary development and physical development.  (Learning Basic Skills Through Music and Movement, Vol. 4 – Vocabulary)  A song about fast and slow, where children respond and move accordingly, gives kids a concrete understanding of the concepts.  (Walter the Waltzing Worm )

Songs can help children learn the names of body parts, the alphabet (Silly Willy Moves Through the ABCs) and numbers (Math Readiness).  Fingerplays develop fine motor skills critical to writing.  (Fingerplays and Footplays)

Music and movement can provide a social opportunity.  Songs that explore feelings, getting along with others and sharing help young children identify emotions and develop social skills. (Getting to Know Myself)

In most songs developed for the classroom, the notes and beats are patterned.  As children listen to the music, they intuitively learn the patterns – an important math skill.

Songs aid ELL students’ language acquisition while developing and reinforcing skills for ALL children.

Music and songs developed for early learning can easily be incorporated into your daily lessons. Most children have a natural joy for music.  Why not let them explore music as part of your play-based learning program?

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Physical Activity Important in Your Classroom

May is National Physical Fitness and Sports month, so this month’s blog focuses on physical fitness in the classroom.  Everyone knows that being physically active is good for you. There are obvious benefits to being active.  For instance, it helps reduce the risk of obesity and it helps build and maintain healthy bones and muscles. But did you know that physical activity also has some very important benefits for children in the classroom?

Reduces Stress

Regular activity has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression in children and adolescents.  Additionally, aerobic activity produces brain chemicals that promote a feeling of well-being.


Increases Self Confidence

Children who are regularly active have a higher sense of self efficacy, which means they have better confidence in their ability to complete tasks and learn new activities. (source: Active Academics)


Increases Concentration and Improves Academic Performance

Physical activity breaks during the school day have an effect on children’s behavior, attention span, ability to concentrate and test scores. In fact, studies have shown that students did better on standardized tests after moderate physical activity as compared to students who had been sitting for 20 minutes prior to testing. (source: Neuroscience, 2009)


Develops Empathy and Social Skills

Team sports and physical activity have been associated with improved self-esteem, better nutrition and less smoking and drug abuse among children.  Additionally, studies also show that physical activity fosters leadership skills and empathy in children and may also reinforce healthy lifestyle behaviors.


No Gym? P.E. in the Classroom

Many schools don’t have gyms.  Therefore, they don’t offer children the amount of physical activity needed to be successful.  Some have even cut out recess – a time for free play – from the school day entirely.  Here are some ideas you can use in your classroom to help your students get the physical activity they need.

  • Start the day off right with a quick 10-minute yoga sequence. Grab your students’ focus right from the start. Creative Yoga Exercises for Children incorporates relatable animal activities that are easy for children to learn.
  • During reading time, read a book aloud while the children walk around. When they hear an “action word” (verb) have them act it out.
  • Lessons on the go – Walk to an area (either indoors or out) where you can focus on your topic. For instance, if you are studying measurements, take the kids to different areas of the school to practice measuring different objects like the height of a step or the width of the hallway, let the kids stretch, squat and move around.
  • Hopscotch math – Have kids answer math questions by hopping onto the correct numbers on the floor.
  • Acting out – Try reviewing vocabulary words by playing charades. Children will act out the words as others try to guess them.
  • Take your science lesson outside – if you teach in an area where you can take the kids outside to experience hands on science, do it!
  • Take short (3-4 minute) activity breaks throughout the day to get the blood pumping, relieve boredom, reduce tension and increase your students’ level of alertness. A good way to do this is with music. Silly Willy Workout is an engaging album with songs that can be used individually for short breaks, or the entire album can be used as a physical education class.
  • Most importantly, don’t forget to stress the importance of being physically active to your students. According to the CDC, children should have at least 60 minutes of exercise per day. Encourage them to go to the park after school or participate in a sport.


For more information about physical activity in the classroom check out our other blog articles:

Encouraging Physical Activity Indoors  and Increase Student Focus with These 9 Movement Activities


For more information about the importance of children’s health on learning, visit the CDC’s Healthy Schools website.


Posted in Health, Music & Movement, News, Physical Education, What's New Tagged with: , , ,


What are some of the benefits of music and movement?  Take under 7 minutes to see Rae Pica – one of the foremost child development experts in education – describe some of the skills, concepts and growth children achieve through music and movement!*

Music and movement engage children in active learning.  They promote vocabulary development, academic skills and social and emotional development, and make learning FUN!

Engaging songs and developmentally-appropriate activities provide a wealth of opportunities for best practices learning in early childhood, help foster creativity and support children’s communication skills.

  • SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING – Get along and cooperate with others, understand and manage feelings, stay focused, self awareness, self management, social awareness, relationship skills, and make good decisions.
  • LITERACY AND LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT – Exposure to language through stories and songs is a great way to develop and expand vocabulary and foundational skills.
  • ACTIVE, PURPOSEFUL PLAY – Movement activities help children master gross motor skills, fine motor skills; opportunities to pretend through movement songs (e.g., walk like an elephant, swim like a fish, etc.) are critical and help prepare children for success.

Integrating music and movement into your daily lesson plans is a fun and easy-to-implement strategy for learning success!


*Rae Pica is also an educational consultant, author of 19 books and the recording (available at www.EdAct.com) Wiggle, Giggle & Shake.


Posted in Literacy & Language, Music & Movement, Social & Emotional Behavior, Uncategorized, What's New Tagged with: , , ,

Teaching Tolerance in the Classroom

SEL - Martin Luther King

Today we celebrate the life of one of the most influential and important figures in American History.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spent his life teaching and speaking about the importance of diversity and tolerance. We talk about tolerance in the classroom and tolerance in our world.  What exactly is tolerance?  What does it mean?

SEL - Martin Luther King

Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. (Source: https://www.tolerance.org/about)

It seems like a simple concept.  Just appreciate everyone for who they are.  Well, for young children it is.  Tolerance is a concept that becomes more complicated as we get older, as politics and external daily biases begin to play roles in our lives.  It is critical to emphasize the importance of respect and appreciation for all cultures and backgrounds at a young age so that children can carry this respect for others with them throughout their lives.

What You Can Do

Celebrate diversity every day.  Make your classroom a safe place to talk about differences in culture and family.  Let the children feel proud about who they are and who the others are in the classroom.  Even though they may all be different, they are all important to each other and to your classroom as a whole.

Young children are still learning to recognize and manage their own feelings.  It can be difficult for them to be tolerant and empathetic toward others when they are still confused about how they are feeling.  A developmentally appropriate and engaging SEL program can help children learn to navigate their feelings.  Children will begin to recognize other’s emotions and empathize with peers; they will also understand how to handle angry feelings in more positive ways.

As a teacher, you have a great influence on a child’s life.  You already know that teaching is more than reading and writing.  It is about shaping the future of your students’ lives and helping them progress through life as successful and happy people. As Dr. King so eloquently summed it up, “Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”


Additional Resources:

For more information about creating an SEL program in your classroom, visit our previous article: Social-Emotional Learning and Its Connection to Life-long Success

You can find free resources and lesson plans for teaching tolerance in the classroom here: https://www.tolerance.org

Posted in Social & Emotional Behavior, What's New Tagged with: , ,

Can Music Help Shape Who We Are?

My answer is “Absolutely!”

Martin Gardiner of Brown University tracked the criminal records of Rhode Island residents from birth through age 30, and he concluded the more a resident was involved in music, the lower the person’s arrest record. (“Music Linked to Reduced Criminality,” MuSICA Research Notes, Winter 2000.) Music has been shown to help self-regulation, body control and ability to work with others as well as independently.  All these skills contribute to one’s feeling confident and capable, thus less likely to participate in criminal activity.

A study at the University of South Florida concluded that the highest common denominator among repeat violent offenders was a lack of language skills.  When do you feel the most frustration?  When you aren’t understood.  The ability to be able to express yourself effectively leads to better feelings about yourself and better relationships.  Music is a wonderful vehicle to learn language, how to express oneself and how to consider someone else’s emotion.  When we sing songs – for example “If You’re Happy and You Know It” – we are teaching the exploration of feelings.

Students who participate in school music ensembles have the lowest levels of current and lifelong use of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs among any group in our society (H. Con. Res 266, US Senate, June 13, 2000). This is another interesting study relevant to the question in the title of this blog.  When children feel a part of something positive, they are less likely to be influenced by peers to be a part of something negative. Providing opportunities for children to fill their time with pleasant activities and with people they enjoy, teaches them to surround themselves with positive people and stay involved with these activities.

In a 1999 Columbia University study, students in the arts are found to be more cooperative with teachers and peers, more self-confident, and better able to express their ideas. These benefits exist across socioeconomic levels. – The Arts Education Partnership, 1999.  Isn’t that wonderful to know?  That it crosses socioeconomic levels?  It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, how much money your parents earn or what clothes you wear, music does not recognize any of that.  Music just reaches inside you and helps to shape you into the best you that you can be!

Keep in mind that just participating in music benefits you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a song that says “I Believe in Me.”   (Ooh. Good idea for next CD.) Any song that makes you love music and want it to be a part of your life benefits you.

– Maryann “Mar.” Harman BA Music Ed/MA Ed


Music with Mar - Maryann HartmanMaryann “Mar.” Harman is a music educator with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music and a Master’s in Education, with an emphasis in Early Childhood and is certified in Level I Orff.  These degrees contribute to her ability to write songs that are musically and educationally sound for children as well as fun and easy to use for teachers and parents.  She is the founder of the internationally-enjoyed Music with Mar. Brain Research Based program, Music with Mar. International (Beijing, China) and hosted BAM! Radio Music and Learning Channel.


Currently, she actively teaches and travels around the world performing in concerts with Mr. Froggy or lecturing at conferences. For more information about Music with Mar and to enjoy her weekly blog posts, visit her website at: https://musicwithmar.com/.

Posted in Health, Infants and Toddlers, Music & Movement, News, Social & Emotional Behavior, What's New Tagged with: , , ,