If you’re a parent in the grips of cold winter weather, you may be feeling the strain of keeping kids happy, especially when they’re forced to be inside. But there’s no need to pull your hair out just yet—here are five ideas for using music to keep kids entertained when they’re feeling cooped up:
Make a Playlist (or ten)!
From as young as age one, kids tend to be exposed to popular music in some form or another, whether through lively Kidz Bop covers, TV shows, viral videos, or what their parents are listening to. And it doesn’t take long for your little ones to figure out—and express—what they like and don’t like. Building a playlist with your kids is not only a great way to keep up with what they’re into, but it also lets them know that their preferences count. Make an afternoon of creating multiple playlists to suit different occasions—commuting to school, baking, tidying up, dancing, homework—and let your kids drive the song choices.
You may need to dip into various playlists to throw out recommendations and help guide them, and be sure to include your own song picks, especially if the playlist will be streamed for everyone in the household. This is a great way to subtly teach your kids about songs or artists that are iconic or matter to you. Don’t underestimate even the youngest of kids; The Beatles’ “Blackbird” can be interesting to a four-year-old.
Make a Musical
Bring out the budding Andrew Lloyd Webbers and Lin-Manuel Mirandas in your household by having the kids come up with their own musical. Select a group of songs the kids can link together by acting out a scene or two in between tracks.
If your kids have seen Moana twenty-eight times and love it, maybe they’d love to recreate the movie by following the film’s soundtrack (incidentally, the most-streamed songs in Spotify’s popular Disney Hits playlist are Moana songs “You’re Welcome” and “How Far I’ll Go.”) (Tip: Dining chairs pushed together make a great boat.) But it doesn’t have to be a familiar plot; you can also choose four to five random, unrelated songs and challenge them to stitch the tracks together.
Raid the Kitchen; Make Some Noise
We admit this is a noisy one, but it’s fun. Dig out kitchen objects that could work as percussive instruments: pots and pans and wooden spoons, a sealed container filled with rice … you get the idea. Have the kids play around with the different sounds they can make— beating an overturned wooden salad bowl like a bongo is a good one—and when they have the idea, encourage them to play their kitchen instruments along to music. Lean on instrumental pieces for this one: There’s some great African drum music for inspiration, and a track like “Sing, Sing, Sing” from legendary bandleader Benny Goodman is on point. Not only does this (sometimes deafening!) activity help kids identify rhythm and beat, it gives them a sense of what it’s like to actually make music rather than just listen to it.
Paint by Music
Music gets the creative juices flowing, as does painting. So why not pair the two art forms together? Set up a dedicated area and have the kids expressively paint to music. Whether finger painting, splattering Jackson Pollock-style or using a good, old-fashioned paintbrush, let the tunes act as a guide to inform and inspire your kids’ artwork. And if your place winds up looking like a musical festival rolled into town, turn to the “Cleanup Song” to encourage the kids to help tidy up. (Good luck!)
Throw a Dance Party
Little kids love to dance, so get them to work off some energy or get “the sillies” out with a dance party at home. Start by setting up: move the coffee table out of the way for more space, and set up a snack area. Maybe the kids could even make posters revealing the name or theme of the party, as well as invitations for friends and neighbors. Dress up! Work together on what music everyone will boogie to by making a dance-themed playlist, then crank it. For inspo: The most popular Kidz Bop songs on Spotify are “Shake It Off,” “Uptown Funk,” and “Havana”—all good songs to move to. Playing freeze dance is always a great way to keep kids on their toes. You could also deejay and take song requests from everyone to keep them engaged.
Ready to get started? Check out Spotify’s Sing Along playlist for some kid-friendly tunes that’ll have your little ones belting out in no time.