7 Musical Games & Tips for You and Your Kids

Working from home surrounded by restless kids? Then it can sometimes feel like you’re not just the breadwinner and caretaker, but the teacher. Besides cartoons and YouTube videos, one of the sure-fire ways to keep children entertained and out of trouble is music, but coming up with fun music-related games and activities at home can be a tall order, especially if you should be working at the same time. Not to worry! Here, we’ve stacked up seven tips and musical games that you can try out and see what sticks… or comes to a sticky end.

Music isn’t Just Fun… it’s Useful

As well as reading, writing, arithmetic and sports, music and other artforms are extremely good for developing brains – young and old. Luckily, making music is also a lot of fun. In this blog, we offer parents and caretakers a few tips and tricks to help keep kids occupied and maybe even (secretly) teach them something. Some of these suggestions are activities you can leave your kids to do on their own and some of them you can do together. I’ve also tried to include something for every age group.

Have some ideas you want to share with other grown-ups? Let us know in the comments below!

#1. Sing Frère Jacques or Other Canons

Even if you can’t play a musical instrument, or you don’t have one in the house, it doesn’t matter. You can start with really simple things like singing a song with your kids. Remember when you were knee-high to a grasshopper and learned to sing Frère Jacques? Remember that it was… a little bit boring … until you started singing it in canon with your classmates!

To start, here are the English lyrics below. Begin by practising the song together before trying to sing in canon, letting your child lead with the first line before coming in a line later, just as your child starts singing the second line. This is also known as singing in a round. As soon as your little singing partner feels confident enough, see if they can take on the second voice.

Child (alone): “Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping?”

Child: “Brother John. Brother John.”
Adult: “Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping?”

Child: “Morning bells are ringing! Morning bells are ringing!”
Adult: “Brother John. Brother John.”

Child: “Ding ding dong! Ding ding dong!”
Adult: “Morning bells are ringing! Morning bells are ringing!”

Adult: “Ding ding dong! Ding ding dong!”
(Then, maybe the child starts a second round and so on)


  • You could also sing this song with four voices, where each person starts at the beginning of the song one line later than the person before.
  • As a nice little challenge, you could try the original version in French (which is probably the version you learned when you were a kid).


Here are some other fun and well known canons you could try: ‘Row Row Row Your Boat’, ‘Ring a Ring o’ Roses’, ‘Heads, shoulders, Knees and Toes’ and the timeless classic, ‘Incy Wincy Spider’.

#2. If You’re Not Into Singing… Clap Your Hands!

If you’re not a big singer, then you can always just try out these clapping exercise ideas:

  • Put on a playlist of simple nursery rhymes or songs your child knows and clap along to the beat. Make a game of it by marching around the room.
  • What you could also do is clap a rhythm while your child claps a counter rhythm. Start with something simple before clapping for longer or making things a bit more complex.
  • You could sound out words and clap in time with the syllables. Try picking fun words that your child will easily understand. For example: your names, the names of other family members or animal names:
    • 1 crotchet: cow
    • 2 crotchet: chicken
    • 2 quavers and a crotchet: e-li-phant
    • 4 quavers: chee-kee-mon-key
    • 1 quaver and 2 semiquavers: wood-pi-geon
    • 2 semiquavers and 1 quaver: ti-ger-paw
  • Pick a few animal names together and then write them on separate cards or pieces of paper. Shuffle the cards and arrange them in a random order before clapping along with the syllables of each in a row! Another nice thing to do is to get your child to draw a picture of each animal on each card – which will keep them occupied for at least another half an hour or so.
  • Instead of clapping, you could also use some children’s percussion instruments.

It doesn’t have to be a lesson, otherwise some kids might lose interest. Keep it spontaneous! Clapping is something you can even do while cooking dinner.

#3. Challenges

Kids go nuts for social media challenges. During the pandemic, there was a trend for building obstacle courses throughout the house and garden to keep kids moving. Watching your kids climb over the chairs, the sofa, under the table and so on – great fun! But, there are also plenty of music-related challenges you could try. You could, of course, come up with one yourself: make a kazoo with a comb and some tracing paper and play the theme tune to Paw Patrol; gargle a tune; or blow for as long as possible into a glass of water. There are more than enough challenges to find or come up with. It just needs to be simple and safe!

The Paradiddle Egg Challenge

A while ago, the unofficial godmother of drums, Dorothea Taylor presented ‘The Paradiddle Egg Challenge’. A paradiddle is a really essential drumming exercise that, in this particular challenge, is played on the shell of a raw egg (careful now).

Below, you can see what a paradiddle looks like, where the ‘L’ and ‘R’ represent the left and right hands of the drummer:



Right, left, right, right, left, right, left, left.

Grab two drumsticks, or, if you don’t have any, grab a couple of pencils or knitting needles that will serve as your drumsticks and first, get your child practising the drumming pattern above on a tabletop. Once they’ve got a feel for it, replace the tabletop with an egg (and maybe lay a towel underneath just in case things get messy) and challenge them to play the same pattern on the egg. What’s great about this challenge is that it helps kids to vary a hard drum strike with a soft drum strike. It’s also a challenge, which kids always love. Make a clip of your kid drumming on the egg so they can post it on Instagram or Facebook and their friends can see their hard work.

Here’s a clip of the great Dorothea Taylor demonstrating the Paradiddle Egg Challenge:

If your child has already defeated the first paradiddle challenge, where every beat is gently played on the egg, then you can make things a little more difficult by adding accents that are not played on the egg, like Dorothea demonstrated above. Here, the capital Ls and Rs are played on the tabletop, while the lower case letters are played on the egg:

R-l-r-r L-r-l-l


RIGHT, left, right, right, LEFT, right, left, left.

You’ll immediately find out that this is a bit harder than it looks!

Here’s another demonstration of the same exercise:

#4. Make Your Own Musical Instrument

This is always going to be fun. You can always start simple and make something that works for your child’s age range. Here are some ideas:

  • Grab a small tub or pot that has a lid and fill it with rice or gravel and voilà! You have yourself a shaker! You could even turn a toilet roll tube into a shaker by filling it with rice and sealing up both ends with some paper and tape.
  • Have a quick look on the internet and you’ll find plenty of ideas of how to turn kitchen and household items into musical instruments. You could do things like snip the end off a balloon and stretch it over a beaker to turn it into a little drum. Do it to a couple of beakers of different sizes and make yourself some bongos!
  • You could go a few steps further and build a real instrument using a build pack, like these DIY cajon building kits. These packs include everything you need to build your own cajon, which is a little percussion instrument that you can sit on and play by striking the front. This is a great activity that you can do together, and once your cajon is built, you can even paint it and decorate it together, so your child has an instrument that they really made themselves – which will only make them want to play it more and more!

#5. If You Already Play an Instrument…

If you can already play an instrument, then you can easily do a few little exercises with smaller children. Play a simple melody and ask the child if they think it was a happy tune or a sad one. Then ask them: Why do they think it’s happy or sad? When does it turn from a happy tune into a sad one? Are they able to identify the note that makes that happen?

A great way to play this game is to play Brother Jack in major and then in minor. From C, the melody is played in major with an E and an A – just as you would normally play it. When playing it in minor, the E and A are replaced with an Eb and Ab.

#6. Online Music Lessons

More and more professional and qualified musicians give online lessons these days and are looking for students. These lessons are often given during the day, are for every level and are a great way to keep children busy. Lesson times and fees will vary depending on the teacher, but it’s definitely worth looking on Facebook to find a teacher willing to give a 30 minute or hour long lesson once a week via video call. This isn’t just great for growing children, but can be an enormous help to the musician you hire to teach them.

#7. TV Shows & Music Documentaries

For young children, you can find plenty of videos online that will teach them about how music works. As an example, here’s a compilation of music lessons that span everything from melodies to rhythms:

Older Children

For slightly older children, you can easily find some great, educational music documentaries on both YouTube and Netflix. One of my personal favourites is ‘Marsalis on Music’ which is an entire series of episodes that are just under an hour long where the well-known American trumpet player, Wynton Marsalis patiently explains the ins and outs of rhythm, melody, harmonies and different styles of music, including jazz, classical and more. The series has been put together for children, often compares making music to various sports and includes an array of fun examples played by jazz bands and even full classical orchestras.

Below, you’ll find a video. And, while you will notice that it was filmed in the nineties, the music within it is timeless. In any case, I highly recommend it.

You can also find more info on the Wynton Marsalis website where you also buy the companion book.

I hope this blog has kitted you out with some good ideas for keeping your kids occupied and secretly teaching them something at the same time. If you think I’ve missed something, then feel free to let me know in the comments!

See also…

» All Musical Children’s Musical Instruments

» My Kid Wants a Drum Kit. What Do I Do?
» Your Kid’s First DJ Set

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