Musical Animals

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Here’s a fun riff on Musical Chairs, although there are no winners or losers here: just music and stuffed animals and a way to get moving indoors!

To start, I set up several of the kids’ stuffed animals in a circle on the floor. Note: You can also sit every stuffed animal on a chair if you have enough chairs in your home. But the floor worked just fine in a pinch.

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Since our circle was on the floor, I opted for stuffies that could mostly “sit up” on their own, although that’s not a requirement. Then I set some jazzy music playing and told the kids to run around the circle of animals.

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When the music stops, everyone freezes and sits with the nearest stuffed animal in his or her lap!

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There’s no element of elimination to this game, as in normal musical chairs, but between music, freezing, and giving big stuffed animal hugs, this game is a reward in itself.

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Soon, the kids found some extra pillowcases in the closet and were tucking the stuffed animals into little “beds”. Veronika even leaned in to give this one a kiss!

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So it turned into a very cozy way to pass a cold morning.

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Christmas Noisemaker

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I love Christmas music and have been introducing Veronika not just to the classic carols this holiday season but also to fun contemporary tunes (think: Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree and Jingle Bell Rock). So of course she needed a Christmas instrument to shake along as we rocked (around the tree quite literally!).

An empty frozen juice can makes the perfect size shaker. We filled this was dried beans and a few jingle bells. Popped popcorn pieces would work, too!

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Seal the lid tightly. I used hot glue, but you can also secure with tape. We then covered with red felt and Veronika helped decorate it with Christmas-themed stickers.

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Time to shake!

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She loved prancing around with the shaker and drumming on drums as we put on our favorite Christmas tunes.

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We wish you merry music making!

Straw Windpipe Craft

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This classic DIY instrument is a perfect one for toddlers, requiring no complicated steps or materials.

Simply line up brightly colored plastic or paper straws. I made some flutes that were 8 “pipes” long and a few smaller ones only 6 straws long, which were easier for Veronika to hold in her hands.

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Secure with tape near the top and bottom third, then use scissors to snip in a diagonal so your pipes run from longest to shortest.

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Toot toot toot! These were perfect to play during her at-home Zoom music class, adding to the hands-on fun!

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It turned out that big brother Travis loved the windpipe, too, quickly incorporating it into his play.

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The perfect instrument for a homemade marching band, in sum.

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Button Tap

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Mix up your toddler’s musical play with this silly D.I.Y. instrument. The buttons can be drumsticks, cymbals, or anything else your toddler imagines as you jam to favorite tunes.

To assemble, I used large two-hole buttons from the craft store and simply threaded one end of an elastic through each hole.

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Now, the two loops of the elastic stick out from the back. Slip these loops over fingers, then turn pots and pans upside-down for some classic drumming.

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Veronika didn’t actually like wearing the loops on her fingers, but she sure loved clanging the buttons against the pans.

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She also liked putting the buttons in the pan, covering with the lid, and then shaking it to make noise.

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For a slightly different version of buttons-on-pans, I hot-glued smaller buttons to the fingertips of an old garden glove.

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Now she could slip this on and tap tap tap her fingers against the metal.

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Consider this homemade instrument the next time you have a toddler sing-along over Zoom!

Dance Ribbon

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This easy dance ribbon made the perfect rhythmic accessory for Veronika’s at-home music class today! I put it together just before class, and she continued to play with it long after the Zoom session had ended.

First, tie lengths of colorful ribbon to a ring that your toddler can easily hold. I used a canning ring for this, but a shower curtain ring or even key chain would work, too!

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I alternated strands of green and pink ribbon. You can make your dance ribbon with one color, two, or a full rainbow!

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I handed the ring to Veronika and showed her how to wave it through the air to the rhythm.

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A lilting, slow tune felt just right for making big beautiful ribbon circles. Your toddler can take it from there!

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She loved waving the ribbons around and dancing with them, and requested a tutu to be a ballerina!

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She also later found other uses for it, like pretending it was her doll’s swing on the playground! I always love watching the way toddlers can invent worlds of imagination from just a few simple materials.

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Paint Dancing

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I love throwing in a sensory project for the feet now and then, such a different experience for toddlers than working with their hands! All you need for this project is an old crib sheet (or similar large piece of fabric), and a willing pair of toddler feet.

I squirted two colors of washable paint onto a baking tray and added a little dish soap to each color, which will make clean up easier in case any paint goes off the fabric.

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Fill a second shallow tray with warm soapy water, and have a towel handy. Then tape your old sheet down to the floor securely at all four corners. I put on some tunes (Walking on Sunshine felt just right!) and Veronika immediately started bopping and dancing before the paint was even involved.

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Then I dipped her feet into the paint and set her painted soles down on the fabric. “Let’s dance!” I said.

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She was initially hesitant when the paint was thickest, but as she began to move around, a big smile formed.

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We dipped her toes and repeated a few times, and mixed up the tempo for a little music lesson, too!

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Arguably her favorite part was washing off in the sudsy water at the end. At first she just dipped in her toes, but then I turned around and found her sitting completely in the soapy tray like it was a mini bathtub. Well, time for an outfit change!

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Scarf Scuffle

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Toddler’s love scarves, and of course you can always turn to go-to activities like dancing with them, or tossing them in the air to watch them float down, or crumpling them up into a tiny ball that pops open. But today, we headed outside with scarves to engage Veronika’s imagination a little, too!

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What could she be with her scarf? First up, we were fluttering birds and butterflies. She loved flapping and tweeting as she pranced around the patio this way.

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How about a flower growing? We pretended we were flowers stretching high towards the sun, the scarves rising up above our head. Pretending to be a leaf would work, too, fluttering down instead!

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Her favorite was when I wrapped one around her waist (this girl loves dress-up!), and told her she was a ballerina. She danced…

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…and twirled…

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…and went up on tippy-toe!

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What a wonderful way to imagine and play. Are there any favorite scarf games in your house? Please share in the comments!

Sprinkler Freeze Dance

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This game is perfect for a summer day! You’ll have water to cool off, tunes to jam to, and a little bonding and learning thrown in.

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We changed into bathing suits and set up the sprinkler in the yard… so nothing was out of the ordinary yet. But this time, I cranked up the car stereo so the tunes were playing!

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If the music was on, we boogied. When the music paused, we showed Veronika how to freeze. Older siblings will love showing a toddler how to do this; big brother Travis threw in some fancy hip moves and footwork.

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Veronika started to catch on. And as soon as the music began again, her whole body bopped along.

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As an alternative version, make the freeze about the water speed, not the music. When the sprinkler turns off… Freeze! When it turns on again, bring back those dance moves.

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Veronika’s signature move was stomping in puddles.

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Here’s a quick clip of her moves. She’s got style!

You’ll definitely want to enlist the whole family for this one!

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Coffee Can Drum

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We have several real drums that Veronika loves to bang on, but toddlers are even happier when things are sized just right for them. You can easily make a tot-sized drum that’s perfect for toddler hands with a few upcycled items.

To make the drum, clean out a coffee can and remove any outer labels. From there, Veronika was in charge of decoration! I gave her paper and markers and she was so proud drawing.

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I love that she’ll tell me what she’s drawing (“triangles”, “ten little buses”), even if the resemblance between her words and her scribbles isn’t apparent.

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I then adhered her artwork to the can using contact paper.

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Use hot glue to attach the lid of the can. If you have a spare lid from a second can, you could add it to the bottom for a two-sided drum.

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We actually preferred leaving the bottom metal, because this meant she could alternate the volume of her drumming; soft on the plastic lid, loud and pingy on the metal. There was even a third alternative, at mid-volume, if she drummed on the middle of the can!

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For an at-home mallet, I used hot glue to insert the lead end of a pencil into a wooden craft spool. Again, just the right size for toddler hands.

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And it turned out that leftover spools were excellent for stacking!

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Veronika was clearly so proud of her little drum.

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We put on music and got jamming.

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Not a coffee drinker? Simply use an empty oatmeal container instead. Don’t have spools and pencils? Just use an empty toilet paper tube!

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Just Dance

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We had some great musical fun today, starting with this prompt: what mood was Travis in, and what music food that mood. In other words, what was his current theme song? Though I might have hoped the answer was something joyful and bouncy (I’m always up for rocking out to Can’t Stop the Feeling) I was not at all surprised that Travis picked Duel of the Fates from Star Wars. Hey, it fit his mood!

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So we got the music going and I challenged Travis to come up with two dance moves, one using just his hands, and one using just his feet. We soon had a little arm roll followed by a kick for 4 beats.

I encouraged him to think of the next steps. We talked about the term “choreography”, and soon had a routine involving twirls, waving feather boas in the air… and then improvising!

As the final touch, we raided the dress-up bin. Costumes would be a must!

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From here, the “dance” turned more into acting out this movie scene, too. What followed was half-acting, half-interpretive dance, and little sister joined in.

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With light saber props, of course!

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There are so many ways to elaborate on this activity. Have your child pick a song as their “theme” of the moment… or write their own song! Vary the costumes each time, or add props. Make it more of a dance routine, or more of a play as you act out a story to music.

I would love to hear about your dance fun in the comments, so please share! Without any further ado, here is The Travis: