One of the best ways to help young children develop musical skills is to practice the steady beat. In my kindergarten and first grade music classes, we spent most of the year practicing steady beat and reviewing steady beat to make sure they were all able to feel the steady beat. Today I want to share some simple preschool steady beat activities you can do at home.
What is the steady beat?
The steady beat is the pulse of the music. It stays the same. If you were to hear music and walk to it, you would be walking to the steady beat. Unlike rhythm, the beat does not vary.
In the past, steady beat didn’t really have to be practiced because it was such a part of the culture. For instance, carrying babies was a natural part of daily life. As mothers would talk to their babies or other people, and go about their daily activities, like walking, babies would develop a sense of steady beat. But in today’s fast paced culture, carrying babies and young children doesn’t happen as much in our daily lives.
That’s why baby chants, tickles, patting and bounces are so important. They are wonderful ways to help babies’ developing sense of beat, and also are great ways to bond with your baby! Those skills are very important as children get closer to school age.
Once children enter kindergarten, many of them are not able to walk to the steady beat. If you have a preschooler at home, here are some simple ways to practice steady beat:
Steady beat activities
1. say nursery rhymes and chants
You can pair nursery rhymes with simple movements, like jumping while saying “Jack Be Nimble” marching up and down to “The Grand Old Duke of York”.
2. march to music
Marches are perfect movement activities! They have strong pulses, so children will have an easier time hearing the beat and moving along with the music. Check out some of these marches from let’s play kids music to get you started!
3. listening lessons
Leroy Anderson’s Syncopated Clock is a perfect listening lesson to get you started! One of my favorite ways to practice steady beat while listening is by using movement cards. I created this set for my store that is available for free download. I also have other sets for different seasons that you can check out.
4. simple songs and singing games
There are many songs for preschool aged children that help reinforce the steady beat. Clap, Clap, Clap Your Hands is a great song for practicing steady beat. You can come up with as many different movements as you’d like! Johnny Works With One Hammer and Sally Go Round the Sun are also great songs for steady beat. Experiment with different ways to keep the beat, like patting their legs or tapping their shoulders.
5. ball bounces and passing activities
If you have two or more, you can do passing games! Put on some music and grab something (a beanbag works great!) to pass to the beat while listening to music. You could try playing fast music, and then playing slower music to help children listen for the beat. At my old school, one of the favorite activities was passing a stuffed pumpkin around the circle to the beat
You could also practice bouncing balls to the beat. You could use bouncy ball, tennis balls, or even basketballs. As you listen to the music, you can say “bounce, catch, bounce, catch” to practice a steady beat. If it’s around a patriotic holiday, a John Philip Sousa march would be a fun way to practice the steady beat. If you are looking for a simple song, Bounce High, Bounce low is an easy song to teach and it’s also a great song to practice bouncing a ball to the beat.
What other ideas do you have for practicing steady beat with preschoolers?