Music and Movement – The Brain and the Body

We are spending more time outdoors with children at school.  That includes music and movement.  I take my autoharp to the hill or the Woodland Grove, and we sing and dance and move.  Music is at the heart of children’s interest, whether it’s singing a familiar song like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, or using their bodies to move to a song.  Movement is most important for their development – and not just the body.

One of the great educators in Early Childhood says flat out, “There is no learning without movement.”  She’s right.  Specifically, children benefit from moving. There are certain movements that children actually need as they grow, such as spinning, jumping, bending up and down, dropping, swaying, stretching, rolling, and running.

And that’s exactly what we did with this song in the video.

Music is joyful for children. When it is combined with movement, that’s even better.  These sensory experiences increase the attention span.  And of course, nature is the ultimate sensory experience.  Often the child who fidgets, or has difficulty focusing, or is clumsy, simply needs more movement, including unstructured outdoor play.  Yes, unstructured.  They need to figure things out on their own.

The song in the video (which I made up) includes many of the movements children need.  No wonder children love it!

After we came back inside we played a game of “What’s Missing?”  Using the numbers 1 – 5 from our calendar, we lined them up in order, covered them, and took one number away.  Children had to figure out what number was missing.  For older children we removed two letters.

You could have heard a pin drop.  Children were focused.  This was a successful and fun learning experience.  Why did it work?  Because we had just finished music and movement outside.  Children’s bodies and brains were ready to learn.

Our early morning music has been Frank Sinatra, which has given children a happy and relaxing start to their day as they arrive at school.  Rest time is quiet music.  Oh, and I sing to children – spontaneously and often.  From rhyming words sung to a familiar tune, to making up a song about a child, to singing a book (yes, singing instead of reading the words), there is a constant flow of music throughout the day.

Any opportunity for music means listening, learning, moving, joy…and fun.  Even clapping a beat is movement and focus.

“Music acts like a magic key, to which the most tightly closed heart opens.”
-Maria von Trapp-


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty-five years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I was a live guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show. I am highlighted in the seventh edition of Jim Trelease's million-copy bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital, and the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
This entry was posted in Early Education, Inspiration, joy, Math, Mindfulness, music, Nature, preschool, Singing, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

82 Responses to Music and Movement – The Brain and the Body

  1. Opher says:

    Love it – education is wonderful! Music, dance, reading, experiments, poetry, song – real education.

    Love your reading to that drum – fabulous. The rhythm is superb! Brings it to life!!

    Sheer brilliance.

  2. beetleypete says:

    Great to see you in action, Jennie. The kids were having such fun learning outside in the fresh air.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  3. Dan Antion says:

    It’s so good to see them having fun, Jennie. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. quiall says:

    Great video!! I think people forget that children are more than just brains. Concentrating on information input is not enough. You need to stimulate the entire package to make it excel. It is like putting gas in your car but forgetting to put the tires on. It may run but it will go no where.

  5. What a wonderful way to teach! Thanks for sharing your gifts and tips Jennie.

  6. Oh Jennie… this was just delightful, loved to see the children dancing and SOOOOOooooo loved your rap my friend…. so cool….. 💖😎😎😎👏😆

  7. Ritu says:

    So lovely, Jennie🥰

  8. Darlene says:

    I love that rap version of Goodnight Moon. Are you for hire for parties??

  9. The videos were great, Jennie. Learning to read is so connected with patterns and beats. The drum video reminded me of when (lacking a drum) we used to tap the first two fingers of one hand into the open palm of the other hand and tap in time to the words, big taps and little taps. We started with a few taps saying each beat, “PUT the BEAT, IN your HAND.” Then we tapped songs and verses and repeated lines, whatever words we said or read. Lots of repetition of short pattern sequences were fun too. I bet those kids went home happy after their action songs outside.

    • Jennie says:

      You hit the nail on the head, Anneli. Yes, all those patterns and beats and rhythms are huge in learning and reading readiness. The kids went home happy. I love your story!

  10. Oh, that outside movement exercise looks like so much fun! It would make a great Zoom meeting break.

  11. petespringerauthor says:

    I like everything about this post, Jennie. Just when I think you can’t top yourself, you manage to do it. The joy of movement is a beautiful thing. Those happy and engaged faces say it all. I also was fascinated by the child on the far right who is taking it all in. I suspect that he will be right in there with the others the next time around. If ever a training movie could be made to show how dumb it is to expect young children to sit like statues inside a classroom instead of doing what their bodies want to do at that age, this would be an Academy Award film. The pure joy on those children’s faces and in their movements say it all. I also noticed you’ve got quite the preponderance of boys.

    I also can’t wait for the rap album, Jennie. You’re going to have to come up with a cool rap name. 😎
    I never know how things like this work in terms of privacy. I would love to share the kids dancing on my teacher’s Facebook page, but I wouldn’t do it first without your consent. If you think I shouldn’t go there, then I won’t. How about Rapper Jennie?

    By the way, even us big kids in adult bodies like music and movement. I almost always put on some background music when I’m on the computer. You should see how much stress my computer chair gets. 🤣🤣🤣

    • Jennie says:

      Pete, your wonderful reply gets me as excited as my post. Here’s the background:

      1) I have always loved music. Children do, too. I was disappointed that teachers always used tapes and CD recordings when doing music with children. Thirty-some years ago we had a music teacher come into the school. She played the autoharp and did wonderful singing with children. She kept telling teachers that ‘live’ music was better, and she always offered to show someone how to use the autoharp.

      Yes, sign me up. It was easy. Press a button and strum. Most every song is only two or three buttons. Anyone can do this. Yet, nobody else wanted to play that easy instrument. No, their music with children was on a CD.

      Here’s the big difference; I am “live” with the autoharp, and a CD is not. I can slow down, stop, speed up, whatever. I have begged teachers every year to play this simple instrument…so they can be ‘one’ with children. But, no one has ever done this. We’re talking thirty years. Very sad.

      2) I attended a workshop with one of the best presenters in education, Jeanine Fitzgerald. She talked about how kids need to move and why. She detailed specific movements that are critical for children. So, I took many of these movements and turned them into a song, the one on the video. OMG. No wonder this is so popular, as children seek out and love what they need.

      The child on the right is taking it all in. That’s just who he is. I taught his brother and also his father! Yes, dad Eamonn. I’ve written about him on my blog. It’s quite a story. He grew to become a kind and giving man, and I have no doubt his son, the child on the right, will be the same.

      Apologies for the long reply. I do love a good backstory. Best to you, Pete. And, many thanks!!

  12. srbottch says:

    Great job, Jennie. I found myself moving, as well. I was certainly laughing along with the kids. Unstructured play, YES!

  13. TanGental says:

    Two things happen when the words ‘music and movement’ appear together. One is to take me straight back to 1964 and Mrs Greening my year 3 teacher. I ended up in traction. The second is to recall the fabulous preschool comic monologues of Joyce Grenfell, a British Commedienne of the 50s and 60s. If this link works you may see some resonance from your experiences…

  14. TanGental says:

    And I was the little guy to the right looking utterly bemused!!

  15. Pingback: Music And Movement | TanGental

  16. Fabulous, Jennie. When I worked with little ones who struggled with their behavior, movement was key to feeling calm. And music was like magic!!! Great post. Your kids are so lucky.

  17. I so agree, Jennie. Removing music from school offerings is shortsighted. Thank goodness, teachers (like you) pick up the slack.

  18. Elizabeth says:

    Looking at the gender imbalance in your group took me back to the Sunday when my daughter and 24 baby boys were born. I love how boys and girls come in waves like that and sometimes end up in classes like yours!

  19. Love it, such a great idea to do fun and movement outside before learning. And loved the moon song with the drum.

  20. Just reading this and watching the video made me happy. I don’t know why they insist children sit at desks all day. Even I can’t do it. My daughter’s backside never connected with a chair until she was in middle school. Now I can’t get her out of one. 😉 But she read EVERYTHING while moving. You have it so right on there.

    • Jennie says:

      Kids aren’t made to sit! Even in my classroom, most of the activities are on the floor. If they’re at the table, the children stand. You daughter is just like most kids. I’m glad you liked the video, Marlene.🙂

  21. dgkaye says:

    You’re the gift that keeps on giving every year Jennie 🙂 xx

  22. Oh, Jennie, that was so delightful! I laughed at loud at the silliness and fun!

    Your rap of Goodnight Moon…priceless! 🥰

  23. Thats lovely, and also very wonderful.Its a piece of sane world too. Michael

  24. Kara Aharon says:

    This is exactly how I teach EFL in Israel. When I do the movements with them I don’t need to translate, they learn by doing.

  25. faisal says:

    All the information in the article are truth 👍🏻

  26. cath.anon says:

    Oh, God bless you. 🙂 I was a music teacher in a school for a time, and it can be hard work. Also, I’ll stop making fun of GoNoodle in my kid’s classrooms after reading this post.

  27. willedare says:

    What a DELIGHTFUL and wise post!!! I loved bearing witness to your movement song — and also savored the child who was taking it all in visually. There is one boy in my Monday morning Music Together class who always cuddles with his mom (both of them are super sweet and loving together) and tends to watch what is going on in class. He’s been attending for about three years, having started as a baby when his older sister was in class. His mother tells me he dances wildly and wonderfully at home (and one day I DID get a glimpse of his dancing spirit at the end of class as he and his mom were packing up their instruments and belongings…) For whatever reason(s) he likes to look and listen (while cuddling with his mom) during our classes. We all learn using different channels (visual, aural, tactile, kinesthetic, taste, smell) on different days at at different moments. I love reading that all of these kinds of movements are important developmentally! Your blog is a joy to read. Thank you!!! ps: I also played Frank Sinatra today (after class) singing a very somber “Autumn Leaves.”

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you VERY much, Will! You know music so well, and you know children well…so your words are especially appreciated. The child who watches is often the one who really ‘gets it’. Your child at Music Together doesn’t show you, but he certainly shows his family at home. That’s the child who tucks away music, because it is precious, and uses it later on in life. S/he may use music in different ways down the road, but I know for sure that music has made a difference. You know that, too. Will, we get to work magic! I think we’re the luckiest people on earth.

      When I learned the important movements for children, it took me three minutes to put those movements to a tune. Voila, children love it because their bodies and brains need it. They beg for this song.

      And Frank Sinatra. To think I’m introducing children to his music is just wonderful. Well, his music is just wonderful. Did I tell you my mother’s Frank Sinatra story? Best to you, Will. I adore your posts!!

    • Jennie says:

      Will, here is today’s example of what happens often in my classroom: Eddie asked, “Jennie, will you rub my back at rest time?” I started to say “I’d do anything”… and I bet you know what happened next. Yes, I sang “I’d Do Anything For You” from Oliver! but I realized I needed to include all the children. So, I walked around the classroom singing that verse over and over to each child. It was wonderful.

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