Creating a foundation for a great musician can start at a very young age and should definitely include fun rhythm games and activities! Understanding rhythm from when the time your kids are still small will help set them up for success as they grow and are ready to learn a musical instrument or to sing in a choir. Read on for our favorite rhythm games for kids that you can do together at home.
Find The Beat With Your Body
Finding the steady beat is something even a kindergartner can do, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it tricky and fun for your older children.
Pick a few songs that have a strong drum beat throughout — use their favorite songs if possible — and see if they can pick out the beat by marching. Using their bodies to feel the beat and follow with the sound will teach them to listen for the beat that they can hear in the song. If you are using a slower song to change things up see if they can sway to the beat instead.
If you’re looking for a kid-friendly song that has a strong beat throughout the song try ‘YMCA’ by the Village People and if your child is ready for a challenge pick a song with a strong off-beat such as ‘Here Comes The Sun,” by the Beatles. Vary up the tempos of the songs you choose and let them decide if they want to march (the tempo is faster) or if they feel like swaying to the beat (when the tempo is slower).
Use Simple Rhythm Instruments
Pick a fun rhythm instrument that you have around the home such as a tambourine, two sticks or shaker eggs. If you don’t have any rhythm instruments try making one together with one of the ideas found here. Similar to our first activity we’re going to have the children feel the beat and then play the beat along with the song using their rhythm instruments.
The key to this activity is to add in another element: singing. Having kids practice playing a steady beat and singing the rhythm of the song is a great exercise for preparing kids for playing an instrument such as guitar or piano. Singing the rhythm while beating a different steady beat is actually much more challenging than you’d think — they might find that they want to start beating or shaking the melody with their instrument rather than the beat!
To keep things fun try switching it up and have them sing and play the melody with their instruments and then call out for them to switch to playing the steady beat instead! See how long it takes them to make the switch and how many times you can switch back and forth between beat and rhythm. Give the kids a chance to call out “beat” or “rhythm” and be in charge of the game.
Identify The Downbeat
If your kids are a little bit older and ready for a challenge then see if they can identify not just the steady beat but the downbeat as well! Introduce your child to the different time measures and explain that there are different amounts of beat per measure. Once they have a general idea of how it works give them the challenge of trying to find the downbeat.
They can beat a drum, jump in place or even count out loud (1, 2, 3, 4 or 1, 2, 3 etc.) to see if they can feel and find the downbeat. Choose songs they are already familiar with to help them be successful in finding the downbeat. Another way to help them feel the beat between 4/4 time and 3/4 time would be to see if they can make triangles in the air with their finger or squares in the air with their finger — which one feels right? They will find that they can quickly identify the downbeat between triangles and squares and you can make it a challenge to time them and see how quickly they can identify it!
Pass The Beat
Introduce dividing the beat by playing a simple passing game. Pick a ball, scarf or stick and sit in a circle with your family. Start by passing the object around following the steady beat. Next see if your child can pass it twice as fast, cutting the beat in half and passing it to the beat of an eighth note. You can keep sub-dividing the beat until it is too fast to pass to a partner and stay on the beat.
This activity will be most successful if you pick your own starting beat rather than playing along with a song. Most songs will start with a beat much to fast to try to keep subdividing the beat. Set your own tempo and chant a sound such as “boom! boom!” to identify the beat as you pass. Have mom or dad keep the steady beat the entire time so they know if they are dividing the beat correctly. This is a great game for the entire family and can get silly and fun as they try to pass the object quickly.
This game can be a lot of fun and played with a variety of ages. Sit in a circle and ask everyone in the circle to imitate you clapping a simple rhythm in 4/4 or 3/4 time. Once everyone has the basic, simple rhythm ask half of the circle to start playing a different rhythm that matches the same beat. If they can clap the two different rhythms simultaneously you are now ready to ask a different part of the circle to play another different rhythm! You can continue this until everyone in the group is clapping their own rhythm simultaneously.
This activity can be made simpler by having kids repeat words that have a rhythm such as “Caterpillar, caterpillar, eat the grapes” (16th notes for “caterpillar”, eighth notes for “eat the” and a quarter note for “grapes”). Someone else would get a different rhythm sentence to say such as “Grapes are ta-sty” (each syllable being a quarter note). Attaching words to the rhythm helps it stick in the kids brains and stay on track when they start to hear different rhythms being chanted.