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8 best movement and music activities for toddlers: Get them engaged (and tired)

Music can inspire a workout, improve mood, and make the workday glide along. For toddlers though, music is a bit more important. Exposing toddlers to music actually helps with brain development as shown by this study completed by the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute. Music stimulates the area of the brain that is responsible for speech and language development, as well as reading skills. Movement should be a vital part of a toddler’s day because it helps to hone gross motor skills.

Gross motor skills come into play in a variety of physical activities like walking, running, jumping, and catching. Combining the two into fun activities for toddlers is a win-win. Music and movement activities help a toddler’s mind and body develop. Of course, engaging in active movement activities also makes toddlers sleepy for those afternoon naps, and of course, bedtime. Here are eight entertaining music and movement activities to get toddlers excited and tired.

mom and toddler girl having fun with music and movement activity
fizkes / Shutterstock

Music and movement activities for toddlers

Try and set aside a little time each day to get your toddler moving to the beat. Parents, caregivers, and siblings can join in too. Adults and kids of all ages benefit from music and movement.

Freeze dance

This is a great activity to do with the whole family. Put on some music and start dancing. When the music stops, everyone freezes. Older children are ‘out’ if they continue to move when the freeze part arrives. Toddlers, however, don’t quite understand elimination games. Avoid the tears and just let everyone keep on dancing when the music starts back up.

Musical chairs

This is a classic game kids love. Participants walk around chairs placed in a circle or a row and sit down when the music stops. Skip the elimination part for this game too. Just let toddlers have fun walking around the chairs and sitting down in a different spot when the music stops. When the attention wanes, the game is over.

Scarf dancing

Classical music is very soothing. Add in some dancing and you have a fun game that toddlers, parents, and caregivers can find relaxing. Give toddlers a scarf and let them dance while moving the scarves around their bodies. Pets may enjoy this game too, especially kitties.


Marching to music is a super simple activity and a beneficial one for the body and the mind. Put on a tune with a distinctive beat. Show your toddler how to march to the music. Marching can be done in place or by walking around the home. Leave the stroller behind on an afternoon walk and march to some music around the neighborhood instead.


Limbo isn’t just for weddings and other gatherings. It can be a fun music and movement activity for toddlers. Put on a version of “Limbo Rock,” have two people hold either end of bar or rope, and have the participants dance or walk underneath. Toddlers can’t bend backward, but they can dance, walk, or crawl under as the bar gets lower and lower. Limbo is a perfect pick for play dates and parties.

Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes

If you’re a preschool teacher, you know the tune. It’s pretty catchy and be forewarned: it may stay in your head for a while. Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes is a classic early childhood song that makes for a wonderful music and movement activity. Several versions of the tune are available on YouTube for you and your toddler to sing and move along to.

Baby Shark

Baby Shark recently became the most viewed video on YouTube. Yes, it’s the melody parents and caregivers cannot get out of their heads, but toddlers love it. Did you know there are movements that go along with the Baby Shark song? The movements are cute and they will most certainly get your toddler grooving and moving. This video from Super Simple Songs can teach you all the movements you and your toddler need to know before giving Baby Shark move views on YouTube.

Mom playing ukulele while daughter dances on bed
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Quiet and loud

Help kids learn the difference between quiet and loud with this fun music and movement activity. When the quiet part of the song comes on, kids need to tiptoe or move quietly around the room. Then, when the loud part comes on, everyone can get really loud with their movements and actions like stomping or galloping around the room. Use the Quiet and Loud song video on YouTube or just switch between quieter and louder songs from the playlist on your smartphone. Quiet and Loud is a great game to play when you’re hosting a play date or need a party game.

Put on some tunes and get moving!

As adults, we understand how music can improve mood. For children, music is especially important. Studies have shown exposing young children to music aids in brain development. The part of the brain that’s stimulated cultivates speech and language development as well as creativity and reading skills. Adding movement gives toddlers exercise while working those very important gross motor skills and helping develop balance and coordination. Of course, music and movement activities for toddlers are also just plain fun. So pop on some tunes and get moving and dancing with your toddler. Moving and grooving are sure to improve everyone’s mood and make your toddler more likely to take a nap or go to bed on time.

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Dawn Miller
Dawn Miller began her professional life as an elementary school teacher before returning to her first love, writing. In…
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