Move to the music! Singing action songs with children

10 Children love to move, wiggle, and shake! Singing and listening to music with your child are perfect opportunities to integrate movement that kids crave. Movement helps children develop strong bones and muscles, all while learning coordination and new motor skills. Not to mention, movement helps kids feel good! When we dance, groove, and clap along to songs we gain more confidence in expressing ourselves through song and dance. Mixing music and movement is a great way to help children form positive connections towards making and sharing music.

Integrating action into your singing time is a great way to improve a child’s ability to listen, follow instructions, and form connections between actions and words. Singing action songs with your child combines verbal, visual, and physical learning (4 Parents and Teachers). Providing hand gestures to songs like “Itsy, Bitsy Spider” or “Wheels on the Bus” help kids to learn how to move in different situations, as they associate different actions with different types of songs.

Signing with children is also a great way to incorporate physical movement into singing. Sign language allows children to connect signs to song lyrics, building stronger associations to new vocabulary words with two sensory learning experiences, all at once! Signing along to songs that showcase colors, common objects, letters, numbers, and feelings is a great way to teach common vocabulary words to kids in both their native language and sign language.

Here are some tips to bond with your children through song, as you groove, shake, and wiggle together!


  • Gently bounce your baby on a lap or knee while singing or listening to music. These actions excite baby and help babies learn how to "feel the beat" of music (WebMD). Bouncing baby also simulates their experience in the womb, providing them comfort.
  • Move baby’s hands or feet in time to a song. Movement like this helps baby develop healthy and strong bones and muscles. Try this activity to songs like "The Wheels on the Bus" or "Open Shut Them."
  • Rock baby while singing softly to them. Rocking will soothe baby and help them get ready for sleep.


  • Engage your toddler in dancing activities. They will develop higher self-esteem and become comfortable moving to music. Songs like "The Freeze Dance" or "Shake your Sillies out" also help toddlers to get out all their willies!
  • Allow your toddler time to explore toddler friendly instruments, like shaker eggs, rattles and toy drums while singing and listening to music. Playing with these toys helps toddlers strengthen their clutch grip (Playgroup NSW) and actively engage with songs. You can even try making your own instruments out of household items!


  • Sing songs with children that require an action response to help them practice listening skills and build concentration. Songs like “If you’re Happy and you Know It,” “Hokey-Pokey,” and “Bingo” are great tunes to start with!
  • Encourage your child to sing and dance along to CDs or the radio. This helps them to feel supported and view singing activities like fun games.
  • Inspire kids to make up their own dances or hand gestures to well-loved songs. This practice will engage them into thinking creatively about the music they like!

Here are some songs to get started:

  • “Shake Your Sillies Out”
  • “I Can Sing a Rainbow” –try signing along!
  • “The Alphabet Song”
  • “Wheels on the Bus”
  • “Itsy Bitsy Spider”
  • “Baby Shark”
  • “The Scarf Song”
  • “Drive the Fire Truck”
  • “Hokey Pokey”
  • “The Freeze Dance”
  • “Open, Shut Them”
  • “De Colores”

-Amanda, Children's Team, Martha Cooper Library


Read, Write, Talk, Sing, Play!

Singing is incredibly engaging for children and has countless early literacy benefits, which include building vocabulary, slowing down language, developing memory skills, and so much more!

Read more about early literacy and how you can make a difference in your child's life.