Singing games are a great way to teach musical concepts, incorporate movement, and give children an opportunity to sing alone and with others. They're perfect as gathering activities, ice-breakers, or a quick change-of-pace in the middle of rehearsal.
A few months ago, I shared seven fun musical games for children's choir. As a follow-up to that post, I'm rounding up fifteen singing games - some, more suitable for younger singers; others for older elementary; and even a few that your youth choir would love. Most of these are sung in unison, without accompaniment. Also, since movement activities are difficult to describe in writing, I've included video demonstrations for most of these.
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Bobo Ski Waten Taten
This East Coast hand-clapping game calls for children to work in pairs. Each verse has a sung section and a spoken section. At the end of the spoken section, fill in the blank with a variation (face, eyes, elbows, knees, lips, etc.) to incorporate the next time through. Here is an animated demonstration and sound clip and here is a copy of the score. (Source: The Singing Classroom)
We're Floating Down the River
This song features two sections - one in triple meter, the other in duple - great way to compare and contrast! In the first section, children make a circle with one person in the middle. As they sing, they step the big beats and move in clockwise motion. For the second section, the person in the middle grabs someone from the circle and they dance together while everyone else stands in place. See a video demonstration of this game here.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear
Great for your younger choirs, this circle game gets everyone singing the "call" and gives individuals a chance to sing the "response." I love that they used Beanie Babies as props in this video!
Jump Jim Joe
A song for pairs (or groups of three children) that includes jumping, toe-tapping, and spinning! Watch a video demonstration here.
Old Brass Wagon
A traditional favorite, this song begins with everyone in a circle. As they sing, the children walk/skip to the left or right (staying in a circle). Call out variations at the end of each verse: "to the left," "to the right," "elbow swing," etc. See an example of this song in action here.
Dum Dum Song
A simple song with nonsense syllables and lots of fun movements! This would work really well with an upper elementary choir or youth choir (see the Minnesota Boychoir sing it here). Have your singers sit in rows (fairly close together). Talk through a few movements to get them started. Begin singing together and call out the motions at the end of each repetition.
Circle Round the Zero
A circle game that's reminiscent of Duck, Duck, Goose, here, the leader walks around the outside of the circle as everyone sings. At the appropriate point in the song, the leader stops behind someone, moves to the side, and moves inside the circle to face them. On the next repetition, that person joins them in walking around the outside of the circle. Great video demonstration here.
This Way, That Way
A fun singing game that gets everyone moving! Have children make two rows and face each other. For the first part of the song, children join hands with the person across from them, swing their arms back and forth, and dance in place. For the second part, everyone takes a step back and a child from one end takes a turn doing a dance improv down the middle. Everyone else imitates their dance moves as they sing. Here's a fun video to show you what this looks like.
The Singing Bee
This fun twist on the traditional spelling bee gives singers an opportunity to put their knowledge into practice by demonstrating various musical concepts. Have six (or so) singers stand shoulder-to-shoulder in a straight line. Beginning at one end, give each child a musical concept to demonstrate (e.g. decrescendo, staccato, fermata, sequence, skip, step). If the child is incorrect, he or she must sit down, and a concept is given to the next in line. The game continues until only one child remains. (Source: 99 New Musical Games by Bonnie Krueger)
A fun, nonsense song with a nice melody (with an octave leap in the B section!). Once you've taught it, pair up and add hand claps or motions with rhythm sticks, as shown here.
Come and Follow Me
Have children form a line. Choose a person on the end to be the leader. As everyone sings, the leader takes them around the room. At the end of the song, when everyone sings, "We will stop this way!" the leader strikes a pose and everyone copies. Then, the leader joins the end of the line and the next person in line becomes the leader. Here is a video example.
Find Your Match!
Create a list of familiar songs, enough for half the children in your choir. Print two copies, cut apart, and put into a bowl. Have each child draw a slip of paper, but keep their song to themselves. When you give the signal, have everyone beginning humming their song (no words!) and moving around the room. The goal is to find the other person in the room that has the same song! (Source: 99 New Musical Games by Bonnie Krueger)
Three In the Middle
A spin-off of Red Rover (sort of?) and similar to the duple section in We're Floating Down the River (above), this circle game locks three people in the middle. Everyone sings as those in the middle try to escape to the outside of the circle. Those who escape join the circle and those left in the middle "swing" in new people. Here is a fun video demonstration.
Wake Me, Shake Me
Have children make a circle (facing inward) with one person on the inside. Following the directions in the song, the person on the inside does corresponding motions with one person in the circle - "wake me, shake me, don't let me sleep too late!" At the end of the song, the person in the circle joins the person in the middle and the song (and motions) repeat. See a video demonstration here.
A British singing game, this song calls for everyone to make a line and join hands. As they sing, the children weave under each other's arms until everyone is left standing in a row with crossed arms. Reverse the actions (and continue singing) until everyone is back in a row with joined hands. This one is a little hard to describe in writing, so here's a short video to show you what it looks like.
Looking for more ideas?
What are your favorite singing games for children's choir? What are your go-to resources?
7 Fun Games for Children's Choir
Singing Games Video Playlist (several of the games I included in this list, plus a few more!)
Rise Sally, Rise: Great Singing Games for Children (Peter and Mary Alice Amidon)
Clap Your Hands: 16 Clapping Games for Children's Choir
Sing Together, Children (Bridges)
Singing Games Children Love, Vol. 4, Grades 3-6 (Gagne) - see a sample here
10 Movement Activities for Children's Choir