It's a rainy evening and the 1st graders in your children's choir are extra wiggly. You need a quick change-of-pace to keep their attention and get through rehearsal.
Been there? I think we all have.
There are lots of games you could play, but I like choosing games and activities that keep the focus on music (and maybe get the children up and moving for a few minutes). Today, I'm sharing a few of my favorite (musical) games and activities for children's choir.
The Cup Game
This activity works well with songs in duple meter and with 4-bar phrases. Set a red solo cup upside down in front of each child. Beats 1-4: Clap two times. Hit the bottom of the cup three times (right-left-right). Beats 5-8: Clap once. Pick up the cup and set it down. Beats 9-12: Clap once. Pick up the cup with your left hand. Hit the top of the cup with your right hand. Hit the bottom edge of the cup onto the table or floor. Beats 13-16: Switch the cup to your right hand. Tap the table or floor with your left hand. Set the cup down in front of the person on your right. Repeat. (source) Working with younger children? Here's a simplified version.
Set up chairs in a row, one fewer than the number of children playing. Play recorded music, then pause suddenly. When the music stops, have children rush to find an open chair and sit down. Remove one chair each round until there is only one chair remaining for all the children! (source)
Pavo, Pavo (Spanish Turkey Song)
Sing this Chilean folk song with Spanish text. Have children stand in a circle with one child ("turkey") in the middle. During the first phrase (mm. 1-4), children in the circle move clockwise as the turkey struts counter-clockwise. During the second phrase (mm. 5-8), they reverse directions. In the first part of the B section (mm. 9-12), children stand still, shaking their fingers at the turkey. During the last phrase (mm. 13-16), the children in the circle remain still as the turkey closes his/her eyes, stretches out his/her arms, spins around, and points to a new turkey. (source)
A great movement activity for young singers! Have children stand in a circle, singing and tapping their legs and the hands of those on either side of them. Call out children's names or assign each child a number before you begin to give them an opportunity to do a solo movement, stepping in toward the center of the circle (4 beats) and back out (4 beats). Have all children "echo" this movement during the next eight beats. See a video of this activity here.
Boom, Snap, Clap
A fun hand game (source) - works well with pairs of children (have them clap their partner's hands). Try having half the group sing a familiar song (again, duple meter with 4-bar phrases) and half the group accompanying with the boom, snap, clap sequence. See a step-by-step video here.
A fun sound effect game: Have children stand in a circle facing inwards. Have someone begin by 'passing' the sound "whizz!" to the person on his/her right with a sweeping gesture with both hands. Have children continue to pass the action and sound around the circle. At any point, a child may decide to pass the sound and gesture in the opposite direction. Keep a steady beat as you go. Add in other sounds and gestures to the game as each one is performed with ease (and try changing the tempo!):
"Diddly-dee" = pass this sound over the person on your left or right with both hands reaching over the head of the person being skipped.
"Zoom" = pass this sound across the circle with a forward action of the arms and body.
"Boing!" = if the person receiving the 'zoom' does not want to accept it and pass it on, they can put up a shield with arms in front of their body and bounce the sound back to the sender. The person who sent the 'zoom' must think quickly about what action and sound to do next. (source)
This activity reinforces inner hearing and solfege hand signs and it works well as a segue to repertoire at the beginning of rehearsal, especially if you use solfege and hand signs during the warm-up. Choose a familiar tune. Show children the hand signs for the melody (silently but in rhythm) and have them guess the song without hearing it. Try having them mirror the hand signs with you. If they have trouble, give them the first pitch or two, continually adding pitches as "clues" until they correctly identify it. (source)
Looking for more ideas?
15 Singing Games for Children's Choir
How to Plan a Children's Choir Rehearsal
Clap Your Hands: 16 Clapping Games for Children's Choir
10 Movement Activities for Children's Choir
Top 50 Favorite Anthems for Children's Choir
How to Teach a Children's Choir Anthem By Rote
5 Ways to Make Memorizing a Choir Anthem Fun