Tried-and-True Rhythm Games for Children's Choir (Part II)

Tried-and-True Rhythm Games for Children's Choir (Part II)

Earlier this week, I shared some of my favorite tried-and-true rhythm games and activities for children's choir. Most were focused on keeping the steady beat, moving, listening, improvising, and developing aural skills.

Read the full post here.

Today, I'm adding to the list with fun and engaging rhythm games that focus on rhythmic reading, pattern recognition, composition, and developing musical independence.

As directors and teachers, it's important for us to assess whether or not children are able to respond to, remember, and reproduce a short rhythmic pattern to understand where they are and areas where they need more reinforcement (source).

These activities will help you do just that: 

Tried-and-True Rhythm Games for Children's Choir (Part I)

Tried-and-True Rhythm Games for Children's Choir (Part I)

Rhythm is a vital component of music. A strong rhythmic foundation is arguably the most important facet of music. Without a rhythmic framework in place, music lacks structure and a solid foundation. With my piano students, I often start with rhythm when learning a new piece. We tap and count out loud, chant the words in rhythm, step the rhythm, keep a steady beat and chant the rhythm, and point to the notes in the music and count out loud.

I believe this focus on rhythm is equally important in choral settings.

There are lots of ways to practice rhythm and help develop an internal sense of steady beat in your rehearsals - the easiest (and perhaps most effective) is to turn it into a game. Children love games and giving them an active way to participate and experience the new concept will make it both memorable and fun. 

This week, I'm sharing my favorite tried-and-true rhythm games and activities for children's choir. Part I includes activities for keeping the steady beat, moving, listening, improvising, and developing aural skills. Part II will include games that focus on rhythmic reading, pattern recognition, composition, and developing musical independence.

Fun, Easy Gathering Activities for Children's Choir

Fun, Easy Gathering Activities for Children's Choir

Are you ready for choir rehearsal this week? The music is neatly sorted into everyone's folders, you have your rehearsal plan ready to go, and you have a stack of brightly-colored reminders on the piano to send home to parents. What's missing?

A gathering activity.

It's easy to overlook, but that short period before rehearsal when children sometimes show up early (sometimes really early) calls for a little extra preparation. What can you plan that will keep any number of children engaged for 10-15 minutes? Some people use worksheets, but I like playing some kind of game that gets everyone involved (from the moment they walk in the door) and promotes listening skills, keeping a steady beat, movement, music-reading skills, and creativity. 

Most of the ideas in this post take little to no preparation or facilitation on your part - just lay out the materials in advance and maybe turn on some music to get them started. This way, you can do any last-minute to-dos before rehearsal starts while the early-arrivers play a fun, musical game.

Here are a few fun, easy gathering activities to do with your choir:

Clap Your Hands: 16 Clapping Games for Children's Choir

Clap Your Hands: 16 Clapping Games for Children's Choir

Remember those clapping games we used to play as kids? Between the silly (or nonsense) lyrics and the fast-paced sequence of claps, taps, snaps, and crosses, clapping games provided hours of entertainment. It might seem like just fun and games, but there's actually more to it than that. Clapping games can be beneficial to children's development.

Dr. Idit Sulkin has conducted research on the topic of children's hand-clapping games, noting:

"These activities serve as a developmental platform to enhance children’s needs — emotional, sociological, physiological, and cognitive. It’s a transition stage that leads them to the next phases of growing up.” (source

Clapping games are a great way to incorporate rhythm and movement into your choir rehearsals while reinforcing gross motor skills, rhythmic concepts (such as steady beat and subdivision), coordination skills, and the concept of sequencing (source). If you're working with a younger group, try modifying the clapping sequence to fit their ability level (scroll down to the bottom of this article for a few helpful tips).


One of the most exciting things about being a teacher is improvising. I’m sure I already have some disagreement out there.  Now, I admit I am the “planning-type.”  I arrive 15 minutes before my first lesson so that I have enough time to plan activities for particular students and to make sure my materials are in order.  This week was no different.  I arrived at 3:00 p.m. for a 3:15 p.m. lesson.  I had a rhythm activity planned for a later lesson making use of that stress ball I got last semester.  3:15 p.m. came and went with no sign of my student.

About 15 minutes later, a frazzled mother and a bright-eyed, grinning five-year-old girl appeared.  “I’m so sorry we’re late – and I forgot her book bag – you have copies of her books, right?” Normally, yes.  This particular day, no.  I took the first few volumes home the night before for some lesson preparation.  “How about we just play some games today?  How does that sound?”  “Yeah!” Alison responded eagerly as she jumped up on the bench.

We began with a familiar song.  Alison’s choice was “Alouette” from earlier in her lesson book.  To make this into a “game,” I challenged her to transposition.  She of course doesn’t know the formal term yet but she has responded well to this concept in the past and proceeded to play the piece in G major, F major and Gb major.  Next, I pulled out the stress ball.  “Now let’s play the song with this ball.”

Poor choice of words as I soon discovered.  Alison followed my directions literally and played – finger by finger – the melody of “Alouette” on the ball.  Playing along (“I meant to do that…”), I commended her effort. (Note: It’s quite challenging to play a legato melody on the surface of a ball!  Try it!)  I suggested next we use the ball for the rhythm of the piece (while singing the melody).  I set a steady beat and we began passing the ball back and forth in time.  After about two measures of nice rhythm: pass-pass-pass-pass, the pattern began to morph into pass-toss-pass-toss, each toss leading me to chase the ball as it escaped across the floor.  Next game.

“Can you sing “Alouette” and bounce this ball on your shoulder?”  I challenged.  “Yes,” came the confident reply.  And she did.  “Can you sing, bounce the ball on your head and march in place?”  “Yes.”  And she did.  Though multi-tasking, Alison was able to sing the song tunefully and keep a steady beat marching.  And though my intention with the ball was to keep a steady beat, Alison often bounced the ball in the rhythm of the song while marching to steady quarter notes (even more impressive!)

We repeated this series of rhythm and movement activities with another familiar piece, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”  Not a former lesson book song, Alison wanted to play this piece before anything else.  After demonstrating a few times through, she played it successfully on her own (while singing).  The last activity of the lesson was with crayons – excuse me, markers and highlighters (Alison’s selection from the box of coloring utensils).  I drew a 2×2 grid on a blank sheet of paper and we sang through “Mary Had a Little Lamb” again.  As we sang, I pointed to each empty block:

1 – “Mary had a little lamb” 2 – “Little lamb, little lamb” 3 – “Mary had a little lamb (it’s)” 4 – “Fleece was white as snow”

The project was to write something in each block that represented that part of the song.  I expected a picture of a sheep or possibly some quarter notes.  Alison drew “E-D-C” in the first block and “D-D-D, E-E-E” in the second block (after some negotiations with the piano).  Next week when we finish filling in the blocks I’ll ask if any parts are repeated (i.e. the music/words in blocks 1 and 3) – a beginning lesson on form!

Drastic times call for drastic measures.  Lessons learned today: be resourceful, think like a five-year-old, and keep up the change of pace!