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Active Movement Songs for Early Childhood

As music teachers, we often think about the importance of movement in our students' lives. We know that getting them up and moving is an essential part of their music class experience and overall development. But why is that? In this post, I highlight some of the benefits of integrating movement in the classroom and share some active movement songs that appeal to children and adults alike.

Benefits of Movement

When children are engaged in developmentally appropriate movement experiences, they develop spatial awareness, coordination, and gross motor skills. In addition, children also develop their movement vocabulary, enhance their creative movement ideas, as well as practice self-awareness and self-regulation.

Song Recommendations

Whether you are new or experienced to integrating movement in your classroom, I think you'll enjoy these song recommendations and be able to use them year round. These songs can be used in a variety of settings and adapted for your students' specific needs.

They can also be added to sub plans to ensure students are getting quality music and movement experiences when you can't be with them. Songwriter links, websites, and conceptual connections are included in the captions below. Now, let's get moving!

Silly Dance Contest - Jim Gill

Jim Gill’s “Silly Dance Contest'' is not only fun, but has student choice built right into the song! With it's lively and upbeat tempo, students explore concepts such as active listening, spatial awareness, balance, and tempo. The dramatic "freeze" at the end of each verse also stimulates the vestibular system. Make a silly shape, make a silly face, and "dance anyway you want to!"

Gill's dedication to "music play" for all young children shows through his work as a musician, songwriter, and author. His work focuses on creating playful interactions for children and their caregivers and says, attending a concert of his "is more than a show to's like a big family room, where everyone plays together." Be sure to check out his website and YouTube channel for more of his music.

Quick Tip

Try learning the song on your own, accompany on the ukulele or guitar, and invite students to name and explore their own non-locomotor and locomotor movements.

Move it, Move it - Stephanie Leavell

Stephanie Leavell’s “Move it, Move it!” provides an engaging way to explore movement with some surprise jumps sprinkled in throughout the song. Its catchy little groove keeps students moving and grooving while they create their own dance moves. Students explore levels, develop locomotor and non-locomotor skills, and practice self-regulation on "let's move it, move it, until I say, "STOP!"

Leavell is a music educator, board certified music therapist, podcast host, and also facilitates Music for Kiddos, a resource community that is dedicated to high-quality children’s music. She also curates a wonderful playlist on Spotify, which includes lullabies, seasonal songs, movement songs, and more. Her focus on children's sensory needs helps them express their feelings and reach their developmental goals, making her music accessible for all.

Shake Your Body Down - The Laurie Berkner Band

The Laurie Berkner Band's "Shake Your Body Down" is an excellent song to get your students up and moving. The infectious rhythm, along with an irresistible chorus will have them shaking out their bodies in no time! There are many concepts to explore like levels ("wave your arms high, wave your arms low"), body parts, ("shake out your head, shake out your arms, shake your body down"), and tempo ("march really fast and march really slow"). The repetitive chorus also helps children develop automaticity in their movements by teaching them how to respond through listening and following along with body cues.

The Laurie Berkner Band has released twelve award-winning albums and has been a staple of children's music for decades, making the band one of the most recognized artists and contributors in the "kindie rock" movement. Los Angeles Times says, "Laurie Berkner does what Fred Rogers did: respect, validate and reassure young children." We agree! Check out the band's website and YouTube channel for fresh new material.

All the Fish - Caspar Babypants

"All the Fish" by Caspar Babypants is full of rock n' roll energy to inspire movements like fish swimming, frogs jumping, hippos napping, and kids splashing in the water. It pairs perfectly with the finger play, "Bubble, bubble, bubble, POP!", but with a dance beat twist. Students playfully explore imagery, locomotor movement, dynamics, and jump (or clap) on the word, "POP!" Time to get out the bubbles and have a dance party!

Chris Ballew, known as Caspar Babypants, writes and performs original songs, nursery rhymes and folk songs with his own distinct voice. He has released a total of 17 albums and his album, "FLYING HIGH!", was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Children's Album. Check out his website and YouTube channel for some more rockin' tunes.

Happy - Ms. Niki

Ms. Niki's "Happy" is an absolute must for every classroom! Her positive energy and spirit shines through, making it impossible not to move and sing along. Her fun twist on the action song, "If You're Happy And You Know It" will have your students boppin' to the beat while exploring body parts, following directions, gross motor skills, and self-expression. Clap your hands, stomp your feet, shout hooray, and jump up and down. What other movements could you show to express happiness?

Ms. Niki is a Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter, and music educator. Her mission is "to teach children music all over the world in an unconventional way" with a purpose "to reach children outside the four walls of a classroom." For more inspiration, check out Ms. Niki's website, YouTube channel, and Grammy nominated album for Best Children's Music Album, All One Tribe. Read more about it at Wee Nation Radio.

I hope these recommendations for integrating active movement songs into your music classroom have given you some new ways to think of what is possible. Remember, there's no one-size-fits all approach when it comes to incorporating movement into a lesson plan but hopefully this blog post has given you some good ideas for where to start. What will be your first step? Drop us a comment below and share your thoughts or questions.

P. S. If you enjoyed these song recommendations, check out Stop & Go by Ella Jenkins for another fun and simple way to incorporate movement in your classroom.

Keep moving and grooving,


Feierabend, J. & Kahan, J. (2003). The book of movement exploration: Can you move like this? Chicago, IL: GIA Publications, Inc.

Gilbert, A. G. (2015). Creative dance for all ages. (2nd ed.). Reston, VA: SHAPE America.


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