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Music has a way of tapping into our deepest emotions. So use it to teach children about emotional states with these musical activities:

Mood music (Preschool & early elementary)

Mash up a tape of many different song snippets, each about 15 to 30 seconds in length, until you have a compilation that is about 5 minutes long. Play it for the kids, and have them perform exaggerated facial expressions and dance moves according to what each song makes them feel.

Emotional musical chairs (Preschool & Elementary)

Play a sort of mood musical chairs by using masking tape to affix either smiley faces or frowny faces on the chairs. When the music stops, have kids rush for a smiley face chair. Take one smiley face chair out of the circle with each round, while leaving all the frowny face ones. Play the game until the last child manages to sit in the last ‘happy chair.’

Musical art (All ages)

This activity is best done outside in an area where children can get messy. Place paint on the concrete in different colors, and have children sit in groups of 4 or 5 around each set so they can share paints. Have plenty of paper on hand.

Next, find an assortment of different types of music: Rap, heavy metal, classical, ocean sounds, etc. (Be sure to pre-screen your selections for cusswords and appropriateness.) You’ll also need a radio you can take outside. Tell kids you’re going to play different types of music, and while you do so, you want them to paint a scene indicative of whatever that music makes them feel. Encourage them to get their whole body motion into the painting. Then switch genres and paint a different picture. After you’re done, talk about what they felt and how their mood influenced their creations.

Music show and share (All ages)

Have kids bring in a song from their favorite band for show and tell. Have them describe why they like that song and what emotions they feel when listening to it, then play a short snippet of that song.


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