Music is all around us. We hear a melody in a bird’s song and the hum of the refrigerator. We notice rhythm when a clock ticks and the washing machine swishes. We feel motion as tree branches sway in the breeze and the waves on the lake lap up on the beach. God’s creation calls children to join the song.
Choose children’s songs that include language that children can understand, with lyrics that help them to learn and remember God’s promises and the stories of God’s people. A song melody should be vocally accessible, not too high or too low, and can be strengthened by a child instrumentalist playing a flute or violin. “Extras” are a must, especially for children who are not very excited about singing. Add extras like claps, whistling a verse, sign language, hand rhythms, and kazoos. These extras challenge children to use their bodies, as well as their voices, in their praise to God.
Claps, tongue clicks, finger snaps, and foot stomps add rhythmic interest to a song, but so do tambourines, wooden sticks, jingle bells, and five-gallon pails that have been turned upside down to become the drums in a bucket band. Adding rhythm to children’s songs tends to bring out their best singing.
Adapt songs to encourage movement. The movement in hand motions helps children remember the words in a song, and an interpretive dance can stir them to listen to music differently. If you need an object with motion that everyone can use, bandanas are affordable and add a splash of color to any song as they are waved overhead. Bandanas can also be used to create flags. Children use colorful electrical tape or duct tape to decorate paint sticks from a hardware store and then staple a bandana to the end of the paint stick to make a small flag—a perfect addition to any processional.
As children explore music in the church, give them the tools they need to be successful. Sing and show children what you want them to do and then celebrate what they do well. Provide cheat sheets and cue cards to help children engage quickly. If you have musical adults and teens who are willing to help out, invite them to be a part of the classroom during the learning process.
Sing, play an instrument, be a part of the bucket band, shake a tambourine, dance, or wave a flag. The invitation is for all: Come join the song!