Have you ever noticed that you naturally bob your head or tap your foot when you hear music? Perhaps you’ve also noticed that as the music changes, so too does the tapping of your foot.
Whether you are consciously aware of it or not, you are finding the rhythm in the music. What is rhythm?
Most musicians and singers think of it as a pattern in time. This pattern is made up of beats, which it may be helpful to think of as the unit of measurement for rhythm.
Also critical to understanding rhythm is tempo. This refers to the pace of the beat. Looking at a piece of sheet music may reveal an instruction for quick tempo or slow tempo. This instruction usually is chosen by the composer, but there is quite a bit of room for interpretation by the conductor or musician.
Rhythm is critical to all musical compositions. Musicians or vocalists who do not have a well-developed sense of rhythm quickly find themselves lost in the piece and out of sync with the other performers.
Accordingly, it’s crucial for kids to develop a sense of rhythm so that they:
- Can stay in time with the band or group
- Avoid rushing or dragging the beat
- Can sight-read rhythms
- Can play a rhythmic figure by ear.
Don’t worry if this all sounds a little confusing. If you can tap your toe to music, then you have what it takes to introduce your kids to rhythm.
Of course, it may help if you turn it into a game.
Why Gamify Learning?
When you turn learning into a game, you immediately make it interesting and memorable. Try it the next time you’re helping your child study for a spelling or history test. Find a way to turn study into a game, and you’ll probably be surprised at the progress they make.
Gamifying learning works along the same principles as playing a game like soccer or basketball. If you don’t keep score, then what’s the point? Players are in the soccer game to win it, and the same is true when you turn learning into a game.
Turning learning about rhythm into a game:
- Makes the experience fun and more interactive
- Releases dopamine to create a learning addiction
- Provides real-time feedback
- Makes learning more efficient
- Enhances cooperation
Clearly, using games to teach rhythm is an excellent method for maximizing student engagement and delivering noticeable results. If you want to improve your child’s musicianship, then it definitely helps to emphasize rhythm as a foundational concept.
Here is a closer look at some rhythm games that will engage and motivate even the youngest musicians.
Games for Infants
Repetition is critical for helping infants to develop rhythm. Bouncing or rocking your baby to music helps to build a solid foundation. Try wiggling their feet or clapping their hands as music plays as well. When they are ready, consider playing some of these games.
1. Name Rhythms
This “game” lets parents get creative. Use the melody from a favorite nursery rhyme like:
“It’s raining, it’s pouring,
The old man is snoring.”
Then, replace the words with others of your choosing. As an example, you might use “Mommy.”
“It’s Mommy, it’s Mommy,
Mommy, mommy mommy.”
You could also sing it with your baby’s name.
“It’s Peter, it’s Peter,
Peter, Peter, Peter.”
Remember, you can change the lyrics to absolutely anything you want. Try days of the week or insert a special outing like when you’re going to the zoo.
2. Speed It Up, Slow It Down
Try singing some of your baby’s favorite songs while she sits on your lap. As you sing, bounce or rock her to the beat.
At some point in the song, speed up the tempo of your singing and your movements, then switch back to the normal tempo.
Experiment with slowing down and speeding up. Infants love the faster movements and singing.
Preschool and Elementary School-Age Children
As children get older, they are prepared to take a more independent approach. They usually love the opportunity to move, dance and even play their own musical instruments. Whenever music is playing, encourage them to clap their hands, stomp their feet, move from side to side or jump up and down to the beat. It’s something that parents and teachers can experiment with too, and it’s a great way to have fun and enjoy music together.
Try some of these games to keep the fun going.
1. Click, Stamp, Slap, Clap
This one is lots of fun for kids. It involves a rhythmic chant that is coordinated with finger clicking, stamping feet, slapping thighs and clapping. A video demonstration of this game helps to make it clearer. Have kids practice this one several times, then have them perform the movements minus the words to help them develop an internal sense of rhythm.
2. The Body Percussion Game
Kids can let their imaginations take flight with this one. Ask them to choose a body part, like the head, and a sound, like “boing.” Have them choose other body parts with attendant sound effects, and then have them play a song using these movements and sound effects. Hilarity will inevitably ensue, but kids are still learning about rhythm as they “play” a favorite song.
3. The Rhythm Machine
If you are an educator in a music class or have several kids, then this can be a fun way to make music together. Larger groups can be divided into smaller groups or kids can work individually and then come back to the large group.
Each child is asked to create a pattern with four beats. The pattern can include chanting and clapping or just one or the other. One child begins with their pattern, then the next comes in with their pattern. Soon, all of the kids are performing their pattern at the same time.
To ramp up the fun, have one child drop out for a few bars and then come back in.
4. Keeping the Beat
This game requires a rubber ball, tennis ball, bean bag or balloon. Put on some music, and then bounce or pass the ball to the beat of the music. As a bonus, this activity burns up some extra energy.
5. Simon Says Secret Pattern
Children and adults are already familiar with the concept behind Simon Says. This game works on the same principles. Start by choosing an easy rhythm pattern. Chant it for your students, and make certain they understand this is a “secret pattern.” Caution them that they should not echo this pattern back to you if they hear it.
The game then begins in earnest as you chant a series of patterns, having your students echo each one back to you. Occasionally throw in the secret pattern, then see if you can “catch” a student echoing it back to you. If they don’t echo it, they get a point. If they do, then you get a point.
For the Music Student
If your child is fascinated by music, then you’ve probably enrolled him in music lessons. Whether his choice is piano, boomwhackers or tapping on a chair, there are things that you can do to help instill a steady sense of rhythm.
For instance, you may notice during your child’s piano lessons that her instructor counts aloud while the student plays. This helps the child to develop an understanding of the flow and tempo of the music. Simply counting, “One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four” at the proper tempo can help the student to keep playing with rhythmic smoothness.
You can keep this learning going at home by counting the rhythm aloud as she practices. Instead of numbers, consider using other words that might keep things fun and interesting.
Prodigies Music: Where Learning Is Always Fun
At Prodigies Music, we believe that it’s never too early or too late to start learning about music. That’s why our colorful and engaging lessons are designed for every age beginning from infants.
Browse through our free content to get a better idea of our philosophy about teaching children music. We hope that you’ll be inspired when you see just how much fun it is to learn about music. With video lessons, colorful sheet music, desk bells, song books and much more, your kids will be able to hit the ground running with their music education.
We design our programs to be accessible to absolutely everyone. Whether you are a public school teacher with a hundred students, a private instructor, a homeschooling parent or a parent who simply wants their child to have a better understanding of and appreciation for music, you’ll discover that the lessons at Prodigies Music are just right.