Thursday, February 13, 2014

Exploring Tempo in Music with Drum Games {Music Activities for Kids}

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I'm going to share two drum games that we like to do in our house.  I originally wasn't going to post them because they seem so silly, but I know many parents struggle with music ideas for their kids.  So I will share them anyway in hopes that you find them helpful or inspiring.

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Both of the games that I will be describing are an easy way to teach kids about tempo and the corresponding musical terms.  The set up is minimal as it requires one thing: a drum.  But if you happen to have a metronome, then make use of it too, especially for the second game.  For some reason both of my boys are obsessed with playing with the metronome.  They like it so much that it is frequently missing when I need it most (i.e., during piano lessons).

Exploring tempo in music with drum games from And Next Comes L

The beautiful drum that you see in the pictures is one that my parents brought back as a souvenir from their trip to Ireland last fall.  It has a nice handle on the backside for the boys to hold on to.

Music and Movement Drum Game for Kids

For this game, I tap out a steady beat on the drum while chanting a corresponding tempo description.  For example, if I drum slowly, then I will say, "largo, largo, largo" or "slow, slow, slow" to the beat.  Then "moderato" for a medium tempo, "allegro" for a fast tempo, and "presto" for a really fast tempo.  I always start with largo, then gradually move up in tempo.  After a few seconds of presto speed, I will shout, "stop!"  

The idea is to get the kids to march to the tempo of the drum.  So they will start by marching slowly and eventually end up running crazily around.  As soon as I shout "stop," the boys have to freeze in the position that they were currently in.  Then I start drumming and chanting a slow tempo and encourage the boys to move to the tempo again.

It's really quite simple, but K absolutely loves it.  He's not quite two and a half years old, but he can already use the terms "largo" and "allegro" appropriately because of this game.

It's also a great way to get the kids moving when the weather isn't cooperating outside.

Metronome Drumming Game for Kids

We do this game with our metronome.  However, if you don't have one, then you can clap rhythms as an alternative.  The great thing about our metronome is that in addition to ticking out the beat, it has a red light that blinks to the beat.  So the boys can use the auditory and/or visual cues for determining the tempo.

To play this game, I pick a tempo on the metronome and encourage the boys to drum to the beat.  I gradually speed up the tempo so that they end up drumming faster and faster.  Again, if you don't own a metronome, then simply clap a beat with your hands and gradually speed up.

Here's J drumming "moderato."

J drumming moderato from And Next Comes L

And here he was trying to drum "presto."  You can see how tense his neck and shoulders were as he tried to keep up to the beat.  He did a great job keeping up with the tempo!

J drumming presto from And Next Comes L

As an alternative, the boys will take a turn with the metronome and pick their own speed.  K particularly likes to do this version.  He is in that wonderful-I-do-everything-myself-mom phase.  He loves to do everything independently.

Choosing a tempo to drum a beat to from And Next Comes L

Once he found the perfect tempo, he drummed away.

K drumming from And Next Comes L

But all that dancing and drumming is tiring.  Sometimes it's just better to lay on the floor and drum...

K laying down and drumming from And Next Comes L

Other Ideas You'll Love

Drum games for kids - a great way to teach kids about tempo in music and get them moving from And Next Comes L


  1. These are great ideas! You can also get a metronome app on your phone or ipad for less than $2!

    1. An app!! Why didn't I think of that?! Great suggestion, Julie!

  2. Great idea! I love it for my summer camp music class. Simple but genius - they learn musical terms and rhythm while moving and having fun.

    1. Exactly! And then they'll apply those musical terms to other situations like my four year old who says "I cut Allegro" when cutting meat at suppertime. :)

  3. Simple, effective, and FUN! Love these ideas Dyan! Thanks for sharing. Best, Sue

  4. Hey Dyan! I was looking for dance party music for my kids on Pinterest and was "scrolling, scrolling, scr---hey, isn't that J?" :) Thought it was pretty cool to find you on a random Pinterest search!
    Bridget :^)