Oh We Can Play – an instrument song for toddlers

by May 22, 20121-3 year-old, Preschool Music Lesson Plans, rhythm instrument, teacher confidence

Would you like to try an instrument song for toddlers? Here’s a simple plan for a lesson based on playing musical instruments with your toddler group.

Instruments you need for your toddlers

For this song we use four different sets of instruments: bells, castanets, sticks and drums. You need enough instruments for everyone to have the same one at the same time. This is crucial because we all know the Toddler Rule “If you’ve got it, I want it.” Put the sets of instruments into baskets to make it easy for the child to choose one at the beginning and pack it away at the end. They quickly understand the idea that sets of the same thing go into a basket.

It’s worth me writing you a note about drums because some educators are scared of using them because they can be loud. If you don’t have enough drums for all the children, use square plastic ice cream containers, small storage tubs or baby formula tins. Improvise some beaters or just use your hands. Don’t worry about the noise of group drumming (as long as it’s not baby nap time), because the activity is over in a few minutes and it’s definitely worth doing.

Cue up a recorded version of the song, preferably without vocals so the children can hear you singing or if you can, play it live on guitar or keyboard. Here are the lyrics to one verse of the song, you can make up the other verses depending on what instruments you have.

Oh We Can Play.  

Oh we can play on the silver bells,

This is the music to it,

Shake, shake, shake go the silver bells,

That is the way we do it.

This simple song has a strong beat set up by the repetition of the same note on “we can play” in line one. Model playing in time on the beat but just accept whatever the children do with their instrument – it’s all about experiential learning.

How to do the instrument activity with toddlers

Gather the children around you in a circle.

  • Put the basket of bells in the middle and let the children go and get one or if the group is large, walk around with the basket and let them take one.
  • Remove the empty basket.
  • Play the song and play the bells.
  • Model stopping when the music stops. (Some children will do this instinctively, others will learn to do it the more you do this kind of activity.)
  • Play games with the instruments in between song repetitions e.g. with the bells, try putting them on your toes, ankles or wrists.
  • Repeat the song until you have completed three rounds of playing and stopping with the music.
  • Sing a Pack Away song while you put the basket back in the middle or you can walk around collecting the instruments by letting each child drop theirs into the basket. Some children may not want to give up their instrument, so come back to them later.
  • Repeat with the next three baskets of instruments.
  • For the drums version say “Sticks/hands in the air” when the music finishes. This makes a game out of stopping rather than you giving a severe instruction. Some children may not be able to stop, allow them time to learn.
  • Follow this activity with whole body movement or free choice. The children have been working at a high-level of concentration and need a break.

Here’s the tapping sticks track for you to listen to while you plan your music lesson for toddlers. Oh We Can Play (sticks) Have fun playing – remember it’s all about playing and sharing. And please feel free to post a comment sharing how the activity worked for you.

Music for this instrument activity

If you want to buy or stream this song, search on the Internet for the album “My Hands and Fingers” by Musical Child and choose the song “Oh We Can Play”. There are several versions, one for each of the four instruments.

Do you want to try this?

This song is in the Toddler Lesson Plan called My Hands and Fingers. Have a look at the product description to see what other songs and activities are in this plan.