Finger plays, scarf songs, and blanket parachutes, oh my!

Hello again, friends! Welcome back to part 2 of making music with your little ones. In my previous post which you can access here, I shared some of my favorite movement songs and songs that you can do with your loved ones using simple homemade instruments. This week, I’m so excited to share with you some more of my favorites which incorporate everyday items and toys such as scarves, stuffed animals, and blanket parachutes, as well as some of my favorite fingerplay songs which require nothing more than your hands! As always, I would love to hear about some of your favorite tunes that you use with your children by leaving a comment at the end of this post.

Incorporating Everyday Items & Toys

If you’re reading from the comfort of your home, pause for just a moment and look around. What do you see in the room that you’re in that could be used to engage your child in musical play? Maybe some stuffed animals, a laundry basket, fuzzy blanket, or colorful scarves? Chances are, there are several items around you that can be used in a pinch to liven up music making with your little ones! Below are a few of my favorite songs that incorporate everyday items such as the ones I mentioned above, but the sky is the limit when it comes to using your imagination!

Stuffed Animals & Items

  • Down on Grandpa’s Farm: Using stuffed animals with this song by Raffi is a great way to increase your child’s vocalization and animal identification skills. For those who are younger, you can present one animal at a time and emphasize both the name of the animal when singing and the sounds that it makes. For those who are a bit older, you can present two animals at a time and encourage them to find the correct one that you’re singing about and/or call out its name as well as mimic the animal sounds.
  • Wheels on the Bus parody: In addition to being a good song for targeting gross and fine motor movements, the classic “Wheels on the Bus” song can be easily changed to increase your child’s oral motor skills by imitating various animal sounds. Grab a stuffed animal or other animal toy and simply tweak the lyrics like this: “The [animal] on the bus says [sound x3] / [sound 3x] / [sound 3x] / the [animal] on the bus says [sound 3x] / all through the town.” Yet again, for those who are a little bit older, you can also encourage them to find the animal that you’re singing about by presenting two (or more) animals to them and having them point/touch/grab the correct one.
  • Row Row Row Your Boat: One of my favorite activities to do with my toddlers is the song, “Row Row Row Your Boat.” I turn my large gathering drum upside down and invite each child to take a turn sitting inside while pushing them back and forth as I sing. This activity can easily be adapted in the home environment by using something like a laundry basket or large cardboard box as the “boat” instead of a gathering drum.  If you have multiple children in your household, this can be great for working on turn-taking skills as you can encourage each child to take a turn, or you can work on communication skills by prompting your child to ask for “more” at the end of the verse, however that might look (e.g., verbally, using sign language, pointing to picture icons, etc.). Additionally, young children love the verse that ends, “if you see a crocodile, don’t forget to scream!”, and you can model and prompt your child to say, “ahhhh!” or “oh no!” or anything similar.


Grab a scarf or any small piece of material that can be easily waved such as a wash cloth, bandanna, or even a tissue and get ready to rock and roll! Amazon also has several 12pc scarf packs available for around $10 such as the item listed here which is perfect for kids. They’re super easy to clean, too. Simply throw them in the wash and air dry or tumble on cool (and just make sure your wash and dry are set to cool because otherwise they will probably melt!).

  • “Wibble Wobble” and “Jiggle Your Scarves” by kindyRock on YouTube: These two songs by kindyRock are wonderful for working on gross motor movements with your child. They’ll have a blast following along as you start off slow and get faster in “Wibble Wobble” by moving their scarf side to side and up and down. In “Jiggle Your Scarf,” your child will work on increasing their direction following skills to move in specific ways (including listening for the word “freeze!”) and identify different body parts.
  • A Little Seed: I discovered this song this past spring and love singing it with my group of littles who enjoy the anticipation of creating their own flower. The simple lyrics and melody make it easy to learn and so fun to do!
  • Butterfly Colors Song: This song is excellent for introducing and working on color identification with young ones. You can also encourage them to move their scarves in different ways during the chorus.
  • Hokey Pokey with scarves: Spice up this popular camp song by incorporating scarves and tweaking the lyrics slightly as shown below. In addition to moving your scarf in and out, you can also direct your child to place the scarf on different body parts or move them up/down, side to side, etc. The opportunities abound!

You put your scarf in

You put your scarf out

You put your scarf in

And you shake it all about 

You do the hokey pokey and you [shake/spin/wave/etc.] your scarf around

That’s what it’s all about!

Blanket Parachute

For the following songs, you can easily use any blanket that you have lying around, and of course, Amazon also has several options available in various sizes, although I would recommend the 6ft size such as this one which is under $20 and the perfect size for little ones at home.

  • London Bridge: This traditional English nursery rhyme is great for directing simple up and down movements with your makeshift parachute. Although there are several verses, I use the following two the most, but you can use whatever verses you like and even adapt them as needed. I emphasize the down or up movements as directed by the lyrics at the end of the lines as underlined below. My littles also love hanging out underneath the parachute while the parents assist me in moving it up and down!

London Bridge is falling down

Falling down, falling down

London Bridge is falling down

My fair lady

Take the keys and lock her up

Lock her up, lock her up

Take the keys and lock her up

My fair lady

  • Ring Around the Rosie: Here’s another English nursery rhyme with some fun twists as presented by Makin’ Music Rockin’ Rhythms. Your little ones will love shaking the parachute and falling to the ground!
  • Pop Goes the Weasel: Add some pizazz to this song by using small toys such as stuffed animals and shaking them in the parachute as you sing the lyrics. When you get to the words, “Pop goes the weasel!”, you can give the parachute an extra big shake to pop the toys into the air. On repetitions of the song, you can vary your voice level and tempo of the song to increase your child’s auditory listening skills and anticipation.
  • Animals Go Marching: In my previous post (Making Music with Your Little Ones: Part 1), I talked about using the song, “The Ants Go Marching,” on the drums. This is also a great song to do with the parachute to work on 1:1 correspondence counting skills, too. You can use stuffed animals or small toys and, starting with one toy in the parachute, add a toy for each verse and pause to count how many there are with your child between verses.

As you can see, the opportunities for musical fun are endless! What are some of your favorite ways to make music at home with your children?

Fingerplay Songs

What is a fingerplay song you may be asking? They’re simply songs involving nothing more than your hands! Some examples you may already be familiar with include, “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “Wheels on the Bus,” and “Baby Shark.” The benefits of fingerplay songs plus the ones I’ve already mentioned in the previous section of this post are numerous; they’ve been shown to increase children’s attention and direction following skills, oral and gross/fine motor skills, and their imagination and social development. Below are just a few of my favorite fingerplay songs that I use regularly with my little ones, and as always, I’d love to hear about any of your favorites in the comments section at the very end of this post!

“Slippery Fish” – Yaya and Nono Show

Take a trip to the ocean and move along with a variety of sea creatures as they swim along trying (unsuccessfully) to evade becoming the next animal’s meal! This song is great for targeting your child’s bilateral coordination skills (their ability to use both sides of their body) in addition to their oral motor skills as they have the opportunity to say, “Oh nooo!”, after their sea creature is gulp, gulp, gulped. Feel free to add in or substitute any animals, movements, and/or sounds that you would like, too!

“Peanut Butter and Jelly” – traditional campfire song

Feeling hungry? Never fear, this silly campfire song will have you and your child making some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in no time!

“Five Little Monkeys Swinging in a Tree” – Golden Acorn Music

This is one of my favorite counting fingerplay songs because it engages children in a number of ways, from its focus on counting and imitating movements and facial expressions, to the changes in volume when the alligator comes along, to making the audible “snap” sounds.

“Two Little Black Birds” – Crescendo Baby Music

Here’s an excellent song for introducing opposites to your child such as fast/slow, loud/soft, high/low, nice/mean, and several others.

Thanks so much for joining me this week and I hope you’ve discovered some new and creative ways to make music easily with your little ones! In the comments section below, I would love to hear about some of your favorite songs and ways to make music with your children.