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Creating a Successful Music Circle for Infants

Music time can provide infants ages 0-18 months, with opportunities for bonding, body awareness, and laying the foundation of communication skills. Music time focuses on the interaction between the adult and the infant, and may involve songs, finger plays, short stories, and the use of multi-sensory props. For infants, these experiences support skill acquisition in all areas of development.


Infant-teacher interactions are the foundation for infant communication. Quality interactions include: being face to face with the infant, eye contact, smiles, exaggerated facial expressions, and touch. Your voice is a crucial component of engaging and maintaining an infant’s attention. The use of shorter, simpler sentences uttered more slowly with a higher pitch, more emotion, and exaggerated vowels, is commonly known as “baby talk.” Babies enjoy the sounds we make and watching our faces when we talk to them. Infant music time should be more spontaneous than a preschool music circle, as interactions are likely to occur at different times throughout the day and may involve engaging an infant one-on-one or a small number of infants at one time. The spontaneity allows music to occur at any time such as during lunch time when infants are seated in a chair or during free play.


Infant room teachers have long known that keeping their circle time short is a necessity to keep the children interested and engaged. Choosing songs that have lots of repetition and actions is a successful way to establish a child’s ability to focus and attend. Gradually, as children mature, they anticipate what is going to occur in group time and as a result, participate more actively. Much learning happens through exposure to short, spontaneous interactions using a familiar set of songs.

  • actions can consist of the adult moving the infant’s arms or legs to the beat of a song or bouncing them on their lap while singing.
  • rocking or swaying with the infant
  • touching and tickling the infant (e.g., sit with the infant mimicking a spider with their fingers crawling on the infant’s arm when singing “The Eency Weencey Spider”)

Finger Plays

Finger plays involve simple rhymes which expose young children to:

  • the natural rhythm of language
  • awareness of different emotions and feelings
  • hand-eye coordination
  • fine motor skills

Short Stories

Reading invites infants to look, point to, or touch the pages of a book. These all promote social development and thinking skills. Language skills improve through imitating sounds, recognizing pictures, and learning words. Young babies can focus on the pictures, especially faces, bright colours, and contrasting patterns (e.g., black and white). Read as often as possible, for short periods of time, focusing on the pages that the infant enjoys. Books with different textures such as crinkly, soft, or scratchy are great for this age group. So are fold-out pages that can be propped up or books with flaps that can be opened for a surprise. Board books make page turning easier and vinyl or cloth books can go anywhere.

Using Props

With any successful music circle, the use of props is extremely important as they encourage participation and engagement. Remember to keep in mind the developmental level of the child when choosing what props to use. We know that infants make sense of their world mainly through sensory exploration, tasting, touching, listening, observing, visualizing, and moving around. Some prop ideas include:

  • shakers, musical instruments
  • hand held mirror
  • bubbles, spray bottle, squishy balls
  • small manipulatives that relate to the songs, e.g., school bus for “Wheels on the Bus”, finger puppets
  • handkerchiefs/blankets, ribbons, feathers

Infant music circles increase bonding and teach active exploration through the senses. These positive experiences not only impact the infant’s sense of self, but promote healthy social and emotional outcomes thereby enabling them to thrive developmentally.

Examples of songs with actions:

  • Roly Poly
  • Twinkle Twinkle
  • If You’re happy and You Know It
  • Zoom, Zoom, Zoom
  • The Eency Weencey Spider
  • Little Red Wagon

Examples of Finger Plays:

  • The Ants Go Marching
  • Where is Thumbkin?
  • This Little Piggy
  • Way Up High In the Apple Tree

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