Early Childhood: Pattern Matching Games

Early Childhood: Pattern Matching Games

Inviting children to take turns matching patterns helps develop the musical mind/voice connection. Here are some games to try.

Sing into the Mic

Use a microphone prop (a toy microphone, percussion mallet, or paper towel tube), and go around a circle of children, asking each to sing a fragment of the echo song into the microphone. “My Aunt Came Back,” “Oh My, No More Pie,” or “Bill Grogan’s Goat” are good song choices.

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Who Has the Ball?

With children seated with eyes closed, roll a ball to a child while singing on any simple pitch pattern, “Ball, ball, who has the ball?” The child with the ball answers on the same pattern, “Me, me, I have the ball.” A second child tries to identify who has the ball only from hearing the first child’s voice. The child who guesses correctly gets to roll the ball on the next turn.

Fill in the Blank

Sing phrases of songs, leaving out the last beat or beats of the phrase. With the play microphone, select soloists to fill in the blanks with the appropriate word, pitch, and rhythm. “Down Came a Lady” works well.

What’s Your Favorite?

Roll a Nerf ball to a child while asking questions like “What’s your favorite animal (ice cream, vegetable)?” sung with a simple melodic pattern. The child responds with the same melodic pattern. Initially, try so-mi first and later other pentatonic patterns. Children eagerly await rolling the ball and singing their favorite animal, toy, season, etc.

What’s Your Number?

Children love guessing games, especially if they can stump you, and this one has an opportunity match pitch. For example, ask a child to think of a number from one to ten.


The child might answer, to the same melodic pattern, “No, I’m number five.”

Ask the children to pretend they’re a farm animal.


The child should use the same melody to answer, e.g., “No, I’m a horse.”

Be sure everyone gets a turn.

Match the Puppet

Using a puppet with a workable mouth, have children match melodic patterns given by the puppet. When they match, they get a big kiss from the puppet. This is especially useful to encourage three- to five-year-olds to sing.

Spontaneous Drum Patterns

Allow children to explore playing a drum with mallets. As a child plays a rhythm pattern that can be imitated, repeat the pattern on another drum. The child will notice the “game” that he or she has begun and will delight in trying other patterns for you to imitate. Adapted from TIPS: Music Activities in Early Childhood, compiled by John M. Feierabend (MENC).


NAfME Books

Music in Prekindergarten: Planning & Teaching, edited by Mary Palmer and Wendy L. Sims—includes model classroom music experiences. Music and the Young Mind: Enhancing Brain Development and Engaging Learning, by Maureen Harris Spotlight on Early Childhood Music Education: Selected Articles from State MEA Journals Strategies for Teaching Prekindergarten Music, compiled and edited by Wendy L. Sims TIPS: The Child Voice, edited by Maria Runfola and Joanne Rutkowski —Linda C. Brown, February 1, 2012, © National Association for Music Education (nafme.org)