• Join the fun! A music & movement program is a library program in which participants engage both in physical activity and the creation of music. Based on research Let’s Move in Libraries conducted in Spring 2017, over 600 public libraries in the U.S. and Canada have already offered some sort of music and movement program. Even more have joined in since then! Use this webpage to get the information you need to start.
  • What do librarians have to say about how they got started? We asked members of our network how they got started with this program. Here are some of the common responses (full responses below):
    • Visit other libraries that already offer this program, see how it works, and then try it out at your library
    • Start with a few trial programs, and see if your community likes it
    • Many librarians report developing this program as part of the expansion of early literacy programming
    • Add your voice! Use this form to help us build this Program Idea page.
  • Did you know that this program can be inter-generational? Although typically targeted at young children, music and movement programs can and are offered for all ages. Typical programs seek to engage caregivers throughout, and a growing trend is to involve senior citizens. Kate Oland, Manager, Baddeck Public Library, Nova Scotia, reports: “We began offering a babies/toddlers program at our local seniors’ home, and quickly realized that the seniors enjoyed participating in the songs. We used Montessori for Dementia principles to build a program that incorporates literacy, creative play, music, and movement to support and engage little folks, their parents, and senior participants.” Other librarians reported offering programs like “African Drumming Circles” that seek to involve all ages moving and making music together.
  • Adults-only music and movement? Did you know that you can offer a music and movement program just for adults? It’s true! That is what cardio drumming is all about! There may be a local fitness studio in your community you can work with to bring adults-only music and movement to your library. Some libraries already offer this program.
  • Let’s Move in Libraries Resources to get started: We have long supported Music & Movement programming. In 2018, we teamed up with Ashley Batchelder, Assistant children’s librarian, Mt. Zion District Library, Illinois, to highlight how Ashley does her program at the annual conference of the Association for Rural & Small Libraries. That same year, we teamed up with Barbara Scott of Bucyrus Public Library to highlight her Music, Movement, and More program at the biennial Institute of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). More resources to get started are available on the bibliography tab of this webpage.
  • What do librarians have to say about how they got started (full responses)?
    • We started it a couple years ago as a 4 week Pop-Up Storytime during our December holiday break to see if patrons would enjoy it.
    • Children love music and it helps develop language skills and creates a bond between caregiver and child. We decided to offer a separate class that included mostly music.
    • We started by offering a one time class. When we saw it was very popular, we started offering it every other week. Now it is offered every week and we’re considering adding another session each week due to popularity.
    • Our program originally started out as an offering through our local Help Me Grow organization. The program was RIF’d and I thought it was too important to just let die.
    • I took a yoga training for children and started something.
    • When we became a Family Place Library we needed to increase the number of early childhood programs we offered. There are not many places in our town where kids can “get their wiggles out.” So we decided a music and movement program would be our first new program.
    • While visiting a Nebraska library (when on vacation), my 3 yr old grandaughter went to a music & movement at her library. She jabbered about it quite a bit and I was anxious to go with her and see for myself! The librarian that did the program was very happy to share her experiences with me and I couldn’t wait to come back and try it at our library!
    • I love music and movement and so do my own kids. I assumed families would enjoy programs like this.
    • We transitioned our evening family storytime, which wasn’t very well-attended, to a music and movement program
    • We began offering a babies/toddlers program at our local seniors’ home, and quickly realized that the seniors enjoyed participating in the songs. We used Montessori for Dementia principles to build a program that incorporates literacy, creative play, music, and movement to support and engage little folks, their parents, and senior participants.
    • We hired a Youth Services Librarian Assistant who has a strong background in music. He suggested we begin a music and movement program to provide greater outreach to the community.
    • We wanted to get a new mix of parents and children in; as part of our early literacy push.
    • We needed to target the younger kids coming into the Library in the morning hours. We decided to have a Dance Party as our Wednesday Tunes for Tots was already successful but has a cost associated with it, so we wanted to offer something free.
    • Traditional storytimes are too restricted for the younger library patrons. We needed a program where toddlers – and their parents/caregivers – could make noise in the library.

Librarians that offer movement and music programs report that it can be very helpful if:

  • the program leader has some form of musical background and understanding, whether playing an instrument, reading music notes, dancing etc. It is fun to incorporate and introduce the basics of musical notes.
  • A bit of energy is needed as movement activities can be tiring!
  • Instruments are highly suggested. Each child should have 1 of each instrument unless you are using them for open play.
  • Have a variety of activities such as actions songs, instruments, marching songs and rhymes, etc. Don’t spend too long doing any one thing as they lose interest quickly.
  • Another consideration is to repeat songs frequently. I generally use the same songs for a month, often related to holidays or seasons. That way the children can learn the song and by the end of the month they participate much more.
  • It takes time to get a themed program together. Between our programs, we normally had 1-1 1/2 months to prepare for the next one. And there is a lot of COOOOOL music out there. Don’t get stuck on just the Musikgarten stuff!
  • It is difficult to require sign ups with very small children. I think sign ups work with older kids, but with the under 6 set, and definitely with babies, drop ins are best practice.
  • Space! You need a large fairly open space for children to be able to move around. We had to get creative with the program when our program room was being renovated and we had to hold the program in the children’s room. It was not nearly as good a program in a small space.
  • Consider the space that you have. Will there be space for children and adults to do the movement you planned? Will the music disturb other patrons? Are there ways to use movement and music in spite of less than ideal spaces?
  • Decide your age group. Toddlers to preschool is what I chose to do. But even at that age span, we had a few that bumped into each other! No tears, but if I had older kids mixed with toddlers, I would be afraid that there might be more collisions that could end up with someone crying!! It can get crazy!
  • How will you manage props and instruments? storage? Instruct the children how to use them safely, especially toddlers
  • If possible, buy cost-effective resources like shaky eggs and rhythm sticks. If no instruments, use hands to clap and mime movements! You are your own instrument.
  • Keep in mind that some instruments will need to be replaced.
  • Freeze Dance is a huge hit in our program. Start a song and tell the kids to freeze when you pause the song. It’s guaranteed to get them giggling!
  • Age Demographic is key. I also think consistency in music is key. As adults we don’t necessary enjoy hearing the same set list over and over again but for those just developing motor skills and cognition is it something they look forward too. We have seen little ones just learning to pick their heads up grow and progress to full on dance numbers at our Dance parties. I also think variety within the program is key. We do three stretching and body awareness songs, three instrument songs, then full on dance party at the end with Disney songs and bubbles.
  • Don’t be afraid of silly songs!!
  • Chaos can happen when you involve movement and little kids. It is important to be clear about your expectations. Add quieter movement and games between the raucous ones.
  • Dress to move, bend, jump, etc.! Bring water! Be sure to communicate that the kids can’t possibly do it wrong! And, they will be ready for nap time!! Always start with something slow and lead some kind of stretches while explaining why we stretch before dancing! Only use a bubble machine during 1 song!
  • A lot of the activities include tapping, clapping, and dancing. Also, repetition is key. You’ll never run out of activities because reusing them is a key to success.
  • At the end I list the songs we’ve done on our Facebook page with a note that says of “here’s what your child learned with this song…”
  • Some of the music was made for children, but I also used carefully chosen songs by known adult artists! (ie: Bananas, by Jim Gill; Better when I’m dancin’ from the Peanuts movie; I like it like that from New Orleans Playground; All together, now by the Beatles!) There was always one song I would hand out scarves, or bells and the kids would love to use these while they danced.

It is also important to consider how you will assess your music and movement program. Here how librarians assess their programs:

  • When we started offering the Pop-Up Music and Movement class we had a questionnaire available at the end of the class for patrons to fill out. We also did a self-assessment after the session was done. We found out our community loved it.
  • Success for us comes when we see the kids having fun and continuing to come to programs on a weekly basis. We want to see the kids enjoying themselves and leaving with big smiles on their faces.
  • I worry less about this and more about the kids’ enjoyment as I have witnessed if the kid is enjoying it and moving around, this is a positive.
  • We do a survey at the end of each session. It’s important to know what folks like/think about what we do.

We also asked librarians if they had any other thoughts or advice for getting started with this program. The most common response was just try it out and see how it goes. Here is what librarians had to say:

  • DO IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Just do it! Start your own musical and movement practices and bring those to work. Don’t be afraid to sing and clap!
  • See if there is another program in the area you can observe. Networking is amazing when starting new programs!
  • Do it!
  • Don’t be intimidated to start a music and movement program – especially from ages birth – preschool.
  • Just start one, your patrons will love it! There’s a ton of literature out there on how music/learning/reading are connected. Also the social emotional aspects (listening, taking turns, etc.)

We asked librarians if they have worked with any partners to develop their music and movement programming. Librarians commonly report going to other libraries to observe their music and movement programs and talking with the librarians that offer the program. Beyond that, here are some ideas of where you can go in your community, region, and online to get help:

  • I have sat in on a few Music and Movement classes in the area when they are in session. There are some wonderful Youtube Channels to follow as well (GroovaRoo BabyWearing Dance Class, Kindermusik to name a few)
  • We used high school student and local talent to showcase their skills and share them with your kids
  • My co-teacher is a certified Musikgarten music therapist. We also have been extremely lucky to have 6 years of funding through our local United Way!
  • The State library hosted Katie Scherrer for a Stories, Songs, and Stretches training that was just great.
  • I shadowed at a local dace studio to observe what types of movements they teach to children 4 and under, and ways to model movements to children to help with motor development.
  • Music schools
  • Music therapists
  • Preschool teachers
  • Kindermusic educators
  • I used Montessori for Dementia resources to develop our Wee Ones program at the senior center
  • Library staff with musical backgrounds
  • We talked to the pre-k classrooms at our local elementary schools, local headstart and daycares to determine the best time for the program.

Music and movement programs can be as simple as clapping and stomping without any supplies, or they can be as complex as multiple instrument programs led by trained outside professionals. Different types of music and movement programs have different costs associated with them. As the responses below show, the more funding you have available the bigger you can make your program, but there is no harm in doing something simple and small! Here is what librarians had to say about the costs associated with their programs:

  • A simple music and movement class has no cost for most libraries. To start you need music (streamed or on CD) and a way to play it (laptop, phone+bluetooth speaker), which most libraries already have. We’ve hired groups to come in and do music and movement which costs $100-$300. We planned this cost into our programming budget.
  • We occasionally need to replace egg shakers, buy bubble solution, but we have had other quality instruments for many years. All of our movement based activities require no cost, just energy! 🙂
  • Initial budget should be made for instrument investment (shakers, drums, scarves, bells etc.) We have asked friends of the library to help in the past.
  • We already had most of what we needed. We had shaker eggs, jingle bells, colored scarves, a small hand drum, bubbles, an iPod and speaker, and a parachute. We bought colored carpet circles, more shaker eggs, and rhythm sticks. The Friends of the Library gave us some start up money for supplies.
  • All of our costs are covered from the money that we receive through the United Way. I pay my co-teacher a stipend and any extra instruments (other than the ones I already owned) are paid for with United Way funding. We also received a special grant from the United Way to purchase balls and buckets for our cardio drumming. We’re now working on a second grant to purchase a sound system so that we can take our program “on the road” and out of doors this summer during a couple of community First and Third Friday events.
  • The initial start up of this program was approximately $100. We had some overlap where we already had items from other programs we were running. We had instruments already, and some items had been purchased for our Family Place space with grant money. We purchased songs from Amazon music, and some additional gross motor equipment. We used funds from our programming budget to make these purchases.
  • Everything I used (except a bubble machine – $30) we already had. I used music cd’s from the library, scarves that we used in story times, bells from story times.
  • We have used Foundation funds to buy sufficient quantities of props like scarves, shaker eggs, etc.
  • We purchased child-friendly musical instruments (egg shakers, jingle bells, drums) for about $250 (funded out of program funds raised through a fund-raiser). We acquired a large collection of silky scarves for waving in the air (thrift store), some small balls (dollar store), etc.
  • We have started with the basics – shaky eggs and rhythm sticks. These simple and cost effective tools can provide an excellent start for toddlers and preschoolers. We use Amazon music or YouTube for songs to sing and dance to.
  • At one point we hired a music teacher to do a separate music program. But for the music and movement, we just used CDs, scarves, and musical instruments (shakers, bells, cow bells, drums, xylophone, etc) that we already had.
  • At our Wednesday program a women comes in and sings with her guitar, brings instruments as well. This is $5. Most do not mind paying, however. It is what spurred us to offer a free music program which we do on Fridays!
  • Music and movement could be managed for free depending on the age of participants. Our group is birth to 4 years old so we could primarily sing action songs like ‘Wheels on the Bus’ and ‘I’m a Little Teapot’ for the program. We bought some maracas for the first program and plan to purchase some handheld drums in the future. These costs will come out of our special programs budget.

Whenever you offer something new at your library, you need to get community and staff buy-in. With a program like music and movement that should be easy. The benefits of music for brain development are myriad, and when combined with movement play a huge role in gross and fine motor development. Music and movement also contributes to bonding between caregivers and kids. Here are some other feedback we received from librarians that offer this program about how they advertise the program and get community and staff buy-in:

  • We have flyers and advertise in our local newspaper. United Way does a great job of promoting us. I regularly mention the program on our local radio program. We have fliers in-house and that can be sent out to interested preschools.
  • Just put it on the schedule and talk it up whenever you can.
  • I tell patrons about the program, that it runs 35 minutes, involves move along songs, and gross motor play, as well as time to explore different instruments. We also end with parachute games. Most commonly patrons are excited about the chance to bring their child somewhere where they can get their wiggles out.
  • We describe it as “A program for little ones that love to move!” We still call it a story time – I am careful to use a quieter song for the last song (so they can slow down!) and then I read a Big Book from our collection at the end. This helps to slow them down before they go home!
  • We emphasize fun as well as developing early literacy as well as social, emotional and physical skills.
  • We promote on our Facebook page, list the program on our website, our Event Bookmarks and on the outside sign, posters around the library, articles and photos in the newspaper.
  • We are very upbeat and positive about being a kid-centric library, we tell them that by showing kids fun, movement, and positivity at the library, young kids will grow up seeing the library as a place of lifelong learning and adaptability
  • Music and movement is important for young children. Studies show that singing and dancing help with speech and coordination.

Here are two examples of flyers libraries use to advertise their programs. These may help you get the word out about your programs!

We also asked librarians what types of music and movement programs they offer. Here is what they had to say. These different varieties can help you get an idea about how the idea of moving and making music at the library can be adapted in countless different ways.

  • Family Music and Movement, Babywearing Dance Class, Toddler Music and Movement
  • Music and movement for 0-5 years old
  • We offer a weekly program run by a librarian
  • Two or three times a year we partner with a local music school to do a supplementary program with additional instruments and a trained music teacher
  • Our 6-year run with this one has been great! Using current music (not the Musikgarten stuff that HMG used when we started out) has been great. Both my co-teacher and I have a great supply of CDs and access to music
  • We don’t follow a prescribed program. I mirrored mine from what I learned at the dance studio. We do 15 minutes of move along songs (ex. Head Shoulders Knees & Toes, followed by 15 minutes of gross motor play with balance beams, tunnels, hopscotch etc. During this time the children have access to the instruments to play along with the songs playing. We end with 5 minutes of parachute play.”Low cost music and movement: Baby Lapsit (birth-walker), Toddler Time (walker-2), Preschool Dance Party (ages walker-six)
  • African Drumming Circle (families), Recycled Percussion Obstacle Course (families, teens), Belly Dancing (teens and adults), Musical Composition Workshop (teens), Trash Talk Percussion Ensemble (teens), Instrument Petting Zoo (all ages), Themed Musical Storytimes (by local music therapist)
  • Monthly Music and Movement for ages 1-5
  • Aside from our Wee Ones program, we have hosted programs put on by outside organizations, including several different dance workshops that introduced the public to different forms of dance/movement (modern dance, West African dance, etc.)
  • We offer Music Fun w/ Mr. Jeff, Preschool Yoga, and we incorporate music and movement into 70% of our story time programs.
  • We called it Freedom of Movement – songs, dances, rhythm, physical activities
  • Tunes for Tots which is a music and instrument based program. then Dance Party which is dancing, instruments and body stretching and spacial awareness.
  • We currently only have a toddler music and movement program, but plan to add one for older kids in the future.

There are a ton of great resources out there on how to get started with music and movement programs. Here are some of our favorites, some of the favorites of our advisory board, and a list of librarians willing to answer your questions. Let us know if there is anything else we can do to help you get started making music and moving at your library!

Scherrer, Katie. 2017. Stories, Songs, and Stretches! Creating Playful Storytimes with Yoga and Movement. Chicago: American Library Association. See also Katie’s website and thisPhysical Literacy Handout from her training sessions.

Bounce ‘n Books: A movement-based story time for all ages.

Allison Kaplan. 2014. Get up and move! Why movement is part of early literacy skills development. Great overview of how movement came to storytime programming.

Stephanie Prato. 2014. Music and Movement at the Library. ALSC Blog.

McNeil, Heather. 2012. Read, Rhyme, and Romp: Early Literacy Skills and Activities for Librarians, Teachers, and Parents. ABC-CLIO.

Marge Lockwaters. 2010. Blog post on Toddler Dance Parties between storytime sessions. Tiny Tips for Library Fun.

Julie Dietzel-Glair. 2013. Books in Motion: Connecting Preschoolers with Books through Art, Games, Movement, Music, Playacting, and Props. ALA. [Chapter on Movement].

Additional resources suggested by librarians: is great for baby, toddler, and preschool storytimes. Videos that include motions and explanations of what kids learn from the songs and movements.

You Say Goodbye and We Say Hello: The Montessori Method for Positive Dementia Care

The following librarians have agreed to be expert resources for Music and Movement programming. Reach out to them with additional questions!

Barbara Scott, Children’s Librarian @ Bucyrus Public Library, Bucyrus, OH 44820
419-562-7327 x104
Also see this program’s Facebook page: Music, Movement and More.
Barbara also put together FAQ to explain her library’s program. It’s a great resource!

Maria Suarez, Gilford Library, New Hampshire
603 524-6042

Kate Oland, Manager, Baddeck Public Library and Victoria County Outreach,

Jeffrey Knox, Youth Services Assistant
Baxter Memorial Library, Maine

Kristina Kellan, Summers County Public Library, 304.466.4490

Are there additional resources you use at your library to support Music & Movement programming? Let us know using this form and we’ll add them to this webpage. 

View All Programs