Classical music for kids – 7 pieces to listen and play games

Classical music – dull, humdrum, serious, stiff? Do you have similar connotations? Nothing further from the truth! Classical music doesn’t always have to be serious. And unless you’re at a concert, you don’t have to sit still while listening. In fact, listening to some pieces can make you sway, and some may make you trip the light fantastic! Today I’m going to show you some beautiful pieces of classical music for kids that you can use at home while playing with your children.

Children’s classical music and how to play with it

  1. Morning mood (Peer Gynt), Edward Grieg

Perfect piece to listen to in the beginning of the day. It’s good to listen to it right after you have woken up and when you slowly say hello to the world. It’s not only an opportunity to hear fine music, but also a moment to be thankful for a gift of another day we can spend with our child!

The whole suite is perfect for children. It’s a little fairy-tale in its nature and rich in different kinds of sounds. Titles of particular parts are vivid and evocative, but you can also try to encourage children to give those musical pieces their own names.

I also encourage you to add children’s classical music to your daily routine – by listening to or singing the same song while you’re feeding the child, putting him to sleep during the day or after a bath.

  1. Ballet of the Chicks in their Shells (Pictures at an Exhibition), Modest Musorgsky

Once again I suggest listening to the whole series that originally was written for piano, but later has been adapted for full orchestra. With older children you can find both versions on the Internet and then try to compare them.

When it comes to Ballet of the Chicks in their Shells you can use it as a motivational piece. If you want your kid to quickly gather up toys from the carpet, play the piece and make it a challenge: try to do the clean up before the music ends. You can set such a challenge also for younger kids, but in this case help them with cleaning.

  1. The Moldau (My Country), Bedrich Smetana

The Moldau is probably the most famous piece from My Country by the Czech compositor. In this illustrative piece the orchestra leads us alongside the river banks – from the stream’s source, down to the capital city, painting vivid pictures of nature and life of this Czech countryside’s residents.

The plot of the piece goes like this:

A stream is born out of the source (illustrated by two flutes, then clarinet) and then grows into the river – the Moldau illustrated by a beautiful, broad theme based by the compositor on a Czech folk melody. When the Moldau reaches the Bohemian Forest, we can hear merry sounds of hunting horns. Then forests give place to broad Czech fields – and somewhere in there a wedding takes place. We can hear dancing and singing in joyful melodies. When the night falls in the moonlight we can hear the ripples of the river’s waves. They’re illustrated by bowed instruments, harp’s arpeggios, muffled sounds of the horns. Then the Moldau theme comes back. Rapid and rough rhythms paint a grim, dangerous portrait of Saint John’s Waterfalls. After defeating those stone obstacles the Moldau runs broadly and majestically into Prague. Once again we hear the Maldau’s theme, now played by the full orchestra.

  1. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Paul Dukas

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a piece based on Goethe’s ballad of the same title. The story goes like this: when his Master isn’t there, the sorcerer’s apprentice wants to put his powers to the test. He enchants a broomstick to fetch some water. But when there’s already enough water, the apprentice can’t remove a spell. Scared, he cracks the broom with an axe but that doesn’t help – now there are two broomsticks carrying more and more water inside. Entire house could be flooded, if it weren’t for the Master’s return.

You can also try to find a video o Mickey Mouse as the Apprentice, illustrated with music – it may be a good musical alternative for regular children’s films or television.

  1. Flight of the Bumblebee, Nikolai Rimski Korsakow

If children’s classical music has its hits, this is one of them. You can come up with different plays and games illustrated by this piece. Young children seem to really like pretending to be a plane – this time let them pretend to be a bumblebee! Lift the child and move around the room, holding him in the air. You may add some buzzing noises and make a little stop here and there, sitting the child down on the furniture (be careful!).

Older children can ‘transform’ into bumblebees by themselves – by running around, waving their arms and making buzzing noises. From time to time you can stop the music for a while, giving the bumblebee time to sit on a flower. Then play the music again, so it can fly away! This piece is very stimulating, so let the kids go wild!

  1. The Carnival of the Animals, Camille Saint-Saëns

If you don’t know it yet, start by watching this short animation that will lead you into the world of Saint-Saëns and his Carnival of the Animals:

It’s just another fine series of pieces:

  1. Introduction and Royal March of the Lion
  2. Hens and Roosters
  3. Wild Asses: Swift Animals
  4. Tortoises
  5. The Elephant
  6. Kangaroos
  7. Aquarium
  8. Characters with Long Ears
  9. The Cuckoo in the Depths of the Woods
  10. Aviary
  11. Pianists
  12. Fossils
  13. The Swan
  14. Finale

You can find the whole series here.

Every single one of those pieces is an inspiration for acting as different animals. I suggest encouraging children to guess what animals are portrayed by given parts. You can give some hints but let the child come up with the answer. With younger children while listening to music you can tell or read some fairy tales illustrating the animal’s characteristics, you can pretend to be an elephant and move really heavily or make some noises to portray hens and roosters.

  1. Waltz of the Flowers, Piotr Tchaikovsky

That’s a perfect piece of classical music for kids… but not for all of them. Gender is not a thing in my house. My son is a stereotypical boy… and I’ve seen his reaction to Waltz of the Flowers. So I won’t fool you – not everyone will like this piece… Girls will probably like it much better than boys. All you need is this music, a scarf or a ribbon attached to a stick – and your own, home made show can go on.

Ballet for kids musical alternative for TV

Since I want to have a complete control over what my kids watch and hear in the media, we don’t have a TV at home. One of the alternative for children’s TV shows may be a theatrical or ballet performance. The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky is a great example of ballet for kids – and a perfect way to introduce children into the world of theatre. Try it out!

You can watch the whole performance here.

Let me know in the comments if you like these ideas!