Here’s a list of movement scarf activities for preschool and kindergarten music classes. Some of the activities can be used with toddlers as well. These can easily be added to your lesson, especially if kids are already going to have the scarves on hand for something else you’ve planned.
Peek-A-Boo by Lynn Kleiner
If you use scarves in your classroom, you know that the first thing kids want to do is put them on top of their heads. I found that if I just start with this song, my tots and Pre-K classes are less preoccupied with covering their faces. Have the kids pull the scarf off of their heads after each verse. Mix it up by having them pull off a buddy’s scarf, or covering their beat buddies/beanie babies and playing peek-a-boo with them. You can also increase the tempo each time you repeat the song.
Little Johnny Brown
Little Johnny Brown is an African American folk dance with a deep meaning. Learn about the history here. There are many variations and ways to use this song that can be found online, but here are two simplified versions for Pre-K because you can use it with a movement scarf, and everyone does the same thing at the same time. The first version is by Sally’s Music Circle.
- Refrain – start out in a big circle, spread scarf out on the floor
- Verse 1 – pick-up scarf and walk in a big circle
- Refrain – spread scarf out on the floor
- Verse 2 – tiptoe in a circle with the scarf
- Refrain – spread scarf
- Verse 3 – flap hands in a circle with scarf in hand
- Refrain – lay scarf in a basket or clean-up space to be put away if you are finished with them
The second version is by Rasheta Patton. Children stay seated and fold their scarves and “make a motion.” There’s also a cute goodbye song at the end of this video!
The Cuckoo in the Heart of the Woods by Camille Saint-Saëns
This one is simple, students throw their scarves in the air when they hear the clarinet give a “cuckoo!” I sometimes use this as an entrance song for Kindergarten as well. I pass out scarves while students are lined up in the hallway. They enter and line up across the back of the room. Every time they hear a “cuckoo,” they toss their scarves forward and step up to that spot. They do this until eventually, they arrive at a spot to sit down for our hello song. I suppose this could work in reverse where they could line up for dismissal from their seats.
What a Wonderful World performed by Louis Armstrong
The form of this song makes it super easy to create your own scarf routine. Choose movements for each section and have students offer ideas as well.
- Verse 1
- Verse 2
- Bridge – make this move distinctive to indicate a unique section
- Verse 3
I like to do a specific motion for repeated phrases. For example, students can make two large circles in front of them every time they hear “what a wonderful world.”
Scarf Songs from Jbrary
The librarians of Jbrary have delivered with this playlist of over 20 scarf activities for Pre-K!
Danse Macabre – Camille Saint-Saëns
I like to use this piece in October and pretend that the scarves are friendly ghosts. We start seated on the floor with our ghosts. When the violin enters, we stand. When the flute begins, we fly our ghosts. There’s a lot of back-and-forth between the high and low voices here so fly high for the flutes and violins, and low for the cellos and basses. Once students are able to differentiate the different sections they can practice flying about the room. When the accelerando happens around 3 minutes in, we fly back to our seats and end the music. A fun intro to this activity would be to use the ghost scarves for vocal explorations.
Rocketship Run by The Laurie Berkner Band
This is one of my all-time favorite scarf activities. I created it for Pre-K, but I’ve used it with kids as old as 2nd grade and they all love it. We start with our scarf rockets on the ground, and after “5-4-3-2-1-Blastoff,” we throw them into the air. We “fly” them to the sun and the moon, but with every countdown, we crouch and do the blastoff move. During the verse where we travel to the stars, we toss our scarves in the air and try to keep them up by popping them with our hands.
- Refrain – crouch down for “5-4-3-2-1” and throw rocket scarves high into the air with every “blastoff.”
- Verse 1 – fly around the room to the “sun.” This can be a designated spot or they can fly freely.
- Verse 2 – fly to the moon
- Verse 3 – fly to the stars. For this verse, toss the scarves in the air and have students pop them up with their hands to keep them from falling to the floor.
- Verse 4 – fly to Earth (their seats).
- Surprise Refrain
What a Miracle by Hap Palmer
This a cute song for moving different body parts. There are directions in each verse on how to move. On the refrain, I have students pick up their scarves and make big circles. You can extend this lesson by having each student tell the class something that makes them special.
The Second Line by Johnette Downing
Johnette Downing has an album of fun New Orleans-style scarf songs for kids. I like Shake Your Scarves and Scarves on Your Laps. I also use The Second Line and have the kids pretend like they are in the Second Line of a parade and walk in a line waving their scarves.
The Colors are Gliding by Lynn Kleiner
This is a gentle song that’s great for putting scarves away. Sway with the scarves and let them fall for verse 1.For verse 2, fold them up and put them away.
Oh My Goodness, Look At This Mess! by Sweet Honey in the Rock
“Oh My Goodness, Look At This Mess” is a favorite with my kids. We play with our scarf toys while seated on the floor. During each refrain, I say, “Uh-oh, someone’s coming!” and we hide the scarves using our bodies. If kids are wearing shorts, make sure they don’t stuff the scarves up their shorts! Mouths and masks are also off-limits! During the final verse about cleaning up and taking personal responsibility, we put our scarves away.
I hope this list is helpful if you are in need of a handful, or just one scarf activity. If you are looking for more Preschool and K activities, you can find them in my shop. My Boom Cards are especially great for distance learning assignments!
These are some awesome activities! thank you so much for including the diversity and introducing me to little Johnny brown!
I’m glad you can use the activities! I tried several different versions of Little Johnny Brown with my classes, so it might be fun to look at multiple versions and vary the actions for your students!