Making music with children has always been one of my most favourite parts of working as an Early Childhood Educator. It’s amazing how turning on a CD and starting a dance party, or coming together at circle time to sing kids songs, making melodies with our voices and instruments, can create such a feeling of community and togetherness in a group.
One of the ways I encouraged singing in my preschool classroom was by using song cards. As pictures and symbols are such a strong language for seeing children who are still developing their language skills, a visual representation of each of the different song suggestions can be both motivating to break out singing, and helpful in communicating what song a child is interested in hearing. After seeing this type of visual song materials so successfully used in a nursery school where I completed my last practicum, I decided I had to make some of my own, which were wildly successful materials in my preschool classroom.
At the preschool, all the cards lived in a medium-sized box (which was dubbed “The Mystery Box”), and at circle time a few different children each day would take their turns to choose a song from the box for the circle to sing. I found this to be a very successful way to teach turn-taking and have the children feel empowered about contributing to circle-time decisions. It also helped the shyer and less verbally confident children in the group offer their suggestions without being held up on having to speak to share their idea for a song.
Now, at home with my toddler, I’m finding these song cards are again useful to encourage the experience of music. My little Z seems to enjoy looking at the different pictures, and quickly made the connection of which cards represent which songs. Beyond sparking my memory to think of new songs to sing (what else is there besides Old MacDonald, again?), they also help to encourage Z to consider singing something else when I just can’t do another verse of “Happy Birthday” or that day’s current over-and-over again choice. Repetition is a fantastic way for children to learn and embrace songs and other concepts, but too much of a good thing becomes awfully boring for those of us who have already mastered the kiddie songs.
At the end of this post I have included the PDF files for the first sixteen song cards I made, as well as the title and lyrics to be printed on the back of the song cards. These files are free for the taking. I would love it for other mamas, preschool teachers and other early childhood educators to use this resource I’ve invested my time into and have gotten such positive use out of.
How to Make Early Learning Song Cards for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Here is how you can make this song cards for yourself, either using my files or by creating your own images and lyrics.
First, I chose some kids songs that I felt would be well-known, and some that I really enjoyed myself and would like to share with children. Then I divided a sheet of plain 8″ x 11″ paper into four equal parts using pencil lines. Each of these rectangles would be used for one song card. I set to work, drawing out a visual to represent each song that I chose.
When the pencil line images were finished, I darkened the lines by going over them with a permanent black fine-line pen, before using my scanner to make a copy of the sheets on slightly thicker paper than the originals.
I wanted to include the title and lyrics for each song on the backside of the cards, so I opened up a word program on my computer and typed out backs for each of the song cards. I arranged these lyrics in a 2 x 2 table on a horizontally-formatted 8′ x 11′ document, then printed them out. If you’re printing directly on the backs of thicker paper (think cardstock), you can figure out how to set them up to print the write song on the back of each sheet using common sense, but you can always print a test page to make sure you know how your printer prints. An easier way to do this is to print out the visuals and lyrics on separate pieces of regular paper and include a thicker piece of paper between the two sides before laminating, making sure you match up each visual and lyrics accordingly. If you’re not laminating, you can paste the papers on either side of a piece of cardstock or cardboard.
To add colour to the images, I used pencil crayons (you could use a variety of different mediums) and enjoyed some therapeutic time colouring them in. If you have young children around, you might consider letting them colour in the images to make them their own. If you’re good with computers, adding the colours using a digital paint program might be another way to add some vibrancy to the images.
When you’re all done adding your splashes of colour, the song card sheets can be cut into individual cards if you haven’t done this before the colouring step (Note: see below before making the decision to cut ). You can then take the cards into an office/print store (I found a small local shop with a laminator in their post-office section) and have them laminated.
As usually happens to me, I went a more difficult route figuring this out. Because my first try at making these cards was on a single sheet of regular paper, the cards were not thick enough for laminating, so I ended up paying the shop personnel to have the (thankfully) uncut card sheets scanned and reprinted (in colour) on thicker paper, cut into four, then laminated. All in all, this cost me about $20. If you are unsure if your cards are thick enough to be properly laminated (the problem I ran into below), you may want to bring the un-cut sheets into the store to make sure they don’t need copied onto thicker paper.
If you want to avoid laminating all together, you can simply insert the un-laminated song cards into a small photo album with individual plastic sleeves . Just remember that if the sleeves are not open on both sides, you will not be able to see the lyrics, and taking the card out of the protective plastic will open up opportunity for it to become damaged. In this case, you could insert the front and back of the cards separately to easily view both sides.
I think the photo-book idea is an appealing way to store and display the cards, laminated or not, but I have not tried this yet myself. Instead, I keep them in a small bag where they can be easily removed and collected again.
As promised, you can access these printable kids songs card files below for free. At this time, I’ve only included the first 16 kids songs cards I created, but keep an eye out in the future as I’ve made many more since then – I just can’t find the files right now! Enjoy! If you end up making any of your own, I’d love to see them and hear how you’re enjoying them! Comment on this post or on The Big To-Do List Facebook page to share the fun. You can also connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
To gain access to view, download, and print the four image PDF files and lyric text file for this free printable, you will need to sign up for my short and sweet weekly newsletter. Head to the page where the files are located, then sign up by adding your email to the secure pop-up form. If the sign-up doesn’t pop up, you can sign up here. After you’ve signed up, check your email to find the welcome email that includes the password to access the printable files.