“On The Road” Musical Learning Activities

New research by music educator Lisa Huisman Koops has revealed that the family car is an excellent place to foster musical development and family togetherness! Read the recap of this study here.

Here are some great family activities you can do in the car to help bond with your children and create a musical learning environment.


Yes you can – even in the car! Try a hands-and-feet dance while seated. “Skinnamarink” is the quintessential dance-in-the-car song (with the “I love you” line for a big selfie-hug!) You can also encourage your child to imaginatively ‘dance’ his or her favourite stuffed animal along to the music.

Play hand games.

Not you – your hands should stay on the wheel, haha! You may be limited in loco-motor movement, but you can keep little arms, hands and fingers busy with finger plays, clapping along to music, and making up hand gestures to songs. The “Wheels on the Bus” is a great example of this; wheels go round and round, wipers go swish, swish, swish (back and forth across the body) etc.


Clapping is easy in the car – but parents, only when the lights are red!

Play a wishy-washy echo game.

Use phrases from favourite songs or chants like, “Wishy-washy, wishy-washy, wishy-washy, WHEEEEEEE!!” that will get your child’s attention fast! Use high, low and in-between voices. Say it fast, then slow, or loud, and then soft. Get your children to copy you.


Who can resist singing along to catchy songs like “Old MacDonald” or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”? Songs like “Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree” or “Row Row Row Your Boat” are easy to sing a cappella (without musical accompaniment) or even as a round if you have older children. Just be forewarned that the songs may run around in your head the rest of the day. Ah, the things we do for our kids!

Remember quiet time.

Being a kid requires so much energy! Learning is happening constantly, which means that the brain needs periods of down-time to recuperate. Allow time for quiet, relaxing music in the car. Rocking and humming can be very soothing for the fussy or tired traveller. Whether it’s you singing your child’s favourite lullaby, or simply turning on a quiet time playlist, you give your child a gift by teaching him or her to relax with music.

Relax with music

Relax with music

Listen to the music with a critic’s ear.

This activity is great for pre-schoolers and older children. Start through your playlist. After each piece, talk about what you just heard. If possible, engage your child in conversation about the music. Is it fast or slow? High or low? Are there instruments? What instruments do you hear? Are there voices? What kinds of voices? What do you like about it?

Colour to music.

This is another good activity for pre-schoolers and older children, provided they don’t suffer from motion sickness! Choose a fast-slow piece, or a high-low piece and let your child enjoy colouring to the music, focusing on responding to the changes. You’ll love seeing their artistic renditions of the music they hear.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of musical activities you can do in the car with your kids, but hopefully it’s given you some ideas to start with! Feel free to comment below with other suggestions if you do something that works really well with your kids in the car.

The musical family car

Singing on the road…



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