More Music with Halloween Treats

Hopefully yesterday’s post is helping you make use of your candy stash, but what about all those Halloween bits and bobs that aren’t edible? Let’s start up where I left off yesterday…


Did you collect your candy in a bucket? If so, turn it over (when it’s empty!) and start playing your Halloween drum. Looking for drumsticks? Did you get any pencils? If you got the sort with erasers on the end (or if you got any erasers with holes for pencils) then try using the pencil end and then the eraser end and listen out for the difference in sound.

If you have more than one little trick or treater who collected a can of pop they could both try tapping the sides with their pencil- (or lollypop-) beaters between sips to see who has the most left in their can. Listen out for the difference in pitch: a lower sound = more drink left in the can.IMG_3999

How about one of those mini slinky plastic springs? I tried stretching ours over small tub and using it as a sort of guiro/scraper. You can play it with your pencil or fingernail. NB. A container with rounded corners is useful for keeping your spring in place – you could also try taping it down if it keeps popping off, although it’s fun to experiment with the sound as you alter the stretch of the spring.

Which Hand?

My kids got a good variety of bracelets, stampsstickers and tattoos. For young children still struggling with knowing their right from left, you can use any of these things to help mark the difference.

Which Finger?

It can sometimes take quite a while for young pianists to get the hang of their finger numbers. Dollar store rings can be a fun way to help with this. The simplYoung piano student plays with novelty rings on fingersest activity is to challenge your kid/student to put a ring on (for example) left hand, finger 4 (or one on each of their finger 4s to help with the concept of the hands mirroring each other). You can do one finger at a time, or try to build up a whole hand covered with rings – kids with magpie-like tendencies enjoy doing this with a collection of colourful/shiny toy rings.

For my beginning students I put together a simple version of Mary Had a Little Lamb using rings to help identify which fingers to use. You can grab a copy at the bottom of this post if you’d like.

This is another activity that you can do with stickers or stamps – stamping or sticking something on the sheet music and then putting a matching stamp, sticker or colour on the corresponding hands and fingers.

Memorisation/Keyboard Familiarity

Did your trick or treaters collect any glow sticks/jewellery? How about challenging them to play the piano in the dark with just the light of their accessories to give them the occasional clue (or stop them from getting spooked)!

Breath Control

As usual, a lot of my ideas are centred around the keyboard, but if you collected any bubbles, these are great for practising using a controlled breath for singing or playing wind instruments. Also, just the process of dipping the wand in the mixture (and not spilling it!) is great for hand-eye coordination. See, life skills – not just music 😉


Yesterdays post included a printable composition sheet. We found some cute little pumpkin stickers which could be used to make a composition that lasts a little longer than the candy version! You could use them for dictation activities, too.

Finger Strength / Fine Motor Skills

I love those little pots of Play-Doh as a Halloween treat/loot bag staple.

Try pushing fingeUsing Play Doh for Finger Strengthrs into the dough to practice using tips of fingers rather than pads (making circles rather than ridges) and strengthen fingers.

To make it more piano-specific you can flatten out a rectangle and score lines for the edges of piano keys and practice legato and staccato techniques.

You can also work on rhythmic values and patterns with rolled up dots and ‘sausages’ of dough.

Giving Back

Some kind people give out toothbrushes and dental floss in our area. I guess these are best used for the intended purpose. If you don’t need them you can always pack them up with some other essentials (and treats) and see if they can be used at your local hospital or homeless shelter (or cut out the middle-man and hand them over next time you pass a homeless person).

Of course, I can’t resist adding my musical spin…if you’re about to bin an old toothbrush, you could consider re-purposing it as a drumstick/brush – we made witches’-broom sound effects with paint brushes in our Kindergarten music class last week, but a toothbrush would make a somewhat sturdier sound!

And dental floss could used to make a harp or even string a guitar! I have a packet of dental floss that my youngest unwound while I wasn’t looking so maybe that’s best used for music rather than mouths!

One Last Halloween Treat…

… here’s the Halloween printable for beginner pianists I mentioned above, the clip art isn’t by me – I’ll add the credits to comments.


If you don’t happen to have rings in the colours or designs I’ve used, you can cut out the little pictures at the top of the sheet and stick them onto rings (or directly onto fingers). Alternatively, a dot of washable pen in the appropriate colour will do. Slightly older children will probably be able to follow without using rings/colours anyway. I personalised my copies with the names of my students; I’ve left a blank space for you to do the same.


Musical Uses for Halloween Candy

November 1st = an extra hour in bed and a house full of candy here in Calgary. 🙂

If your little spooks haven’t already devoured their Halloween stash, here are some candy-themed musical activities to try…

Music Notation

Candy Compositions using Rockets Draw an extra-large sheet of manuscript paper and use Rockets, M&Ms or any small candies to make musical notes.

For beginners you can simply practice placing notes on lines and spaces. You can also compose your own short pieces or play a dictation game with one person singing a melodic pattern for the other to arrange on the staff.

Feel free to grab my printable from the bottom of this post to try this at home.

Hand position (for piano)

RockPractising piano curved hand position using Rocket candiesets are a great shape for little hands to get used to the feeling of playing with the tips of fingers rather than the pads. Play around with tapping on the candies and pushing them around to try and get those fingers muscles working – you could try and select different colour candies for different finger numbers.

Making Patterns

Using any candies you could challenge your kids to continue sequences and complete patterns. Depending on the ages of your kids you can vary thCompleting a mathematical sequence using candy barse complexity of the patterns and the position of the missing candies. If they are finding it too easy you can introduce mistakes
for them to fix (your choice whether they are allowed to eat the mistakes!)

This is such a useful activity for early maths skills, too.


I fondly remember the days when my daughter used to call Smarties ‘shakins’, because we cruelly let her believe that they were percussion toys rather than sweets. Smarties, Nerds, Milk Duds… anything that will rattle or roll around in a box can be used to shake along to the beat of the Monster Mash… Even any crisps/chips that got squashed at the bottom of the candy stash can join the rhythm section!

And if you got a can of pop along the way – there’s your drum right there. Make use of those lollies as beaters.

And for the non-candy Halloween treats…

…tune in tomorrow! In the meantime, here’s my candy-ready manuscript paper – I hope you’ll find it useful. candycompositions

Summer Camp Week Two: Tuesday

Today’s activity can be seen displayed as the new banner across the top of this blog.

I printed out a blank piano keyboard for the children to colour. So far E (my 4-year-old) is the only one who has completed hers, so it is her version you see at the top of the page. I gave her suggestions for which colours she should colour each note and showed her where to find them.

Six-year-old L is already working on finding her way around the keyboard, so I’ll be asking her to find all the Cs herself and colour them a certain colour, and so on with D, E, F…

Summer Camp Week One: Theory Thursday

We’re getting crafty and making a rhythm chooser today.  This idea came to me after the kids picked up free fortune tellers from our excellent local library as part of their summer reading program.

All you’ll need are:Young children doing rhythm activity

  • 1 sheet of paper
  • scissors
  • pencil.

I was going to put together a step-by-step, but it really seemed unnecessary once I came this very clear explanation on good ol’ Wikipedia.

I put a semibreve (whole note), dotted minim (dotted half note), minim (half note) and crotchet (quarter note) on each corner of my chooser. Knowing the extent of my children’s musical knowledge I also wrote how many beats each of these was. If the kids were choosing I let them point or say how many beats they wanted and I then said, for example, ‘Ok, that’s a crotchet – the filled-in circle with a stalk – 1 beat’. If I was the one doing the choosing I would ask for the note by name, ‘Semibreve, please,’ and then if they looked quizzical I would point and say something like, ‘That’s the circle with no stalk, 4 beats’.

On the next section I put 8 simple rhythm patterns, making sure to have a good balance of even and odd. We tried clapping these to make our choices with varying levels of success. This was challenging for my younger two (ages 3 and 4) but they were able to count the number of claps and compare it with the number of dots even if they didn’t get to grips with the exact rhythms. With my eldest (age 6) I tried repeating with the Kodaly rhythm syllables (ta for a crotchet, titi for a pair of quavers etc – click here for a more complete guide) as I know she is familiar with that from her school music lessons.

We came up with a variety of musical activities to put as our surprises under the flaps – from conducting along with orchestral music to finding middle C on the keyboard to dancing to a favourite song.  I’m looking forward to making and decorating more choosers with the kids later. In the meantime I’ve uploaded a copy of the chooser we’ve been using; if you want to print this out you’ll need to cut off the bottom blank strip before you start folding.

Click here to see our rhythm chooser

This first chooser is pretty amateurish, but if anyone is interested I can try to put together something more polished to share in due course – let me know in the comments.