Activities Inspired by ‘The Nutcracker’ to Teach Kids About Music.

Last night I took Yaya to The Nutcracker.
IMG_0252 - EditedIt’s been a favorite December tradition of ours since she was 22 months old:

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In fact, Yaya is such a huge fan of this ballet (I don’t know where she gets it from) that she begged for her 3rd birthday party to be a Nutcracker-themed.

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I loved The Nutcracker as a child and piano student because “Russian Dance” was so fun to play as fast as possible, Mother Ginger’s enormous skirt was fascinating, and getting dressed up to go to the Capitol Theatre in downtown Salt Lake City with my mom was a Big Deal.

I now love it as an adult for many of the same reasons — but I also love it for the way that it makes classical music so accessible to my daughter and my piano students. In fact, I have begun having Nutcracker-themed Christmas parties for some of my piano classes in recent years because of what an excellent teaching tool it is.

Here’s some of the ways you can use the music of The Nutcracker to teach your little one (for your convenience, this post contains affiliate links).

Move/dance to the music. We have a set of movement scarves that are SO much fun. We love to dance around to all music — but especially Nutcracker music — with these scarves (“Arabian Dance”is a great song for this activity):41Z-mPn7LuL._SX466_

Play along to the music with different rhythm instruments (I’m actually working on writing some rhythm ensembles to accompany a few Nutcracker pieces for my piano classes at our parties this year). If you have a preschool-aged child and know a bit about music, practice playing different beats — a quarter note, a half note, eighth notes — and having him follow your lead. Some of our favorite rhythm instruments are egg shakers, triangles, wooden blocks, tambourines and gathering drums (both of my kids favorite — mine, not so much!).eggPoint out different instruments that you hear and ask your child what he hears. Tchaikovsky was gifted with instrumentation, and The Nutcracker has some great songs that really highlight particular instruments in more obvious ways for kids. For example:

“The March” features lots of brass instruments — trumpets, trombones and french horns.

“The Waltz of the Flowers” features a very beautiful harp solo at the beginning of the piece.

“The Russian Dance” features the full orchestra — but if you listen closely you’ll hear the timpani!

“The Chinese Dance” features a piccolo.

One of the reasons we love attending the live performance is to see these symphony instruments in action. We enjoy peeking into the pit as the players warm up before their performance. One time, a musician even let Yaya try out the timpani!

The story of The Nutcracker is a fun one for kids — and if you have a chance to read the book or do some Nutcracker crafts prior to attending the ballet, it makes the ballet that much more accessible for your child.

We enjoy the Ella Bella Ballerina story of the Nutcracker, which highlights some of the elements specific to the ballet performance.

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We also love this set that includes a book, theater and beautiful paper dolls for a great price:

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For a simple craft activity, Yaya and my piano students color pictures of the characters from this coloring book and glue them to craft sticks to create puppets. (Bonus: this coloring book has lots of fantastic information about the history behind the ballet.)

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I hope I’ve helped you understand why I’m so passionate about this ballet, and given you some ideas to use with your own children at home!nutcracker

 

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Comments

  1. Pinned and am featuring at Family Fun Friday!

    Monica
    http://www.happyandblessedhome.com/category/family-fun

  2. Thanks for sharing this! I think my little girl will enjoy them especially she’s really into ballet recently. 🙂

Trackbacks

  1. […] where Santa is traveling on Christmas Eve day, the same way we enjoy Christmas traditions of attending the Nutcracker or driving through lit-up neighborhoods during December that don’t necessarily have their focus […]

  2. […] honored to tell you that my post about musical activities inspired by the Nutcracker was featured on Family Fun Friday — chosen from over 200 links […]

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