Waiting with Toddlers

Waiting with Toddlers

When you’re stuck just waiting with a little one, keeping them in check can be tricky! Toddlers do not like to sit still, or do any one thing for very long. It’s especially tricky when you have to wait quietly.

But waiting is something that we have to do all the time…in the line at the grocery store, in the doctor’s office, in church, at sibling’s activities, even in the car.

One of the best things I’ve learned teaching music to babies and toddlers is a collection of songs and activities to help my children wait!

Many of the songs and activities we in our music classes do are folk songs, finger plays, or little games that have been passed down from one generation to the next by many different cultures. Which means many of them are in the public domain and not copyright protected! Yup, you can find a huge collection of activities online for free. Here are a few of my favorites. If I can find a link to a video, I’ve included it here as well.

If you can sing quietly in your child’s ear and move a bit, here are some good ones:

Horsey, Horsey

This is a fun bouncing song. Sit your child on your lap and bounce them gently to the beat, as if they are riding a horse.

Horsey, horsey on your way.
We’ve been together for many a day.
Let your tail go swish as the wheels go ’round.
Giddy’up! We’re homeward bound.

Optional 2nd part:

I like to take a horse and buggy
As we go trav’ling through the town.
I like to hear old Dublin’s clip clop.
I like to feel the wheels go ’round.

This song is definitely one of my favorites! My mom used to sing this to me when I was a child. When I was old enough to sing it with her, we would sing the parts together like they do in this video.


Pop Goes the Weasel

You probably know this one. Bounce your child on your knees for this one too, but when you say POP, lift your child way up high! They LOVE this!

All around the mulberry bush (some know it as cobbler’s bench)
The monkey chased the weasel
The monkey thought it was all in fun
POP! Goes the weasel

A penny for a spool of thread
A penny for a needle
That’s the way the money goes
POP! Goes the weasel

Here’s a cute simple video for that one too, although the melody for the 2nd verse is a little different than I know it (but it’s lower and easier to sing 😉  )


That’s a Mighty Pretty Motion

That’s a mighty pretty motion [Dee-di-dee] (or use child’s name)
That’s a mighty pretty motion [Dee-di-dee]
That’s a mighty pretty motion [Dee-di-dee]
“Rise, Sugar, Rise!”

The only video I could find of this one was of a recorder playing the melody. The actions are up to your child anyway. Clap quietly, tap toes, wiggle fingers, etc.  On “Rise, sugar, rise” lift hands up high. This is also a fun one to do on drums or with rhythm sticks. If you don’t have drums or rhythm sticks at home, a mixing bowl and a couple of wooden spoons work too!


If you don’t want to sing, here are some little finger plays:

I Wiggle

I wiggle my fingers           wiggle fingers
I wiggle my toes                wiggle toes
I wiggle my shoulders    wiggle shoulders
I wiggle my nose               wiggle nose with finger
I wiggle and wiggle
and wiggle and then        wiggle all over
I start from the top         lift hands  up high over head
to the bottom again        touch toes
Now no more wiggles are left in me   hold arms out with palms up
And I can be still as still as can be      fold arms quietly

Lines 5-8 I learned recently. You might know this rhyme without those words :)


Round and Round the Garden

Round and round the garden    draw a circle around and around on your child’s hand (or tummy)
Goes the teddy bear,
One step, two steps,                      Move fingers up arm (or chest) child’s arm in one, then two steps
Tickly under there!                       Tickle under your child’s arm (or chin)

This one will make your child giggle with delight! Be prepared for them to say, “Again, again!!”
(Even my 7 year old loves this :) )


The Puppy

Call the puppy                          beckon with one finger
and give him some milk.      make a “bowl” with your hands
Brush his coat                           pretend to brush the puppy’s fur
till it shines like silk.

Call the puppy                         put hands to your mouth to call out
and give him a bone.             pretend to hold out a bone
Then scoop him  up               pretend to lift up the puppy
And take him home               pretend to give the puppy a hug

This is a fun one if your child likes to pretend.


Whoops! Johnny

Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, WHOOPS! Johnny, WHOOPS! Johnny, Johnny Johnny, Johnny

That’s it. To do the finger play, start with your child’s pinkie and tap each finger as you work toward their thumb, saying Johnny for each one. When you reach the index finger, slide down the index finger and across the thumb while you say WHOOPS! and then tap the thumb saying Johnny, slide back across the thumb and up the index finger saying WHOOPS! and then tap each finger back toward the pinkie saying Johnny. You can also use the child’s name instead (which they really enjoy). I know it sounds complicated, but it’s really easy! To see a version of this in action, try this video.


Good luck while you wait with your little ones!

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