How to Use Music Throughout the Daily Routine

by HighScope | March 16, 2021
HighScope Program Music

March is Music In Our Schools Month®, a program sponsored by the National Association for Music Education. We hope that you will join HighScope in celebrating the importance of music education and recognizing the benefits of music in the classroom for students of all ages.

Integrating music throughout the day can help young children develop important skills typically outlined in states’ early learning standards, including the following:

  • Executive function
  • Self-regulation
  • Listening and speaking
  • Gross-motor skills
  • Comparing and contrasting
  • Creative thinking and expression

Let’s take a closer look at the importance of self-regulation and executive function skills!

Composed of a broader set of simple and complex skills, self-regulation helps children develop self-control, emotional regulation, executive function, and problem solving. Self-regulation skills support children’s emotional and cognitive development and their ability to achieve goals; complete tasks; control and direct behavior; and to stop, think, and act. As children learn to self-regulate their behaviors, they become more intentional in their thinking, reactions, and interactions.

Executive Function
The components of executive function include working memory, inhibitory control, and mental flexibility. This group of skills helps children to focus on multiple streams of information at the same time, monitor errors, make decisions, revise plans as necessary, and resist the urge to let frustration lead to hasty actions.

  • Working memory — the ability to hold specific pieces of information in the mind and use them over a short amount of time.
  • Inhibitory control — the skill we use to filter thoughts and impulses in order to resist distractions and to pause and think before we respond or act.
  • Mental flexibility — the ability to switch gears and adjust to changing demands, priorities, or perspectives.

How to use music to support children’s executive function and self-regulation skills during large-group time (suitable for ages 3–8):

During thoughtfully planned large-group time activities, children can develop executive function and self-regulation skills by learning to stop, think, and act on their own and peers’ ideas.

1. Adults can use music to support the development of children’s executive function skills by giving them choices

Choices could include different ways to sing, move, and respond during large-group time. By participating in these activities, children are regulating their behaviors as well as practicing and developing executive function skills.

A child at large-group time is listening to instructions on how to move their body to fast and slow music. They then participate in the activity by sharing their ideas and following the movements of others.

    • This child is listening and paying attention instead of interacting with other children or disengaging (self-regulation).
    • This child is interpreting and following instructions in light of their past experiences (working memory).
    • This child is stopping their actions to follow the actions of another child (inhibitory control and mental flexibility).

2. Using music during large-group time activities is a great opportunity to help children develop mental flexibility.

After children have had plenty of experience moving their bodies quickly to fast music and slowly to slow music, you can ask them to do the opposite: move slowly to fast music and quickly to slow music. To do the opposite of what they have been doing, children first need to stop their bodies, think about the music and their reactions, and then act accordingly.


By using music at large-group time, you are helping children develop skills that are vital to their social-emotional learning and their capacity to resolve conflicts. These skills enable children to stop and consider hurtful actions and think through a problem and then act on a solution. By developing these skills at large-group time, children can carry them to other parts of the daily routine.

More ideas on how to use music during other parts of the daily routine (suitable for ages 3–8):


  • Ask children to clean up while music is playing and to freeze when the music stops. Repeat this activity during cleanup time and count how many times it takes to clean/stop before the children have finished cleaning up.


  • Have children paint while listening to fast and slow songs and compare how they may paint differently depending on the music.
  • Ask children to think about how the music makes them feel and have them draw how they feel or think.

WORK TIME (Choice time or Free time)

  • Children may choose to create a series of movements and/or dances to a particular song on their own.
  • Children may choose to create words to a particular song on their own. [Note: Music should not be used as background music. However, the teacher can play music during work time if a child has chosen to listen to music.]
Young children benefit from listening to instrumental music because it allows them to concentrate on the musical characteristics of a piece without being distracted by the words. HighScope’s Big Beats for Young Peeps offers teachers and parents of children from ages 0–8 high-quality instrumental selections that provide rich musical beats and rhythms for movement activities. Big Beats for Young Peeps includes 20 tracks that reflect a variety of musical genres, including hip-hop, jazz, reggae, Latin pop, and techno.


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