By Kindergarten and 1st grade children have generally mastered keeping a steady beat. They can chant or sing in time, or keep a pulse on percussion instruments like rhythm sticks or tambourine.
What often gets confused at this age is the difference between the beat and the rhythm of the music.
The Difference Between Rhythm and Beat:
Simply put, the beat is the steady pulse underlying the music the whole way through.
The rhythm is the way the words go. Rhythm can be fast or slow or somewhere in between. The pulse never changes.
Today we'll use two common rhymes for teaching this concept: Baa Baa Blacksheep and Hickory Dickory Dock.
How to Teach Rhythm vs Beat
Introduce the Rhyme
Speak the rhyme for your child in a slightly more expressive, sing-song voice than you would normally use to speak. As you speak, keep the beat with your child by patting on your lap.
Speak Together and Keep the Beat
Once the rhyme has been chanted several times, your child can join in with you. It's important that he or she is very very comfortable with the chant. It's okay to take some extra time making sure he is comfortable speaking it by himself.
Speak Together and Catch the Words
Invite your child to put his hands right up next to his mouth and "catch the words" as they come out. As the two of you clap to catch every single syllable in the rhyme, you will be clapping out the rhythm to the song.
Practice with a Worksheet
These printables give you the option of practicing only one element at a time, or practicing beat and rhythm together.
Pick which song you want to use. Then let your child choose if he is going to point to the steady beat, or "how the words go" (the rhythm) as you speak this chant.
These worksheets are free as a part of my Sheet Music Library.
This can be such a fun way to explore beat vs rhythm with your child. If you have any comments or questions be sure to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below!