Basic Beats: How to Identify Quarter and Eighth Notes

Let’s continue our month of rhythm and beat. Last week we spent our time playing and singing our way through rhythm vs beat (read about it here, here, and here!).

This week we’ll move on to quarter and eighth notes. Children traditionally learn about quarter and eighth notes in first grade so this week's activities are geared toward children around 6 years old.

Ready to see what we're doing this week with quarter notes and eighth notes?
We will:

  • play them
  • sing them
  • listen to them
  • read them
  • write them

It's going to be a busy few posts!

Basic Beats for Kids- Quarter notes and eighth notes.jpg

Sound Before Sight

Before we show the notation for quarter and eighth notes, we want to make sure your child can identify the difference between the two sounds. We do this by listening for how many sounds we hear on the steady beat.

This “sound before sight” approach does a few things that will help your child immensely in the long run:

  • It helps develop listening skills
    • Children are fantastic listeners. They can differentiate minute changes in sounds if we give them a chance. When we introduce what a quarter note and eighth note look like before we let the child experience what they sound like and feel like, we’ve taken away the chance to let the child listen.
  •   It helps with sight-reading later
    • When your child has internalized the sound and feel of quarter and eighth notes, he will be able to read and play, or read and sing them effortlessly.

Here is everything you need to know about how to teach your child quarter notes and eighth notes: 

Day one: Listen for one or two sounds on a heartbeat


Key Concept:
My body has a steady beat just like the song does

Listen to Snail, Snail and keep a steady beat. Tell your child that this steady beat in the song is just like our heartbeat in our bodies.

One Sound on a beat:

Invite your child to keep a steady beat as you sing together. Invite your child to notice that the first word “snail” has only one sound on a beat. Notice the same thing for the other “snail”s in the song.

Two sounds on a beat:

Next, sing the second phrase by itself:

"Turn around and round and round"

Key Concept: Sometimes one sound lives on a heartbeat. Sometimes two sounds live on a heartbeat.

How many sounds do you hear on a heartbeat when the song says "turn a", "round and", and, "round and"?

You can magnify the difference between one and two sounds by clapping to "catch the words" just like we did last week here.


And there you have it!

A simple way to prepare your child for quarter notes and eighth notes. This is all you need to do the first day. Easy peasy!!

Enjoy your beats today,
- Victoria