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Art to Heart

Movement and Lap Games

The idea behind the Music and Motion classes at St. Louis’ Center of Creative Arts, says teacher Deborah Harris, is that “you can be a musical person if you can keep a steady beat, hear a tune in your head, and respond to the expressiveness in music.”

The class is geared to children ages 18 months to 3 years. Many of the activities can be duplicated at home. Play a variety of music and allow children to move to it, clap to it, bounce to it, and move using streamers or scarves.

The “lap experience” is also important, Harris says, “for children and even for adults. It always works well in my classes to start with kids bouncing in their parents’ laps. Then they move away from each other and we dance and we come together in a lot of ways, dancing, and then we always end with the child in the parent’s lap with a lullaby and a stuffed animal.”

Young children spend a lot of time in their parents’ laps. And many “lap games” combining music or songs and movement are perfect for this special time. “Games like peek-a-boo and patty-cake have survived for generations because they offer so much of what a baby needs,” says movement specialist Rae Pica, also interviewed in Art to Heart. “Peek-a-boo provides bonding in the way of eye contact and laughter, and it teaches the child about object permanence [the concept that things don’t disappear simply because we can’t see them]. Patty-cake provides physical touch and gives babies a chance to cross the vertical midline of the body, which requires that the two hemispheres of the brain communicate. This is later critical to, among other things, reading and writing skills.”


Some sources for additional lap and movement games for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers:

  • Baby Lap Games downloadable activity sheet (PDF)
  • Rae Pica’s Moving and Learning web site has lots of game ideas for children of all ages, along with information on the importance of physical activity and bonding.

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