How does music build STEM skills?

Songs, fingerplays, and movement activites are an important part of learning and development in young children!

How does music teach STEM skills? Well before I go one step further, let’s be sure you know what STEM stands for. STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. All of these content areas come with important areas of learning and development – and guess what? Each area of STEM can easily be promoted through music and movement!

Check out this Interview

I recently participated in a BAM Radio interview with Rae Pica and Abigail Conners where we discussed the importance of music in the preschool classroom and how music is a powerful platform for teaching skills and concepts related to almost any concept in the classroom. Swing on over and take a listen to this conversation by clicking here: “Yes, Adjust Your Thinking: Music Matters, Here’s Why” then come back here and read my the rest of my thoughts on the topic.

This is our classroom’s favorite song to sing… what’s yours?


How does Music build STEM skills?

I am going to give you a few grass roots, basic, simple examples for how music is helping to build your students skills in STEM. But before I do, you actually need to be including music in your classroom. Whether you are singing with the children, playing musical games, or dancing along to a CD of children’s music – you are building STEM skills. Are you adding music throughout your day?


Science is all about building a young child’s understanding of the world around him or her. We can do that in so many ways but musically speaking, we can help them organize the information they are exploring and learning through simple songs. Take this song for example…

The seed begins in the garden,

Tiny and small.

But then it grows, and grows, and grows,

Big and Tall!

As the children explore plants that grow through real life experiences, you can help them organize and demonstrate the process through a simple action song such as this. The song promotes discussion, gives the children actions to demonstrate and reinforces their understanding of how a seed grows, and it is all fun to do together.  Not only does singing together contribute to scientific learning, but so does listening to sounds, playing instruments, tapping on tin cans. All of these musical processes are STEM based. All of them lead to scientific learning in the early childhood classroom.


Music has a natural way of leading young children to listen and respond to the sounds of our world. Through music the children discover and train their ability to notice, hear, match, and identify pitch, tone, volume, rhythm, patterning, and the list goes on. These elements of music all play a role in how technology works regardless of the kind of technology you are using in and around the classroom.  If a bell rings – so does the opportunity to explore the sound of the bell. Where did that ringing come from? Did you hear it? Can you make the same sound? What does that mean? What should we do? Why do we need bells? Who uses bells? What can we do with bells? The list goes on as to where the exploration can go, but music gives the child a natural foundation for  listening, asking, and exploring.

Can you guess what this sound is, this sound is, this sound is?

Can you guess what this sound is?

It goes “beep, beep, beep.”

(That’s right, it’s a horn! Why do we need a horn? Where can you see a horn?)


Engineering is the process by which young children discover how the things in their world are built and how they work. Whether it is building a tower with blocks or it is exploring a simple pendulum, engineering is a natural part of early learning. Once again, engineering can be fostered through simple songs such as Johnny Works with One Hammer.

Johnny works with one hammer

One hammer, one hammer.

Johnny works with one hammer

Then he works with two.

As the children pound their fists and feet to the ground, acting out the motions of hammering, they are reinforcing their understanding of and interest in simple construction. And what about holding hands to make a circle? As the children work together to hold hands, they are building their skills to think in terms of geometric design and their skills to collaborate to achieve a common goal. Engineering is about getting all the pieces in the right places so that the unit as whole works smoothly. Should one piece be broken or out of place, then the whole doesn’t work as well. As children are making a circle in preparation to play a musical rendition of Blue-Bird, Blue-Bird Through My Window, they are also building windows together, inviting the bird to fly in and out of those windows, and closing the windows to keep the bird inside the cage. It’s all building. It’s all engineering. It’s all about reinforcing understanding, skills, and awareness about how things work together to achieve a common goal.


Math is probably the one content area that we can easily see the value of music. As we sing a simple counting song like Way Up High in the Apple Tree or One Little Balloon Went Up, the children are building their skills in counting, subtracting, and adding; what comes first, second, and so on.

Way up high in the Apple Tree

Five red apples looked at me.

I shook that tree as hard as I could,

Down came an apple, 

Mmmmm, it was good?

How many apples are left?

And just as I have already mentioned above, built into every song is a foundation of math such as patterning, ordinal thinking, rhythm, one-to-one correspondence, and so on.

Music Naturally Connects with STEM

Interestingly enough, music lends itself to STEM learning in other, less obvious ways too…

  • Music helps promote a child’s confidence
  • Music helps promote a child’s sense of community
  • Music helps children remember complex ideas and concepts
  • Music helps children organize and communicate their ideas and understanding about their world
  • Music invites children to explore concepts with their whole bodies

STEM is all about naturally promoting skills and concepts through play, conversation, interaction, exploration. Even in it’s most basic form, music naturally and joyfully connects with all areas of STEM.

Links to Grow On!

If you want to learn more about music and movement in the classroom, check out my free Make and Take Sing-Along Series!

And be sure to visit my shop to see more simple songs you can sing with young children.

Deborah J Stewart

Deborah J Stewart

Every time I think I know everything I need to know about teaching young children, God says, "Hold on a minute!" and gives me a new challenge.

Let me tell ya...

With each new challenge that you overcome, you will find yourself better equipped and more passionate about teaching young children.

God didn't call wimps to lead, teach, or care for His children. Nope, he has high expectations, so get ready. You will have to give your very best but after teaching for over 30 years, I can tell you that it is a wonderful and rewarding journey.

Whenever your calling feels hard, just remember, 'He who began a good work in you (and in the children you serve) will be faithful to complete it.'

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