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Zoomazium to You: Shake, Rattle, and Roar

Posted by Janel Kempf, Early Childhood

Music and dance are important to so many people, in cultures all around the world. We use it to express joy and sorrow, to deepen our connections to our culture and nature, and even to learn.

Animals around the world and all over the zoo use music and dance in their daily lives as well—and at the zoo, some of them are hard not to notice! Siamang pair Bagus and Sam live in the Trail of Vines near the Malayan tapir and the orangutans, but can be heard well outside of zoo grounds when they really put their hearts into singing duets. Their complex song is an important pair-bonding activity for these small apes, and in their native habitat lets other siamang pairs know their territory is already taken.

Pair bonding is a common purpose in the animal world for dancing, too—just like it can be for people! Not far from Bagus and Sam, in the Assam Rhino Reserve, a beautiful bird couple may have caught your eye. They’re demoiselle cranes Louis and Antoinette, graceful creatures who establish and maintain their devotion to each other through complex dances.

Young children both love and benefit from music and dance. Zoomazium Lead Kristi Dodds has a hard time choosing what she misses most while we’re closed (besides the early learners themselves, naturally!), but one of her favorites has always been Shake, Rattle, and Roar, our wild preschool dance party! There’s nothing not to love about little ones rocking out with maracas to animal-themed music—but for all the early learners in our lives, music isn’t just joy, it’s the earliest gateway to mathematics! 

What you need: Music you both enjoy (we use animal-themed music in Zoomazium, but any music will do); something to make noise with (suggestions below)
Time: As much as you have!
Age Range:
Birth-6 years
School Connections:

Start by clearing some space to move your bodies without bumping into the furniture. Then, gather up a couple of different types of noisemakers. You can use chopsticks or spoons to tap together, or make a shaker by putting a few dry beans in a plastic food-storage container, or in a toilet paper tube with the ends taped closed.

Then, turn up the music, encourage your child to grab a noisemaker, and dance! If you’re looking for musical suggestions, Kristi’s favorite playlists always include friend-of-Zoomazium Joe Reilly—find his music at

Fun, right? And it has a hidden advantage! As young children listen to music, they develop awareness and memory of some of the most fundamental mathematical concepts:

One-to-one correspondence:
This is simply the ability to match one thing up to another thing, and is the basis for counting objects. Even before an infant can talk, music with a strong beat captures their natural drive to wiggle or shake their fists in time with the music—a correspondence of one beat to one wiggle! When a baby or toddler has a noisemaking object to shake, it makes practicing correspondence even more exciting and memorable!

Pattern identification:
Mathematics is a way to identify and describe patterns. The varying rhythms of a song will help early learners begin this pattern-identification process. As a toddler develops more language, their grown-ups can blend this skill with early math by encouraging them to predict patterns—perhaps singing the chorus each time it comes up.

Extension for older children: As early learners mature, their ability to identify more complex patterns will be enhanced by more complex songs. Start easy when they’re young, with simple rhythms and an easy-to-repeat chorus. Try taking turns creating and repeating rhythms of your own. Soon you’ll be singing duets like a siamang—but probably not as loudly!

For previous week's Zoomazium To You activities, click the links below:

Play Like An Otter: March 16

Creature Feature at Home: March 23

Relax with Springtime Bug Yoga: March 30

Caring for Neighborhood Birds: April 6

Fun with Sensory Play, April 14

A Den Full of Cubs, April 21

Have you and your family tried any of our Zoomazium to You activities yet? If so, we'd love to hear how it went! Tag us @WoodlandParkZoo and use #ZoomaziumtoYou to share photos, stories or videos of your own Creature Feature sessions.