Babies Walkers to 2 2s to 3s 3s to 4s

Overview and benefit

This is devoted to developing children’s beat competency. Put simply ‘beat competency’ means being competent at keeping a beat. i.e. being able to clap along to a song on the beat. Being able to maintain a rhythm is a skill which children need to learn. Research has shown that children who are able to identify and maintain a musical beat:

  • do considerably better in all academic subjects, particularly maths and literacy.
  • are more competent at fine motor skills, such as writing and cutting out
  • have more developed gross motor skills, such as running and skipping

Equipment required

  • Claves, castanets or other rhythmic instruments.
  • Your choice of tracks

Link to resources


Up to six weeks

How it works

This uses castanets to focus on listening to and copying a rhythm.

Equipment required

  • MAD Academy Rhythm CD
  • Castanets

How it works

There are 40 different rhythm sentences tracks which have been created especially for MAD Academy. They are played on a wide range of percussive instruments and are all of similar length.

What to do in the class

Listen to all the tracks before choosing which to use. Use the simpler rhythms – the earlier tracks – with the younger age groups. With the younger children the best results are achieved if you work on no more than 5 different rhythms per term. With older children, begin with a simple rhythm and then move on to a more complex track. Max of 10 per term. Encourage the adults to tap the rhythm on the child’s body (if not assisting with the castanets) to help give a visual and physical interpretation of the sound. It can really help if you make up a simple fun sentence or phrase to accompany the rhythm – see list of sentences to use below.

Training Video

Rhythm Sentances-1 from MAD Academy on Vimeo.

Adaptations for older/younger children

  • Walkers – 2 Years – Child sits on adults’ lap and the adult holds the castanet in their own hand. They assist the child to tap the castanet to the rhythm.
  • 2 – 3 Years – The child holds the castanet in one hand and taps it with the other hand to the rhythm.
  • 3 – 4 Years – The child holds the castanet in one hand and taps it with the other hand to the rhythm. Advance to one-handed playing.

What to do in a nursery setting

No adaptation is necessary


Sometimes it is easiest to relate a sentence to each rhythm as it makes it more memorable. Here are some examples of sentences that fit the rhythm tracks.

Tracks 21 and 22 are ‘click’ tracks indicating 3/4 and 4/4 time – these are not needed at present

Claves are good to use as well as castanets

Pick just a few rhythms (about eight) each half term and rotate them so the children become more familiar with them. When choosing, have a couple of very simple ones, a couple of harder ones, and a few stretching ones.

It’s very important in this activity that children ‘feel’ the rhythm and count the rhythm first – clapping and counting first can help when you do the simple rhythm before using the sentences.

It’s nice to pick out a few children for praise each week – effort and concentration as well as achievement!

Remember to explain why beat competency is important. Also explain to parents that beat competency is a very hard skill to master and it can take a whole term before children can do it, so not to worry if their child seems to be struggling.

Think about using hand positions to reinforce the rhythm, for example on aeroplane, aeroplane, aeroplane, fly – you go beat the fly above your head.

It’s good to do the rhythm sentences early in your lesson as it needs the children to concentrate hard.