Passing games are a music class staple. They are FUN, they teach social interaction, they teach passing instead of throwing like you picked up a stone covered in hot lava…All kidding aside, passing games are awesome activities that can be inexpensive, fun, and help us cover musical concepts. Let’s take a look at some tips, tools, and some of my favorite passing games for music class.

Teach It

What’s your purpose. Before you play, define why you are using the song. Even if not for the students, but yourself. Is it a social activity, is it a listening activity, is it to isolate a concept (rhythmic or solfege?) Once you know, think about how the game can fit in your sequence because passing games can be sequenced.

  • First Game: Start with easy passing. Even in Kindergarten, we can start with practice passing while the music is on. Pick a piece of listening music you want to cover and teach the students to simply use two hands to pass to each other gently. Don’t make it an ‘out’ game do discourage throwing. Demonstrate proper passing before you let them loose.
  • The Beat: The next skill is passing to the beat. This is a great time to teach “pick up and pass, pick up and pass” showing the beat on “pick” and “pass”. If your students throw, try “pick up and PLACE” instead.
  • More complicated pick up and pass things that get placed in front of the person. For these games, always start SLOW and work up to the speed of the song. Practice the movement without the object or music to make sure the students have the movement down. Add the object before you add the music. It may be best to work on one part of it for a few days and then move on to the next step on the next class day.
  • Passing the beat with hand movements. This one seems easier than passing an actual object, but some students struggle when one hand needs to cross their body to pass the beat to the person next to them whether it is to clap the hand of the person next to them or to pass an object like a button or a coin.

The Tools

Passing games don’t need a lot of flash to have a ton of fun. Here are some of the more common tools that get passed:

  • The beat – totally free!
  • Sticks/Pencils – If you don’t have rhythm stick to pass, pencils can work well too! I recommend using ones that aren’t sharpened yet.
  • Shoes – do yourself a favor and buy a pair of kids shoes on clearance at Target and you won’t have to deal with stinky shoes or shoes that may have stepped in something questionable being passed.
  • Stones – easy to come by but you can also buy a huge bag of ‘decorative stones’ at Target for $10 and have more than enough left over to actually decorate with them.
  • Penny/Nickel/Coin – play coins, pirate coins, or raid your wallet.
  • Button – even if you know you’ll never use that button that came with your new pair of pants, save them, or ask for parent donations.
  • Rope knot – rope is fun, but yarn is even cheaper and easier on the hands.
  • Bead – I like big wooden beads for this one. The are easier to feel in your hand and won’t get lost.
  • Puppets/Stuffed animals – chances are you already have some in your room but you can use these a lot!

Passing Games List

The Beat!

  • A Qua Qua
  • Freddy Oaka
  • Stella Ella Ola
  • Tarzan
  • Bullfrog Game (Down by the Bank)
  • Oboshinotentoten

Game: Everyone sits in a circle with left hand palm up and right hand palm up on neighbor’s left hand. Sing through the song tapping neighbor’s right hand with own right hand, on beat, one person at a time. (Start somewhere in the circle and pass tap around the circle). When the song gets to “oh no” the person that just got tapped says a number between 2-20. That person passes a tap and the tap gets passed until the designated number is spoken. When the person is about the say the designated number, the person who is about to be tapped pulls their hand away. If the person misses, they are out of the circle. If the person doesn’t miss, the student who is tapped is out of the circle.

Raid Your Closet

  • Cobbler Cobbler
  • Pass the Shoe
  • Cinderella at the Ball
  • Who Has the Ring

Raid Your Wallet

  • The Nickel
  • Peg Leg the Pirate
  • Dollar Dollar

Game: Stand or sit in a circle with one person in the middle. Children pass a nickel to the beat while singing a song. The person in the middle keeps his/her eyes closed/covered while the song is sung. When the song ends, everyone puts their hands behind their back and the person in the middle needs to guess who has the nickel by singing “do you have my nickel?” Three guesses are allowed.

Fabric Store Fun

  • Black Snake (yarn and bead)
  • Button You Must Wander (button)
  • Yo Ho! I Pull the Anchor (rope/yarn)


  • Obwisana
  • Sansa Kroma
  • La Piedra
  • Stone Passing Song

Game: Game formation: seated circle. Students each have a rock. The passing pattern is tap tap pass rest. Some people add a clap on the rest. Another pattern that works is grab, pass. 


  • Al Citron
  • Stick Passing Song

Something Cute

  • Pass the Pumpkin (adapt seasonally)
  • Star Light Star Bright

Raid the P.E. Closet

  • Bounce High Bounce Low – this is really a good one to bring if your students are struggling with letting things go or picking people
  • Ye Toop Doram
  • Ball Passing Game

I’ll add to this list as I find more passing games, but I hope that this has given you some ideas for incorporating more passing games into your classes, and make them easier to teach!

Melissa Stouffer-1

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