If you know that classical music is good for your child, but you aren’t familiar enough with it to know where to start, today’s recommendation is for you!

Step back with me today to 1886 to a set of songs from French composer, Camille Saint-Saëns.

image from society6

image from society6

The Carnival of the Animals

This is an engaging and imaginative set of 14 pieces. They are easy to listen to and also perfect for helping your preschooler engage the music. Each piece is written to sound like a specific animal (with the exception of the 11th piece titled “The Pianists”— it’s just a little joke thrown in by the composer).

There are so many options for using these songs.

1. Books – There are several great picture books written to accompany the listener to The Carnival of the Animals. See what your library has to offer!
2. Coloring – I love encouraging my students to color while listening to the music. You can either give blank paper or print off free coloring pages here.
3. Dance – Some of these pieces are just irresistible. Get up and start moving with your child. Be the animals, ride the animals, play along with them—whatever strikes your fancy!
4. Use toys – You probably have stuffed animals or toys that correspond with at least a few of the pieces. Make the toys move with the music.

The entire piece is about 20 minutes long. Some versions will divide it up into fourteen tracks and others will lump it all as one track. Here it is on Youtube with separate track listings. It is also delightful with narration as composed by Ogden Nash in 1949. You can find the version with narration on Amazon.

And, for a silly but fun version, check out the Looney Tunes version below. It might be a fun chance to introduce your kids to some of the cartoons of the past!

Take the time to add this beautiful piece to your listening library. It’s not just for preschoolers!

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This post is part of a year-long blog series, “Handpicked Songs for Preschoolers.” Subscribe to stay connected.

And as always, let me know what you think of these recommendations. I’d love to hear from you!

p.s. If you automatically think Disney when you hear a few of the pieces, you’re right. Disney used some of the music in Fantasia. But the composition credit should go to Saint-Saëns!