Jazzed Up About Jazz

Jazzed Up About Jazz

April is Jazz Appreciation month! Did you know that jazz music is a truly American art form? The music you listen to, the way you speak, the clothes you wear — all of that has been influenced by jazz! Today, we’re going to listen to some smooth beats, create some jazzy art, and get to know some musical instruments with the help of some James Wood High School seniors. Below are activities that all have a Jazzed Up About Jazz theme. These activities include things that will help your child develop fine and gross motor skills, problem-solving and engineering skills, and can help them engage in cooperative play, while fostering creativity and perseverance. Each theme also comes with recommended literature and website connections. Feel free to throw in your own activities that might relate, and don’t forget to post your results to social media and tag @discoverymuse to share with everyone else!

Art Activity/Fine Motor Activity: Jazz Up Your Painting With Homemade Water Color Art

Jazzy Art

For this activity, you’ll need to gather the following materials: 

  • Cupcake pan, glasses, or clean plastic tubs for mixing watercolors
  • Water
  • Food coloring
  • Brushes (or sponges or cotton swabs — whatever you have)
  • Paper (regular paper or packing paper — again go with what you have)
  • Jazz Music for Inspiration


  • Set the stage with music:
    • Cover your eyes. Listen to what’s around you for one full minute — no cheating.
    • At the end of the minute, talk about or write down all the sounds you heard! Are you surprised by how many things you could hear when you are only paying attention with your sense of hearing?
    • Play a selection of jazz music (can be 1-2 minutes or a whole song. 
  • Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra — Jazz for Kids has an amazing playlist, including Baa Baa Black Sheep, Itsy Bitsy Spider, and La Cucharacha like you’ve never heard them before. 
    • The first time — listen to the song all the way through. Close your eyes. Let the music speak to you. How does it make you feel?
    • Listen to the music a second time. What did you notice? What colors do you see in your mind when the music is playing? Are there parts that are smooth and flowing? Parts that are short and choppy? Parts that are loud or soft? Does the music tell you a story in your mind? Maybe you see marching mice or charging tigers or dragons or soccer stars. It’s your imagination and your response so there are no wrong answers.
  • Gather your art supplies and make your paints.
    • Put several drops of food coloring at the bottom of each cup in your cupcake pan (or in your glasses or clean plastic tubs). With red, blue, and yellow, you can also make green (blue + yellow), orange (red + yellow), and purple (red + blue). Your colors will be lighter or darker depending on how many drops of food coloring you add and how much water you add. Experiment with your colors.
    • Add water to the cups.
  • Get your creative juices flowing!
    • Put the music back on and start painting. Experiment with types of paper and brushes. You can use a normal brush, but you can also use a sponge or a cotton swab. Have fun with it.
    • Let your creations dry.
    • Think about using your paintings to make a card. Write a note and send happy thoughts to someone you haven’t seen in a while.

Jazzed Up For Jazz

A mellophone, a trumpet, and a flute got together via safe social distancing to provide a virtual musical instrument petting zoo for you. What’s your favorite instrument?

Intro to Jazz: Sesame Street shares a fun segment covering some of the basics of jazz as Hoots the Owl tries to teach jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis a thing or two about jazz.

Here are some great ideas for making a musical instrument of your own! All you need are recycled materials and a bit of imagination. Take some pictures of your instruments and let us hear your band @discoverymuse (with your grown-up’s permission).

Physical Activity

Get some of those wiggles out while appreciating jazz!

Jazz For Beginners: A Guide to 20 Essential Albums has links to music and info about the artists to help get you started and inspire your jazz dance parties.

Have a Jazz Dance Party!

You can do this on your own or as a family! There are so many variations to try here. Try some of ours OR make up your own:

  • You can tie a ribbon to a stick and swirl it to the beat. All you need is scrap ribbon and a stick (paint stirrers and rulers also work well). 
  • You can take a hula hoop and try to keep time to the music while shaking your hips. This one is good for giggles.
  • You can play freeze dance, where one person is the DJ and stops the music and everyone has to freeze in place.

Conversation Starters and Research Questions

  • Rap Opera for Kids offers a really fun history of jazz for kids in parts one and two. Watch What is Jazz? from the National Museum of American History.
  • How does jazz influence the music, the clothes, the culture you live in today?
  • Pick a jazz artist and do some research. Share what you learn with your family.

Movie/Literature Connection:

Because we know you’re stuck at home with limited access to movies and books, we tried to compile a list that connects to today’s theme that you might already have in your collection or be able to access online. These include:


Sesame Street: Wynton Marsalis’ Monster Master Music Class — a fun introduction to jazz improvisation and making sure every monster is on the same page musically.

Sugar Hill Read Aloud with Handley Regional Library’s Katie Moss