“I Spy” Music Mat

The “I Spy” Music Mat       

By Robin Steinweg

Combine fun & instruction

Combine fun & instruction

I Spy, Where’s Waldo, Hide ’n Seek… I’ve yet to meet a kid who doesn’t like them. Why not take advantage of that in my studio? I’m always looking for fun ways to help my students retain music facts.

Here’s how I made “I Spy” music mats that will work for every age and every level of student:

Materials          1009073247_______

*vinyl placemats—I found mine at a big box store for fifty cents. The backs are white or clear (or use cardstock/tagboard, if you’d rather laminate).

*photos—from my camera, magazines (I had a few extra Piano Explorer magazines ), catalogs and copyright-free clip art. I included notes and symbols for the earliest beginner as well as for advanced students and every level between. They’ll enjoy saying hemidemisemiquaver even if they’ve never played one. Humor helps, whether music-themed or not (a tiny keychain rubber chicken, a worried Chihuahua playing piano, and a light-saber-toting Yoda saying, “Much to learn, you still have!”). Glittery or dimensional music stickers add pizzazz.   1009082825

*glue stick—to lightly hold the pictures in place. I shifted them around until I was happy with them. The tighter-packed they are, the better.

*laminate or use clear contact paper, cut large enough to overlap about an inch. Instead of bringing the sticky side down on the mat, I laid out the contact paper and positioned the mat over it. If the contact paper won’t hold, add packing tape.

When to Use

*During a lesson for off-seat time.

*While waiting for a sibling’s lesson to end.

*During group lessons (break into smaller groups or buddy-up with an older student.


Scavenger hunt. Give a list of level-appropriate items to find on the mat.

Time it (or not). For fun, add a couple of purely silly pictures and a few bits beyond the students’ level—they might surprise you with what they know!

Review. Incorporate terms or symbols from the latest unit completed. Team effort. Mix students of various levels on a team. The younger ones will learn things from the older ones. Time the search. Award prizes.


Wipe-off pens. Instruct students to write note names, insert notes on a blank staff, identify finger numbers on a clip art hand, etc.

Customize mats for your students’ particular instruments.

Use photos of your students demonstrating good/poor hand shape or posture. (ladybug idea from Diane Hidy )

Ladybug hand shape (from Diane Hidy)

Ladybug hand shape

great demo!

great demo!

Make a mat with deliberate errors. Have students find “what’s wrong in this picture.” Be sure to include funny mistakes! This trains them to see and analyze something they might otherwise have ignored.

Note: The same mats can be used over and over, since you create a personalized list for whatever their level at the time.

Mats can be made for all sorts of categories:


*periods of music history

*orchestra or folk instruments


*genres of music

*contemporary musicians



How might you use an “I Spy” Music Mat?

About the Author

Robin Steinweg
I'm Robin Steinweg, happy to join the team of bloggers at Music Teachers Helper. I teach students of every age piano, guitar and voice (sometimes clarinet & recorder); perform; direct choirs; compose for students, choirs and worship; love to learn and improve. I'm wife of one and mother of two recently-launched musicians. Presently I am caregiver for my mother, a vocalist, drummer and pianist ... [Read more]


  1. Lori Lipsky

    My mat is ready and I’ve tried it out on my daughter. I’m eager to use it with my students in the New Year. They’ll love it!
    Fun idea, Robin! You’re so creative.

  2. Robin Steinweg

    Thanks for reading, Lori–I’ll be eager to hear how it goes with your students. Happy New Year!

  3. Sharon Ellam

    Love it! With thanks. 🙂

  4. Reuben Vincent

    What an excellent idea Robin; I’ll try that out. Thanks

  5. Robin Steinweg

    Thanks for commenting, Sharon and Reuben. I’d love to hear how you use them!

  6. heather watson

    Hi – love this – I am going to challenge my students to make up their own & share them in my room for others to view – Ive done this before with Xmas posters etc some really rise to the challenge!

  7. Robin Steinweg

    Ooh, Heather, I like that idea! Like it a LOT. Thanks for sharing, and Happy New Year!

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