“The eensie weensie spider crawled up the water spout. Down came the rain and washed the spider out…”
Recognize the tune? You probably remember the hand motions, too. As a parent of three grown children, I have noticed in my time that childhood and music seem to be permanently intertwined. Did you know that as a child sings his or her favorite song or spontaneously moves to a beat, he or she is experimenting with, exploring, and practicing important developmental skills?
As children sing and move, they get physical as well as creative exercise, and feel the joy and exhilaration of freedom and growing control. When a child moves or dances with others, comfortable sensations associated with belonging to and working in harmony with someone else are experienced. As a child sings, new vocabulary and pronunciation skills are practiced. As children clap, tap, snap and move to finger-plays, small-muscle control is gained. And, as children begin to distinguish among rhythms, tones and sounds in the environment, they exercise auditory discrimination skills—an essential prerequisite to reading!
When enjoying music with children, begin with simple tunes, drawing children into musical movement. Put aside your inhibitions, switch on the radio and dance around the classroom! The more comfortable you feel, the more likely your children will want to join the fun. Wiggle while you work!
Share children’s favorite tunes with their parents. Encourage them to join in by helping their child learn a little more of the song, practice the words or just feel good about sharing an important part of their life and something they enjoy doing.
As children go through their daily tasks and routines, take some quiet moments to notice the rhythms around you: the tap, tap, slide of shoes on a tile floor, the quick ker-plunks of rain on the roof, the gentle thump, thump of sport shoes on a gym floor. Also notice the sounds that seem to attract children’s attention. Listen together, focus on the soothing effect. Other times, try to re-create rhythms using your hands or feet, or make the sounds with your mouths.
Anything you can bang, ring, strum or shake is a potential instrument. Children love taking discarded boxes, baskets or bags and use colorful crayons or markers to decorate them. Search together for items that make interesting noises: a pencil and a block, a rock and a piece of sandpaper, or a few large beads in a capped plastic container. Put them in your specially decorated music makers. When the class feels like being noisy, bring them out and raise a ruckus.
Dance, movement and song will be the theme for 4C for Children’s early childhood conference next year, and we hope to see you there with bells on!