One of the first things we learn as educators in early childhood music development is that before your child can learn to play music they must be given the opportunity to play with music. Children learn primarily through play. So it follows for them that learning is not hard work. It’s play! It’s fun and creative and imaginative! So learning about music is achieved the same way: through musical and rhythmic play.
As your child grows and enters stages of development where she can respond to suggestions; for example, giving ideas of what we can do with a song, like hopping or toe tapping, this is the area where it can be very easy to forget what we are about.
Your first instinct might be to look at your child and encourage him to answer his teacher. This is a natural instinct and it comes from a desire to assist your child in participating in the fun. However, it can be received as pressure to perform.
It’s a fine line but one that is important to address.
Here’s an example:
During the “Hello Song”, when I feel that the children are ready, I begin to implement the idea, with the parent’s help, of pausing before we sing each child’s name.This provides the rhythmic impulse to (maybe) sing their own name. In fact, I begin this process at a fairly young age as even babies will respond in their own way (rhythmically or vocally) at a remarkably early age.
The key is no pressure! But as written above, pressure can still be experienced by a child even when a parent thinks they are giving support.
There’s a difference between “Johnny sing your name! Go on… can you sing? Sing your name!” – with a big smile of support and a sweet poke in the arm – and simply pausing for a rhythmic build of anticipation not expecting your child to get anything right. Oh, maybe something will happen. Maybe your baby will bounce, maybe your toddler will babble, maybe your three year old will sing his name, and maybe your four year old will stare. Just keep modeling. Eventually you’ll be surprised. But development is the name of the game.
And within that little moment of silence we are accepting of everything – even if your child doesn’t do anything. Then we pick up that ball and sing for them as always.
The minute we point out that our children should be doing anything turns Music Together into a program of judgment, performance, and comparisons.
Do we have different expectations for different age groups? Sure. You will have different behavioral expectations for your four year old than your baby, of course. But when it comes to playing with music the best thing to do is allow them to be who they are while they do what comes naturally.
It’s an exciting notion to create an environment of acceptance. And if we continue to model that acceptance for our children in class, who knows what wonderful environments of acceptance they’ll take into the world.
Music Together Teacher