Posts Tagged 'learning through play'

Allowing Your Little Scientist to Play With Music

Musical PlayWhat’s the difference between an egg shaker and a maraquita? They both shake. Why do we bother using both in class? After all it’s the same thing pretty much. One just has a handle.

And that’s the point. That little handle provides a different experience for your child. Just by putting a little handle on the egg shaker we can explore and play with the instrument in a myriad of ways. And that’s what we want for our children at Heartsong. We want them to have the opportunity to play with music (with and without musical props and instruments) long before there’s ever any expectation of playing music.

I was reading an article interviewing Jimmy Fallon who recently became a father for the first time. He understandably wanted to talk about his new daughter as new parents are likely to do. He talked about how he’d had a thought that really blew his mind. He realized that his daughter was experiencing everything in her life for the first time! It astounded and thrilled him. And it allowed him to also experience everything with her for the first time. Again.

Sometimes our desire to teach our children how something works or what it is for can interfere, quite innocently, with their natural desire and ability to figure things out for themselves. We want them to “get it right”, “use it right”, “do it right”. But we miss out on so much (and so do the children) when we have expectations beyond what their stage of development might presently be. We may be comparing our 16 month old to the 11 month old across the circle who is shaking that egg furiously while our child is staring at it on the ground before licking it and balancing it on her head. We, thinking we are helping, instinctively grab hold of their arms or hands and move them like the teacher to make sure they understand where their arms “should” be going. We forget that they will get their arms up, down, around etc. on their own and in their own time just by being fully immersed in the musical experience. Your children are always aware of what you’re doing. So keep modeling by singing and moving on your own!

It’s ok to allow them the time to get messy with the jingle bells or try to sit inside the upside-down gathering drum. Our children can be likened to little scientists. They do their own little tests to see how the object will respond while simultaneously taking in what you are doing with said object.

So just keep shaking that egg, whooshing that scarf, and beating the drum. They’ll catch on when they are ready; while they teach you how to make bunny ears out of a pair of mallets.

And when you find yourself worrying about whether your child is catching on or catching up remember what one of my favorite teachers says:

“Your child won’t go to college in diapers.”

Fleur Phillips
Certification Level I, Music Together Teacher

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“Come on, [insert your child’s name]! You can do it! You can … DO IT!!!!!”

MTPic74-webYou’ll often hear teachers throughout the semester talk about how Music Together is a developmentally based program. That is to say it is not performance based.

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.

Fleur Phillips
Music Together Teacher


The Joy of Family Music

Heartsong Music teaches Music Together®, the internationally recognized early childhood music and movement program for children from birth through grade two and the adults who love them.

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