Yesterday, I began discussing an article by Pascale. I will begin today with that same article. Although Pascale was writing to individual parents, there are several points we can put to use in our classrooms. Put children in the presence of music. If you can, bring live music into your classrooms. It can be a parent who plays guitar, a teacher who sings a song, or retired uncle Joe who plays the accordion. If your facility is near a college, see if some music education majors can visit and play solo or chamber music for your class. There’s nothing like seeing and hearing instruments. Give your children the opportunity to hear live music.
Another point is to have a trunk full of music toys, and give your children time to explore. Let them touch, pick up, prod, poke and play toy musical instruments. Remember, if they push the keys of a toy piano, that’s great. If they bang the top of a toy piano as if it were a drum, then that’s great too. We don’t care if they “do it right,” we want them to make and explore sounds; to interact musically with the environment you create. By the way, you don’t have to wait until the children are 3 years old to do these things. All of this is great for toddlers and pre-kindergarteners.
Finally, notice how Pascale highlights doing this in groups. That’s good news for us, because that’s what we teach—groups of children. As the children hear live music, and explore and play with sounds made with toy instruments, they do so with other children, interacting and observing each other as well as themselves. Music is a great tool for teaching children to socialize with each other. And, to return to my original point about formal music lessons, all of this musical activity you can do with children 3 years and younger is preparing them for success at taking music lessons at 3 years and older, should the parents decide that’s what they want. And given all the research that’s at least suggests the musical and non-musical benefits of formal music lessons, it’s important for you to encourage parents to provide music lessons for their child. This can be instrument lessons, usually piano or violin, or it can be a prekindergarten music class. There are now numerous certified music teachers running private music schools of Kindermusik, Music Garden, The Music Class and others. Search out these providers in your community, and prepare a brochure with contact information to hand to parents. They will appreciate knowing where to turn for music classes, and you will be steering your parents into something really beneficial for their child.
To include music in your programs, you should have a space large enough for your children and an equal number of adults to move around freely, and you should have a high quality sound system to use for playing recorded music. You should also have a collection of age-appropriate musical toys. For 3 and 4 year olds, classroom instruments such as sand blocks, small drums, shaker eggs, and maracas are good. A selection of these kinds of instruments is sold as kits from many school supply venders. My favorite instrument for young children is a boom whacker. These are plastic tubes that come in different lengths, tuned to notes of the major scale. One tube plays a C, one a D, one an E, and so forth. The child just grabs hold of the tube and bangs it on a carpeted floor. With each bank, a musical pitch is produced. I distribute boom whackers to a class that are tuned to notes of a chord, so any combination of them played at once sounds consonant. Children delight in the sounds they make, and they will astound you with their creativity in improvising music. I even had a class of four-year-olds that spontaneously started to sing “Jack Be Nimble” to the accompaniment of their boom whacking.
An optimal class size is 8-10 children with their parents. Smaller than this makes some group activities difficult, and larger than this makes the desired individual attention difficult. If you have larger classes, you can still include music, it’s just a bit more challenging. In my music classes for 3 year olds and also in my classes for 4 year olds, I have around 20 students in each class and still manage to do all of the activities I will be showing you today. For classes with toddlers, I would suggest at least one adult for every two or three children, and each child having one of their parents or guardians there with them during music time is always best.