WORDS: Julia Rennick, Early Childhood Music and Movement Teacher
A quality, group, play-based music session assists 3-5’s in developing their social skills for e.g. turn taking and sharing. Singing ‘welcome’ and ‘goodbye’ songs become an expected ritual each lesson. It’s a great time to develop and extend their listening skills, for e.g. identifying instruments played but hidden out of sight. Musical concepts such as tempo (fast/slow), dynamics (loud/soft) and pitch (high/low), can all be part of repertoire that is both age and developmentally appropriate.
My job as a music educator, I believe, is to introduce music to children from a wide array of genres that they may not hear or experience elsewhere. They can then decide for themselves if they like it or not; this age group, with their often-quirky sense of humour, are particularly good at sharing what they think is ‘good’ or ‘bad.’
Movement and Dance
Lots of movement and dance assists with gross motor skills and co-ordination as well as understanding and learning. Their growing brains need to experience rich movement activities and kinaesthetic experiences. For example, locomotor movement where they move their bodies through space: jumping, hopping, skipping, rolling, twirling, crawling, running, walking on tiptoe and using scarves and instruments. Simple circle dances that incorporate moving forward, backwards, sideways and working co-operatively in a group are great for 3-5s.
Playing instruments such as xylophones and glockenspiels enhance hand-eye coordination and fine motor development. Not all children at this stage may be able to articulate how they’re feeling, but they can release these emotions though by playing a drum loudly or listening to calming music. Ask them does a piece of music make them feel happy or sad? Can they draw a picture as they listen? Children at this age can begin to compose their own music and notate it through graphic representations. They need encouragement and time to do this.
We talk about this age group being in the pre-operational period of cognitive development (2-7 years), where symbolic play and pretending develops. Songs can be dramatised, e.g. Waltzing Matilda, Fair Rosa, 5 Grey Elephants, Humpty Dumpty. Nursery rhymes can also activate imaginative/dramatic play. In addition to singing the songs and dramatising them, many children experience in them their first examples of rhyming text and rhythmic patterns, which are an essential skill for emergent readers.
Benefits of music education for children
Music for this age group benefits all areas of a child’s development. My philosophy is to encourage a playful and creative approach to exploring music: one that acknowledges the fundamental role of play in young children’s learning and development. These experiences facilitate the children’s enjoyment and development in the arts. At each point during the process learning is taking place.
I think that every child has a right to learn music – it is not only for the elite or musically gifted. Volumes of research have proven that everyone can benefit from music education. Celebrated music educators such as Orff, Suzuki and Kodaly found that all children are born with the ability to respond to and make music, just as we are all born with the ability to acquire language. Indeed, the two are related! The positive impact of music instruction on early literacy skills can be seen in the improvement of phonemic awareness, (being able to identify rhyming words, or counting the number of syllables in a name).
Gaining these benefits provides children a solid foundation for further development of their musical literacy, and proficiency in playing instruments, as they get older.
Repetition enables children to become familiar with songs and rhymes and so is very influential in young children’s musical development. As caregivers well know, young children read their favourite books and watch their favourite movies and shows over and over again. Familiarity is essential to children’s pleasure, but also to their learning!
Form a habit
Where possible, include music and movement every day. Establish a ritual for beginning and ending the experience. Participate with the children. Encourage individual responses and praise originality and effort. Share your enjoyment with them.
MAKE IT FUN!
Julia taught early childhood music at Gunnedah Regional Conservatorium for over 25 years and was a peripatetic music teacher in local and outlying schools and preschools. She has been a Mentor with Richard Gill’s NMTMP since 2016 and has worked with babies to 80-year olds. Julia is passionate about music education, and believes it can begin at any age. For young children particularly, this ensures developmental benefits for them not only in the arts but in other areas of their learning too. She was honoured to reach the final 4 in the 2019 ARIA Music Teacher Award and has created an online music program for families and educators at patreon.com/JingleJazzJulia
For free ideas and resources to integrate music and movement into children’s lives: