Many parents ask us how we have a child-led environment, maintain individual curriculums, work one-on-one with each child, create dynamic group projects, and still manage to maintain order, routine and schedules. The answer is that we have a superpower and we would like to share that with you. The secret is: music.
Children love music. Reflect upon your connection to music, certain songs or styles, and how they can impact your mood or energy levels. Its calming and soothing effect has the same impact on children, allowing them to center. Children might sing to their stuffed animals, tap their feet to the rhythm of nursery rhymes, and enjoy the sound of their parents singing to them (— even if parents can't sing perfectly!) Music is not just for entertainment, it can offer lifelong benefits, serve as an important cue in a child's routine, can impact holistic development, improve social skills, refines memory, aids the understanding of language and generally benefits children of all ages.
Today we would like to discuss about some of the benefits that music, movement and dance can offer to a child that we have discovered from our own experience. We would also like to share some of our approaches, tips, activities and games for you to try at home with your children.
The benefits that music and song can provide
Music refines large motor skills through movement
Social and communication skills: children are exposed to how to work as part of a team, develop a greater sense of trust and cooperation and make new friends
Emotional intelligence: they develop and awareness of how to interpret music and movements in order to express themselves in a non-verbal manner
Enhance self‐concept by sharing music and dance of each other’s culture
Refine listening skills such as noticing changes in tempo or pitch
Creativity and imagination
Language: memory, vocabulary, grammar (verbs, adjectives, prepositions, etc)
It can improve balance, coordination, and rhythm through dance and movement activities
Physical health: through movement it develops muscle tone and strengthen bones. It is also a great way for children to burn off excess energy, control their breathing, increase flexibility, range of motion, strength and stamina
As their self-image grows, so does their confidence and self-esteem. With this comes the expression of ideas, empathy with and interest of others from different cultures and backgrounds, and feel at home in their own skin
Singing or chanting can help make routine activities and transitions smoother and more enjoyable, such as gathering children into a circle or group activity.
Music helps to set a mood. Quiet, soothing music calms and relaxes children, while a lively marching tune rouses their energy!
What to try at home
Between the ages of 1 and 3 years old, children respond best to music when they actively experience it. Passive listening (like in the car) is different and benefits in other ways. The key word here is "active", so look for opportunities to get your child moving to the music -- rocking, marching, rolling, tapping, and clapping to the beat.
Musical instruments. Put seeds, beads, rice, beans, or other small objects inside plastic containers or bowls with lids, plastic eggs, empty plastic bottles, or film canisters. String, rubber bands, and shoe boxes make great guitars and old coffee tins or oatmeal containers are ideal drums. Next stop -- a family band!
Invite cognitive and memory development by half finishing nursery rhymes like “twinkle twinkle" or "Mary had a little lamb" and leave out the last word. Try to encourage your child to fill in the blanks.
Also help your preschooler explore an instrument that we all have within us: our voice. Demonstrate and invite your child to do the same as you do: "This is my speaking voice" (spoken normally). "This is my quiet voice" (spoken in a whisper). "This is my calling voice" (spoken loudly). "This is my singing voice" (sung).
And then of course, go back to basics. The simplest thing you can do is put on music and dance with your child. Vary the rhythms and tempo of your body with the music. Practice mimic dancing where you invite your child to imitate your movements and then let them lead as you follow.
Musical concepts can we enhanced with physical literacy and props. Scarves can show ascending and descending pitches — raise the scarves up over your heads as you sing up the scale and then drop them down the floor as you go down. Or have your child walk on tiptoes when you listen to high, quiet music, and stomp his or her feet to louder, slower music. Act out the words. If a song has the words “Up, up, up!” then have your child reach up; When you sing “Down, down, down,” reach down.
Tips from the classroom
You can encourage creativity by singing new words to familiar tunes like "Drive, Drive, Drive Your Car" for "Row, Row, Row your Boat"
Songs are a lot more fun than flashcards and can teach toddlers important facts and skills. For instance, singing the song "This Old Man" teaches counting, and "There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly" helps with rhyming and memory.
We weren't born with songs in our mind and they don't teach you then when training to become a practitioner, it comes from research. The internet, books, and CDs are great resources for songs and music. But who said you can't make your own songs?! Feel free to make it up as you go along. Create your own silly songs and motions. You're likely to find your child favouring a few songs and rhymes and wanting to hear them again and again. While this may become dull for you, your child is on to something. Repetition helps kids learn.
Here are some other ways music can help your child make transitions through the day:
It's important to note that reading and understanding written music or musical theory is quite abstract for a toddler. They won't pick up individual notes, for instance, but will experiment with different pitches. Therefore this exposure to music is important for those unconscious impressions to form which can later be applied when they are ready for musical education.
From birth, parents instinctively use music to calm and soothe children, to express their love and joy, and to engage and interact. Parents can build on these natural instincts by learning how music can impact child development, improve social skills, and benefit kids of all ages.
Hopefully you saw some activities here that will work well with your child, and hopefully as you experiment with music you’ll develop some of your own! Just relax, have fun, and sing!
Ioanna & Tina are our practitioners from our Opal classroom in Larnaca, a cosy environment for our two to three-year-olds. Together they sing the routine each day and allow the children to ease through each transition -- something that infants need! If you have a two-year-old that seems ready for an additional prepared environment, send us an email at email@example.com