If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands!
“Music has a power of forming the character and should therefore be introduced into the education of the young” - Aristotle
Music is often described as “food for the growing brain”, with research consistently demonstrating that exposure to a high-quality music program from a young age can optimise a child’s development – cognitively, socially, emotionally and physically.
Every child is born musical, with musical potential and an innate ability to respond to music. It is up to us as educators and carers to optimise this potential and give our children the necessary musical experiences that allow them to develop. They cannot experience the benefits of music without our help.
Unfortunately, many adults lack confidence when it comes to singing, dancing and being musical with their children. Some feel they’re “not musical” or they “can’t sing in tune”. Others feel stuck for ideas and end up singing the same songs, year in and year out.
But it doesn’t need to be like this. There is music in every one of us. When we were young, we all made music without feeling self-conscious. Just because we’ve grown up doesn’t mean we cannot still sing with our children, make music with our children and help them reap the benefits of a musical childhood.
How are you currently using music with your children? What musical activities do your children enjoy?
You might sing songs at group-time, play recorded music in the background while the children are working away, play calming music to settle children at rest-times, sing songs to help with routines and transitions, put on recorded music for your children to dance to… BUT are you using music intentionally to optimise your children’s development? Is there a “method in your madness” when it comes to making music with your little people?
Children experience joy through music – when they feel the beat, when they sing, play musical instruments, dance and move their bodies, and when they actively listen to a range of different musical styles.
Here at Branch Into Music, we use a simple framework: the Five Branches Framework for Music in the Early Years. Music is like a strong, healthy tree – its five “branches” are the most important elements of an early childhood music program – Beat, Singing, Instruments, Movement and Listening, and students need to experience them all.
Let’s briefly discuss each of these “branches” and how you can incorporate them into your early years program.
Keeping the BEAT. One way you can encourage your children to keep a steady beat is by patting your knees in-time while you are singing songs. You can also march around the room, keeping the beat with the children’s favourite music.
SINGING is critical to our children’s development and it is important to do lots of it with our early learners. Singing together gives us a sense of belonging, promotes self-confidence and can encourage children’s language development. Even as adults, when we sing, our brains release “happy hormones”, making us feel good and lowering our stress levels. Download a Nursery Rhyme album or playlist from your preferred music streaming service or dust off your old Play School CDs – these short, catchy, melodically simple, old favourites have stood the test of time for a reason! Practise in the shower or whilst driving – your children will love it!
Playing musical INSTRUMENTS purposefully with children need not be chaotic! Check out our free masterclass for educators and families – “Boom! Crash! Bang! Using musical instruments most effectively with our early learners” – where we discuss how to use musical instruments intentionally with children aged 0-8 years, using a consistent set of musical activities (that can be used with all instruments). Turn to page 25 to read more about this in our Small Business Spotlight.
Through MOVEMENT children learn about themselves (their minds and bodies) and the world around them. Moving and dancing help children develop self-awareness, non-verbal communication skills, self-expression, spatial awareness, coordination, balance, fine and gross motor skills, strength, flexibility, muscle tone, posture and stamina. Indeed, we need to provide children plenty of opportunities to move and dance. I love the old classics you can sing and chant yourself, like “Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Turn Around”, “Heads and Shoulders, Knees and Toes” and “Open, Shut Them”. You will have your favourite recorded music, but I find you can’t go wrong with The Wiggles and Play School movement songs. Crank up the speaker and “Shake Your Sillies Out” – you’ll have a blast!
Finally, we need to get our children LISTENING. Children (and adults) need to be able to actively listen to, make sense of, and discuss the sounds we hear in our environment. These skills are directly linked to early literacy. Listen to music from a range of genres with your children – world music, jazz, classical music, folk music etc. Discuss the instruments you can hear, how the music makes you feel and whether the music might be telling a story.
We are so lucky to be able to give the gift of music to the children in our care. It is so important that we do.
Words: Anne Belcher
Anne is the face behind Branch into Music. For more musical inspiration, including free resources for educators and families, visit www.branchintomusic.online
Originally published in Connected Caregiving Autumn 2023