Tag Archives: music and movement

Let the Music Play

I am a fan of great children’s music artists.  Hap Palmer and Raffi are a delightful mixture of musical and educational genius!  And so I hope you won’t get me wrong when I say that I don’t think that’s the only kind of music children should listen to.

Music designed for children has some great aspects, the lyrics, timing, even the key in which it is written is designed to appeal to children and encourage their participation.  But there are so many different kinds of music in the world, and children should be exposed to it!  Add to that the fact that a change of pace is often good — for the littles and the bigs as well!  As long as the lyrics are appropriate, and the children respond to it, almost every genre can have something to offer.  Here are some suggestions for “non-traditional” children’s music that have become popular with some of the littles I have worked with!

The Beatles.  They’re classic.  There’s just something universally appealing about their music.  “Here Comes the Sun” is one of my favorites to use with young children, because the lyrics contain so many early reading sight words.  It’s almost as though George Harrison were writing the song for kids!  As I taught first grade, I had a collection of laminated song charts from which the children would sing, and then they would do activities, pointing to or circling specific words and letters.  “Here Comes the Sun” was by far the favorite!

Soundtracks.  John Williams is an indisputable genius!  His soundtracks are musically rich and emotionally charged.  Try using his and other musical scores from movies for movement activities!

Jazz.  Don’t overlook this unique musical style!  Artists like Ella Fitzgerald and Louie Armstrong can have a lot to offer our little ones!  The music is creative and emotionally evocative.  The  mellow mood of many of these songs can also have a soothing effect for all its listeners!

The Great Works.  There’s been more of an emphasis in recent years on getting children exposed to the great works of composers like Vivaldi, Beethoven, and Mozart.  This movement is good, and listening to this type of music can do great things for children, though it’s not the magic pill some describe — read more about that here.  When sharing this type of music with children, focus on its beauty, on the way they can move to it, the types of instruments that are being used, and how it makes them feel.  Avoid using watered-down versions of these masterpieces.  Some albums sold as “classical music for kids” is simply an electronic version of the melody.  Part of the great benefit of listening to this type of music lies in the weaving together of a variety of instruments, parts, and dynamics.

Share Your Own Favorites.  I remember going to concerts back in college and jumping around, dancing with the crowd in the student union building as an accomplished local artist, Peter Breinholt and his band played.  Fast-forward about 15 years and that artist is now my neighbor.  I have to laugh to myself now as I watch the children from my neighborhood jump and dance like my friends and I used to “back in the day”.  Pete’s music is always family friendly and appeals to all ages.  I’ve yet to see a child who doesn’t get up and dance to his song, You Wear Flowers.  (You can listen to it –third one down on the samples here.  Find more info here.) 

I’ve been lucky that my children enjoy some of the same artists I do, along with Pete, there are many other acoustic artists like James Taylor and Jack Johnson that we can share together.  Lately my husband has been sharing some of his favorites in the classic rock category with our oldest as well. 

It’s fun to bond over some of your own favorites and talk to each other about what you like.  I know much of my own music preferences come from the fact that I listened to many of my dad’s favorites growing up.  Mama Cass, Cat Stevens, James Taylor, and CCR are still some of my favorites.

Set the Stage.  While it’s great to share a variety of musical styles with young children, keep in mind of course that the lyrics need to be appropriate for their age, but also consider the tempo and energy of the music and consider the influence it has.  Children are HUGELY responsive to the energy of music.  If you’re looking for some quiet play time, the William Tell Overture may not be the best pick!

What are some of the “non-traditional” favorites you share with your little ones?

Top photo by emr1991.
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Shaky Egg Sound Match

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Here’s a quick, easy, and inexpensive way (music to a teacher’s ears, right?)  to create a great tool for incorporating music and auditory discernment.  Whoa, back up the truck, what was that?  “Auditory discernment” is the ability to hear the differences and similarities between two sounds.  It can be as simple as hearing the difference between a bell ringing and a horn honking, but it’s also the groundwork for hearing the difference between the sounds in words, like the short e sound and the short i sound.  Phonemic awareness is a critical reading skill, and it is completely auditory.  So building auditory skills actually paves the way for reading skills.  OK, so back to the project at hand!

You’ll be making a set of shaky eggs with different sounds to be matched by the children.  If you haven’t made shaky eggs before, you really should- they’re so easy.  I explained the process way back here.  For this little project, make six different sets of eggs by using six different fillers.  You might want bells, coins, rice, popcorn, salt, and beads – just to name six off the top of my head.  Keep in mind that the amount in the egg affects the sound as well, so make pairs exactly the same, and consider differentiating pairs by having disparate amounts (one set with just one bead each, and another set with ten, for example).  To simplify, you may want to use just two colors of eggs, so that each pair has one of each color.  That just makes it easier for the children to match the sets, knowing they only have to check against six other eggs, not eleven. 

Now that you have six sets, you have an even dozen and can use a clean egg carton for your case.  Line up one color in one row and the other color in the other row.  Have the children pick one egg, give it a shake, and listen.  Then help the children shake the eggs in the other row, one at a time, until they find the other egg with the same sound.  Once a pair is found, they can put them side by side in the same carton, or in a second egg carton to keep confusion down!

There you have it!  I told you it was easy!  It’s a great sensory matching exercise, and you can always use the eggs for music time as well!

More from the “Exploring the Arts through Our Senses” unit here!

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The Pied Piper of Hamelin

I try to fit a nursery rhyme, fable, or fairy tale into each unit.  As I’ve mentioned before, these are the literary classics of childhood!  When talking about the arts and the senses, I like to introduce the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin!

You can check out a book to read out loud, create a flannel board story, or use the coloring pages from this website.  Whatever your method, get familiar with the story and bring it to life in your storytelling.  After the story, talk about whether or not the children think it could really happen.  Probably not….at least not exactly (though the story’s historical roots are actually debated).  Nonetheless, listening to music can make us want to move in different ways, depending upon the way it sounds.  Play a few samples and have the children suggest what type of movement the music makes them think of.  Choose samples that remind you of a lullaby, a dancing tune, a quiet tip-toe song, etc.  End with a march and have the children march, parade style, to your next activity!

This activity builds language and literacy skills as well as an appreciation for, and experience with, music and movement.

More from the “Exploring the Arts through Our Senses” unit here!

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Vivaldi’s Four Seasons- Don’t Just Listen, Get Up and Move!

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons has always been one of my favorite musical works.  This program music is so beautiful and powerful, but also so descriptive, you can literally see in your mind and feel in your bones what Vivaldi is trying to describe with his music.  (And if you aren’t sure what he’s trying to describe, check out these sonnets Vivaldi wrote to correspond with his music.)  Because the music is so suggestive of movement, it’s perfect for a music and movement activity with children!

I usually start out with the children by mentioning that this music was written by a man named Antonio Vivaldi a long, long time ago, and that he wanted to write music that sounded like the different seasons.  Then I announce each season as the music begins and we move to the music, calling out new movements to go with the music.  For example, in the Spring segment, we start out marching, then as the music quiets we tiptoe, as it has quick runs we jump and talk about flowers blooming up out of the ground or birds jumping into flight.  For Summer, we usually pant and fan, or slowly walk or crawl looking for water, because the music is slow and hot.  Fall involves some hands as falling leaves, of course, and Winter is freezing and shivering, or perhaps a snowstorm, dancing with white scarves.  (Here’s a great YouTube clip of Winter.  You can find other clips online as well.)

Create the movements together, listening carefully to what you hear and considering what you and the children know about each season the music is representing.  Should you be moving quickly or slowly?  Will your body be down low or up high?  How could you show leaves falling/birds singing/sun shining?  You may even want to listen to the music without any dancing first, and talk about what you hear and the types of movements you might use before you begin the movement portion of the activity.  I’m not suggesting that everyone should be doing the same choreographed movements, but some discussion time to consider movement will make them more intentional.  I don’t usually use Vivaldi’s entire movement, but enough to keep the children involved.  I may just use the Winter movements if we’re talking about that season in particular.  If I’m doing all four seasons, I may transition by saying something like, “Oh this is just way too hot here in the summer, let’s look for someplace cooler!”

This type of music and movement activity is great for exposing children to famous works of music and increasing their understanding and appreciation of it.  More importantly, it builds in them the ability to create as they internalize the music and express it again through their unique movements.  The movements also increase muscle strength and control as well as an awareness of personal space and boundaries (something you may want to address at the beginning of this endeavor).  The activity also builds active listening skills, which are important not just to music appreciation, but to learning in general.  For more information about the importance of music activities for preschoolers read here.

For more favorite fall activities, click here!

For more wintry activities, click here!

Top photo by Kerbi.

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Filed under Large Motor Skills, Learning through Play and Experience, music and movement activity

Everybody Does the Monster Boogie!

Laurie BerknerLaurie Berkner has a great monster song that just compels your little monsters to get up and dance!  You can download Monster Boogie on iTunes, and you can listen to it with a little animated video on YouTube here.  One of the great things about Laurie Berkner’s music is that you almost instinctively know how  to dance to it just from the elements she uses.  At the beginning, the music is staccato, and so we march with our scariest monster faces.  Then during the boogie/wiggle chorus, we dance and wiggle as only a silly monster would.  Often the roar at the end is the favorite part!  Music and movement activities are great for transitioning, building large motor skills, as well as enjoying the creative and interpretive aspects of music.  As an extension, you can have the children create drawings of a monster party with all their favorite monster characters boogying down!

For more favorite fall activities, click here!

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We are the Dinosaurs

pictures_band01I love Laurie Berkner’smusic!  She is one of those artists who really knows music and really knows kids.  Her music is fun and I don’t find it patronizing or grating like I do with some other children’s music.  If you haven’t found her treasure trove of music yet, you should stop everything and go to iTunes now.  Or at least after you finish reading this post!

One of my many favorite Laurie Berkner songs is, “We are the Dinosaurs”.  It’s a great song and perfect for the kiddos to dance to.  They really just naturally dance to act out the story in the song.  It starts at a heavy dinosaur march, and then switches to a lighter, quicker tune as you stop to eat and then again to rest.  In addition to being a fun song to sing and to dance to, it is great for exposing the children to a musical change in mood, as the music alternates between staccato and legato.  This is a great activity for fostering creativity as well as developing music and movement skills.  So now you can dance on over to iTunes and download this song.  I guarantee your children will get more than one dollar’s worth of use out of it!

For more dinosaur activities, click here.

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Creative Development

Photo provided by flaivoloka.

Developing the creative senses of a child, as well as the confidence to create are important, and sometimes undervalued, aspects of childhood development.  In a culture currently obsessed with standardized testing ,creative development is easily lost through the cracks.   While loads of money have been made on flashcards designed to enhance children’s memorization of notable works of art and famous artists, they have little, if anything, to do with creative development.  The true benefits in children being exposed to fine art are being able to discuss the art and to get inspiration for their own, new works of art.  Talking with children about the colors (by name, tone, or intensity), the feeling (“I feel far away when I look at this.”), the lines and texture, or other aspects of art, when talking about their own creations as well as more widely known works, does far more to develop a child’s creativity than do meaningless identification drills.

Children also need the time, materials, and freedom to explore and create with a variety of tools (brushes, rollers, combs) and media (paint, dough, paper).  In these activities, the process of experimenting and creating is far more important than the end result. 

While visual arts are often the first to come to mind when creative development is mentioned, they are but one component.  In addition to the visual arts, creativity finds an outlet in music and movement, and dramatic play. 

Creativity is also at work in more academic subjects as an integral part of language, the scientific process, and social problem solving- driving inquiry and creating a flexibility in thinking, allowing children to devise new and unique solutions.

Where do you sit on the Spectrum of Preschool Arts and Crafts?

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