Learning centers offer children—individually and in small groups—opportunities to explore their interests further in a spontaneous, as opposed to structured, manner. When you provide a movement and music center in your classroom, children can listen to music, play instruments, and experiment with sound or movement at their own developmental levels and without adult supervision.
To achieve maximum success—and promote creativity—with your center, keep the following points in mind:
- Location is critical. Choose an area where children making noise won’t disturb those involved in quieter activities. Church (1992) suggests a spot near the dramatic-play space, or next to the circle-time area. Also, the area should be large enough so children can actually move and dance.
- Make your center accessible to young children. Tape players should be easy for children to operate. Materials should be stored in easy-to-open containers, on easily reached shelves. Instruments should be readily available.
- In addition to typical child-sized instruments, provide miscellaneous sound sources: coffee cans, paper bags, or oatmeal containers filled with beans, beads, rice, or sand; coffee-can or oatmeal-box drums; different-sized stainless steel mixing bowls; blocks of wood; kitchen tools; and a variety of rocks. A prop box, including scarves, streamers, elastic bracelets or anklets with bells sewn on them, and rag dolls or stuffed animals to serve as dance partners, can further encourage creativity.
- Change the materials (tapes, props, instruments, and other sound-making devices) periodically for maximum interest and experimentation.
Other Examples to Enhance Creativity in Movement and Music Learning Centers
Once children have learned the song, “If You’re Happy,” and are performing the original actions, ask them to think of other actions that could demonstrate happiness. What other emotions could they sing about, and what are the actions that could accompany them?
- Children love nonsense words. Ask them to help you create a piggyback song to a familiar melody, making up silly words in place of the original lyrics.
- When introducing children to musical instruments, give them an opportunity to experiment before restricting them to creating sound in only one (the typical) manner. Challenge them to discover how many sounds they can create with the instrument. Can they find a way to make not only soft and loud sounds but also sad and happy sounds? How does each sound make them feel like moving?
- Improvising movement to music is a great way for children to express themselves. But asking them to move in the way the music makes them feel can be intimidating. Playing a game called Statues, however, is fun! With this game, the children move while the music is playing and freeze into statues when you pause the music, remaining frozen until the song starts again. Not only does this activity promote creativity, but also it helps children differentiate between sound and silence. And if you use a wide range of selections, you’ll expose the children to a variety of musical elements.
- Encourage children to find more than one answer to every challenge. Start by limiting the number of possible responses with invitations to “Find another way…” or “Find two different ways to….” Once the children are comfortable with this approach, and developmentally ready, issue the broader question: “How many ways can you find to…?”
Rae Pica has been a movement education consultant for 20 years. An adjunct instructor with the University of New Hampshire, Rae is the author of 12 books, including Experiences in Movement, Moving & Learning Across the Curriculum, and the recently released, newly revised Moving & Learning Series.
Church, E.B. (1992). Learning through play: Music and movement. New York: Scholastic.