From the chants and dances of the American Indians, to the folk tunes handed down from the inhabitants of the Appalachian Mountains, to the blues of the rural South, music is a universal language that knows no barriers. Some studies show that children who listen to and participate in musical activities generate the neural connections used for abstract reasoning and understanding mathematical concepts (Rauscher & Shaw, 1997). Several other studies support the conclusion that music facilitates cognitive skills, including reading, abstract spatial abilities, and creativity. In addition, music allows children a medium for expressing their thoughts and feelings, which leads to enrichment in other areas of life. And children with special needs may enjoy and benefit from music the most. Young children who stutter will often sing without this speech impediment and children with limited mobility can be seen swaying and tapping to music with their peers.
1. At circle time, take the opportunity to sing each child’s name or clap the symbols of each child’s first, middle, and last name.
2. When giving children directions to an activity, try singing them instead of speaking.
3. Encourage the children to sing make up songs for clean up activities. For example, sing the words to a familiar tune, such as: “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” during clean up or for a transition from one activity to another.
This is the way we pick up blocks,
Pick up blocks, pick up blocks,
This is the way we pick up blocks
When it’s time for cleanup time.
4. Use creative movement to enhance natural rhythm as children swing, jump, sway, whirl, tap, and run. Invite the children to run like horses, jump like a kangaroo, hop like frogs, etc.
5. Play classical music and invite children to dance with you. Pretend you are a river flowing, the wind blowing, or a honeybee searching for nectar on a flower.
6. Place rhythm instruments in your music center and rotate them frequently. Encourage the children to use the instruments by helping them organize their own band. Play a tape of good marching music and watch your class become involved. For further fun, take your band outside and march around the play area or up and down the sidewalk.
7. Play the game, “What tune is this?” Hum or sing a line or two of a familiar song and ask children to guess the title.
8. When rainy or inclement weather prevents outdoor play, plan several musical activities. For example, play a game of musical chairs. Set up as many chairs as you have children in a circle. Then play music as the children walk around the chairs. When the music stops, ask the children to find a chair and sit in it. Instead of taking one of the chairs away, pick one of the children to be in charge of starting and stopping the music.
9. Invite children’s parents and extended family to visit your child care program for musical programs. Singing favorite songs or playing musical instruments prepares children for standing up before an audience now and into the future.
10. Check your community calendar for musical events appropriate for young children and their families, such as concert performances and children’s theater. Developing an appreciation for a wide variety of music fosters creativity and encourages children to have a life-long appreciation for the arts.
Carolyn R. Tomlin has taught kindergarten and early childhood education at Union University, Jackson, TN. She writes for numerous educational publications.
Rauscher, F., & Shaw, G. (1997). Neurological Research. Irvine, CA: University of California at Irvine.