One of my goals this summer was to install music outside in our play area. There were a few reasons for this and the most important one was to get that experience out where we spend most of our time during this season. Also I do not like a lot of loud noise inside my house! Music is very important to me; as a child I begged my parents for a piano and by the age of 5 I was taking lessons, keeping up with my brother who is four years older than me. Throughout my many years of piano lessons I also played in band, took voice lessons, and eventually taught piano. Needless to say my three sons took piano lessons until they reached junior high. I don’t know if any of them have retained anything that they learned but they had early exposure to lots of music.
As I have been in the field of child care I found that there is wide research done on the benefits of music and young children. Who would know that singing those early songs and banging with those rhythm instruments would benefit their math and reading skills later in school? Music also develops listening skills as we repeatedly sing the same song over and over during the week. How many of us sing, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or the “ABC” song? Isn’t it great when a two year old joins in for the first time? The pride they show when they know some of the words? Music touches all ways in which young children learn.
Music invites a response from the child. I remember a few years ago I was at a state basketball game sitting up in the balcony and in front of me were two little preschoolers coloring on the floor. During the time outs of the game there would be music playing through the sound system; as soon as those two children heard the music they laid down their crayons, stood up and started moving to the beat. It was at that time that I really realized how attuned young children are to music. This scenario played itself out over and over during the evening. Children have a very positive response to music usually moving their whole bodies to the mood and tempo. Giving children scarves or ribbons to use can enhance their enjoyment of moving to the beat. Children will move naturally to almost any musical selection.
Music helps children remember! How many times do we make up songs to make learning fun? It also helps with transitions: snack time, story time, time to go outside; clean up, washing hands…songs can be used during all of these. Music can be used to calm children down or get the wiggles out.
Getting back to my goal of having an outdoor music space I started picking up old pots, serving utensils at garage sales and also saving cans or other containers that would give off a different type of sound when struck. My favorite one is an old gourd that still has the seeds rattling around inside of it. I used holes that were already in the items or else I drilled holes in them. These items I then attached to my chain length fence in the back yard. I attached a small wire mesh container to hold wooden spoons and serving spoons that are used to “play” the instruments. We call this our music wall. It gets played with every day, especially by the one and two year olds. They love the freedom they have to go and get a spoon and bang away.
I also have an outside rain stick that is made from a three foot large threaded rod with washers on it. The children pull the washers up and let them go.
My most exciting addition to the outside music space is a wooden xylophone that I made. I used 2X3 boards and cut them in length from 18 inches to 36 inches; going two inches longer for each piece. I then downloaded an app that would tell what note the board made by striking it with a wooden spoon. The hard part was tuning it to the musical scale. Using the app www.otuner.sourceforge.net/ I either cut the ends off to make it go higher or to lower the tone I would carve out wood from the middle of the back of the board. I put sealer on it and attached rope to the underside of the boards and found a place to hang it. It has been a wonderful addition to our music space.
We also made a large PVC pipe horn; with the long size of pipe used it makes a low sound. The children press their faces into it and blow. The opening is much larger than their mouths so we don’t spread germs as it doesn’t actually go in the mouth.
Music speaks in a language that children instinctively understand; it draws children in. Music is called the universal language because – with no words – all types of music touch children’s ears, head, heart and body, and leave them more alert for having responded. I challenge you to incorporate music more in your days.
Alinda L. Wiarda
Family Child Care Professional