Music reflects the sound of life

Music and dance should be reliant upon each other.

From a very early stage babies enjoy sharing a song. It is something most parents do quite naturally and unselfconsciously as babies make the most appreciative and flattering audiences. They want more and more – even if you do sing out of tune.  Sharing songs is not only fun but it also helps you build a happy relationship with your child. Children love to hear the patterns and rhymes of words. Action songs are good because children can experience the actions at the same time as the words. As babies develop and grow they begin to join in with the singing – wriggling, jumping and clapping with enjoyment as they recognise a favourite rhyme or song.

All children respond to rhythm and music and that includes deaf children. 

Analise was profoundly deaf and also severely developmentally delayed. She would stand in a slumped position with uninterested eyes cast downwards. On one particular occasion both of her hands were placed on a drum which was being played. She straightened up, lifted her head and her eyes sparkled with the intense joy of feeling the vibration of the music.  Truly a magic moment.

The importance of rhythm instruments for children is twofold. First rhythm is a basic element in everyone; second, it is the most basic and fundamental element of music.  For nine prenatal months the fetus is in continuous contact with the mother’s heartbeat. The heartbeat is rhythm, breathing is rhythm. When a child can display rhythm either with the body through dancing, running jumping etc or with an instrument he or she can feel its essence and become more aware of it.

Children like to use rhythm instruments to accompany a pianist, a DVD,  something on television or their own singing. A collection of rhythm instruments is a fine addition to your collection of toys and things to do. Durable and exciting small musical instruments can be purchased. You can also use your craft skills to create some musical items at home. 

  • Drums: A child’s first rhythm instrument is likely to be a drum. No, not a very noisy real drum! The simplest drum can be made from a large can or plastic ice-cream container.  They may even try using an upturned saucepan. A drum can be introduced somewhere around the age of one or as soon as the baby’s arms can make the swinging motion needed for banging.  
  • Drum sticks: A double headed drum beater is good for beginners because it assures that whichever end they bang with it is the ‘right’ end and it avoids the possibility of an eye injury. Cover each end of a dowel with a ball of paper Mache. A total length of 20 – 24 cm gives a toddler better leverage than a longer stick. The next day, after the outside is hard, slip the pulp off the stick so the inside can dry more quickly. Paper Mache shrinks a little as it dries and white glue will be needed to attach the balls securely to the dowel.  Paint as required.
  • Rhythm Sticks: Use wooden spoons as rhythm sticks.
  • Maracas: There are several ways of making maracas. Try several types because they all sound different. Maracas are such a favourite that it’s hard to have too many. This is my favourite way of making Maracas.  Put about a dozen dried beans into a balloon. A funnel makes it easy to pour them in. Inflate the balloon to about 10 cm in diameter. Knot it close to the inflated part and slip the neck over a piece of dowel. Use several strips of masking tape to hold the balloon straight on the piece of dowel.  Cover the entire balloon and masking tape with paper Mache. There should be at least seven or eight layers of paper when you have finished.  Dry and paint. A layer of clear lacquer will add the finishing touch.
  • Shakers: Plastic bottles make excellent shakers. Fill with a variety of ‘sounds’ – small stones, rice, dried peas, etc. Glue on the lid.  Shakers are now ready to use and they can be decorated in any way you choose.
  • Tambourine: Hold two paper plates together and punch between twelve and sixteen holes equidistant around the edges. Hold the plates right sides facing and put the ‘sound’, beans for example, between them. Glue the edges together making sure that the holes are in the right positions. Thread yarn through the holes and finish off with a bow and paint or decorate as desired. To play the tambourine hold it in one hand and slap it against the palm of the other hand, or just shake it.

Parties for pre-schoolers are never complete without a little marching parade. Before the party make a tambourine for each guest but do not decorate it. As each guest arrives give him or her  a tambourine and offer crayons, or pictures and paste so each one can decorate a personal tambourine.  Avoid paint – paint and party clothes don’t mix. The activity will keep the early arrivals occupied until everyone is here. After the party, of course, each guest takes home his or her tambourine.

For variety use aluminum foil plates instead of paper ones and tie jingle bells with yarn through the punched holes.

Music and dance should be reliant upon each other. Dance is a physical response with the body to music. Dance for young children is the basic way in which they show a response to music.  The whole body can be involved or just the hands, the torso, or the arms etc. If you look at different countries and cultures in the world we find many differing ways of dancing which use and emphasise different parts of the body. 

Music can be defined as organised sound.  Sound can be organised  in a number of ways by using the voice (singing),  the body (body percussion – hand clapping, feet stamping) or with objects (playing instruments).

From a very early age books and stories are important steps along the path a child follows to understanding. The first books a child has should be strong because a young child has not yet learned to respect and care for their property. Their books should have large and clear pictures of everyday items.

If a child is allowed to play creatively it will sometimes be messy. This is no reason to avoid simple crafts or other creative activities because they are yet another important part of a child’s creative development. Help children to understand that cleaning up is part of the play.

Children learn through play and their creative development is a mirror reflecting what they have experienced, seen and heard.