5 Ways to Teach Yourself Music

Do you know how to teach yourself music?

Professor Lucy Green found out how popular musicians taught themselves to play their instruments.  She discovered these five ways:

  1. They chose their own music
  2. They played by ear
  3. They worked by themselves and with friends
  4. The learning was haphazard
  5. They integrated several musical skills 

Lucy Green adopted and adapted these strategies for the school classroom. She found that the children became much better listeners and could describe the “underneath bits” rather than just the lyrics.

Classically trained musicians, who comprise the majority of music teachers, typically don’t learn how to play by ear or how to improvise and these are exactly the skills of the popular musician.

Lucy Green’s success in this project led to her being invited to join the Musical Futures Project operating in UK, Australia, Canada, Singapore, New Zealand and Brazil.

Teach yourself musicI have tried some of these ideas in my studio teaching practice, such as letting the child try to imitate a song they’ve chosen by playing the parts into a MIDI sequencing program. I can see now that what was missing was the “friendship-group”.

I know many self-taught musicians, traditional instrumentalists, singers and electronics buffs. They are startlingly good at what they do and have enviable fan bases. The decision to make popular music or none at all begins at around ten years of age. It’s the very time that children decide what they are “good at” and drop all interest in things that, in their minds, will expose them to derision.

This ten-year old watershed moment makes me think that the decision to put the lion’s share of education resources into secondary music teaching is wrong. By the time the child is thirteen it’s too late – the horse has bolted!  Development of skills (requiring endless repetition) is a great pleasure for an eight year old so that’s a perfect time to begin to master an instrument.

Richard Gill, OAM, thinks we should teach a song-based curriculum in primary school because children can learn almost everything about music through singing, including notation. And singing, he says, has the added benefit of strengthening community. He is adamant that music education should start in preschool and have a strong place throughout childhood. So when Richard Gill says it would be wonderful if every child in every nation, aided by the United Nations, had access to music I couldn’t agree more, in fact access for all children is the keystone of my education philosophy.

Personally, I think we should use all means available (voices, violins and vocoders) to connect with children to make music meaningful. Right now I’m using nursery rhymes, maracas and chime bars because of the age of the children I work with (0-6 years) but I have managed a suite of 24/7 access electronic music studios when I taught adults (1990s) and they got the very lastest samplers, keyboards and speakers I could buy. My music education philosophy is based on the notion of horses for courses, the essential thing is that lots of music-making is going on for each learner.


Green, L. (2011). What can teachers learn from popular musicians? A conversation with Lucy Green Professor of Music Education [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4r8zoHT4ExY

In this video, Lucy Green discusses the research behind the Musical Futures Project.

Gill, R. (2015). Richard Gill on music literacy [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=7&v=DzRbw9xpOeo

Early Learning Through Music

Children 2004 049Core values at the heart of Musical Child’s early learning through music programs

1. All children are born musical.

It is one of their multiple intelligences. Therefore, we believe that they have a right to maximise their innate ability and need music education early to lay the foundation for music appreciation and participation throughout their lives. Musicality needs to be nurtured before the age of one because babies begin to ‘prune out’ their highly-stocked neuronal system at that age. and if their musical impulses are not encouraged by their loved ones those opportunities will be lost.

2. Learning in music supports learning in other areas

Particularly through the focus on deep listening and concentration on a task – it maximises the potential for each child to succeed in future learning by setting up enhanced neural networks.

3. Music socialises and binds groups together

This is crucial in the first group – the family. Shared experience of music releases oxytocin in the brain – the chemical found when groups feel a sense of togetherness. Along with the social confidence and emotional security available within groups come opportunities for effective communication in language, mathematics and other literacies.

4. Music relieves stress and brings joy

Joy is experienced along with the release of the ‘feel good’ chemicals, serotonin and dopamine. This enhances emotional development and allows cognition to flow by removing stressors. Musical play – activity through experimentation with sound sources, improvisation, movement, drama and song – opens the mind flow of the child and sets up a habit of mind or disposition towards repeated musical experiences.

5. Learning music gives access to two large bodies of literature

The first of these is in language through song, the other is in music itself both historically and across cultures. These cultural artefacts are part of the child’s rightful heritage and become indestructible toys for the mind. They underpin creativity by providing a widely-stocked storehouse of knowledge – examples of language(s) and music(s) – necessary to create something new, either to the individual or to the world. Both bodies of literature are information that should be made available to the child.

Researchers and Educators in early learning through music

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Musical Rights of the Child, International Music Council, in official partnership with UNESCO.

Prof Sandra Trehub, Infant and Child Studies, University of Toronto, Missisauga, Canada.

Laurel Trainor, Auditory Development Lab, McMaster University, Ontario, Canada.

Howard Gardner, Harvard Graduate School of Education, U.S.

Richard Gill Conductor, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Australia.

Glen Schellenberg, University of Toronto, Missisauga, Canada.

Anita Collins, University of Canberra, Australia.

Daniel Leviti, Laboratory for Music Cognition, Perception and Expertise, McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

Reggio Emilia Approach, Carolyn P. Edwards, Lella Gandini, George E. Forman, Italy and U.S..

Oliver Sacks (1933-2015), U.S. New York University School of Medicine

Margaret Boden, Department of Informatics, University of Sussex, U.K.

Jerome Bruner. New York University School of Law, U.S.

Early learning through music – more information. . .

Music lesson plans for kids in daycare: how to plan for preschool

Bells on wrists

Using Internet search to plan a daycare music program

Are you struggling to plan a music program for the three, four and five year-old children in your daycare center?  Is your head spinning from trying to make sense of what you have found in your Internet searches?

Here is a way to structure your search.  Look for the following 9 kinds of activity.  These are the things I do from our own Lesson Plans over at Musical Child, Early Learning through Music.  I know from years of experience that these specific activities work with ages three to five.

1. Hello Song.  Before you sing hello to each child, ask her/him to choose an action for everyone to follow.  That keeps all the children involved until their turn comes around.   This is highly repetitive but strangely it works and seems to settle everyone into the idea that we are going to be singing for a while.

2. Body Percussion.  These action packed games internalise the strong driving beat of the song so that it’s a sensation on the body of the child.  Body percussion songs, chants and raps involve actions such as patting the knees, clapping the hands, pounding the fists and crossing each arm or hand across the body.  This wires the left and right brain together aiding the coordination so necessary for a good day of learning.

3. Finger Play. By choosing the right finger play, you can make a delightful moment in the child’s day.  A child who knows how to perform a finger play can play alone, with another child or show a loving adult at any time of the day.  It’s a gift for the child’s mind, body and social status.

4. Memory.  Memory songs are about those things children just have to learn by heart – the sequence of the numbers both forwards and backwards; the days of the week; or song lyrics in a language other than English.  Memory training is an important aspect of early learning.

5.  Rhythm Instrument Songs.  You will need activities that direct the use of rhythm instruments (sometimes known as “untuned percussion”) so you don’t end up with cacophony. It hurts everybody’s ears and is particularly disruptive to children who suffer from sensory overload disorder.  I suggest a series of songs that engage the imagination.  That way the children have a reason to concentrate on each of their rhythm instruments- e.g if their bells represent sheep in a song.  You should always allow time for play and exploration.  After a short free play time, you can come in with suggestions for playing a particular instrument on your given signal.

6. Melody and Harmony Instrument Songs.  These are songs that can be played or accompanied on melody instruments, sometimes known as “tuned percussion” (e.g chime bars, resonator bells, xylophones).  Once again you need to allow playtime and exploration well before you expect the child to follow the suggestions for playing particular sounds differentiated by a letter name or sometimes colour.  The children will not be at the intellectual level of being able to play the “right note at the right time” in the early stages of engaging with tuned percussion.  However, this simply doesn’t matter.  If you carefully choose simple pentatonic songs, the gentle sounds of children playing whatever notes they choose will sound beautiful and will give much pleasure.   Over time, most children become more and more selective about the sequence of notes they choose to play.  Some, particularly at age five, will even be able to play the melody by reading and following letter name notation charts.

7. Drama and Movement.  These activities make use of props and/or actions to dramatise the lyrics. In this way the children are physically and emotionally engaged allowing them to deepen their understanding of the lyrics.  Often, this is the kind of activity that children want to do again, again!

8. Games and Dances.  These sociable movement activities are achievable and often quite wonderful.  Especially when you have enough adults helping the children to hold hands and keep the circle in shape or making sure that partner-dancing is working well.   It is worth persisting with dancing with young children so that you can have the pleasure of witnessing the moment when two or more of them spontaneously dance together during free time.

9. Story Songs.  Story songs allow for focussed time and are rich parcels of language that develop vocabulary and prosody (the rhythm of the vocal patterns in a language).  Stories in song-form fulfil the growing need for narrative structure as children develop awareness of people, time, event and place and the ways these elements interact to make a good story.

So that’s it, nine different activities to cover all the music learning your children need.  Supplement these with some good classical and World music for movement and rest times and you are well underway to having a successful music program.  If you want to save hundreds of hours of preparation, I invite you to follow the complete music curriculum at Musical Child.

I wish you every success and would love to help you achieve great results.  Simply post here or email me on the contact form.

Should parents stay in the music class?

Brompton2Is it important to have the parents in the class? 

This is a question we have been asked many times.   We have taught with and without parents present and prefer to have them integrated into the class with the children.  In fact we love having classes with a parent/carer for each child.  There are many reasons why, here are just a few:

A parent/carer can

  • manage their child, help them with over-brimming emotions,
  • help their child to organise props and instruments and play the games with them,
  • take the child to the bathroom if necessary,
  • interpret instructions if they know that their child did not understand,
  • learn new songs and musical activities to do at home,
  • discover surprising things about their child that they didn’t know before,
  • give you valuable information about their child,
  • advocate for their child e g “Robbie hasn’t had a turn today.”

What’s more, we get to work with interesting new people who love children as much as we do.

Obviously, there are times when the parents/carers are not with their children, such as childcare, nursery school or kindergarten.  In those settings there are often several adults ready to care for the child’s needs and there are regulations about child-staff ratios.

So yes, you can run very successful music classes without the parents present as long as you do have at least one other adult generally available.   You should not be left alone with a group of young children – you never know when you might need an extra adult to think and act quickly.  Of course children with special needs will need to have a carer dedicated to them.

If you are an independent music teacher who visits a centre, it is desirable to write up a contract for the client/centre manager to sign, stating your working conditions, including not being left alone with the children. The wording could be something like this:

The client is responsible for the children who are participating in the activities and the regulation number of accredited adults representing the client must be in attendance and in charge for the full period of the presentation.

Ask for other adults to be an integral part of your music sessions.  Make sure they feel included – frequently use their names, ask them to hand out instruments, invite them to join in the games, make it fun for them to participate too.  Make it clear that you are in this together and that they are very important to the successful running of music lessons in their centre.   From the first time you enter, be a strong, warm, friendly, talented visitor to their centre so that the staff are always pleased to see you walk in.

If you have to work alone, limit the group size to very small, no more than five.  Have another adult within earshot or get yourself an apprentice.  Another alternative would be to run a musical playtime rather than a music lesson where you teach “from the chair”.  That way, you can attend to the children with special needs while you lightly supervise children who are playing together harmoniously with musical instruments, character toys and props from songs introduced earlier.

Whichever way you run your music sessions, make sure they happen regularly and often, preferably every day but at least once a week.  That way you can be sure they will take effect and contribute to the child’s growth.

Preschool Music Program Sing and Play

Music Program Sing and Play –  for 3-5 year old children

If you are too busy or not confident enough to write your own music lessons, you can get this easy to read, simple to use, complete prepared music program, with all the music you need… and you can start teaching it straight away no matter how much experience you have-
and the best part- there are no ongoing licence fees…

Description of the Music Program Sing and Play” 

The preschool music program Sing and Play is designed to support you leading warm, sociable group sessions where the children sing, move, dance, dramatise, improvise, create, listen and play instruments. Usually, one educator leads the group encouraging children and any other adults present to fully participate in the songs, music and their related activities.  A similar structure is behind every lesson so each time the group gets together the children become more powerful at predicting which activity will happen next, much to the surprise of the adults who aren’t usually so aware.

The songs are based on traditional melodies, many of them consisting of extremely simple tonal materials that are found in many cultures.  They offer the perfect basis for developing an appreciation of music in its cultural and aesthetic diversity.  The songs teach melodic shape, rhythm and timing, emotional expression and song structure.  They provide familiar, repetitive musical forms that are easy to remember.

Designed for children aged from three to five years, the music program Sing and Play offers four action-packed courses with songs, games, simple musical instruments, dramatic play, mimicry, movement, dance, relaxation and literature as focal points.

The songs, games and music develop

  • social awareness and social conventions
  • language and literature through song
  • coordination, timing and rhythm
  • emotional self-regulation
  • tactile learning
  • reasoning and mathematics
  • musical concepts (rhythm, melody, tempo, style, expression, timbre and form)
  • practical musical skills (listening, singing, playing instruments, moving to music, improvising)
  • drama, dance and mimicry
  • multicultural music appreciation
  • relaxation and well-being
  • visual learning

Within the music program Sing and Play there are over 170 songs.  Most of them are traditional to the English/European cultures with a smattering having been written to suit our purpose when a traditional song could not be found e.g. a helicopter song.  There are five songs in Languages other than English.  There is also a wide selection of well-known nursery rhymes and some stimulating rhymes that are less well-aired.  We include time-honoured nursery rhymes and songs believing that they are toys for the mind – indestructible, enduring cultural icons shared with adults and peers, siblings and cousins.  The expressiveness of the English language is encapsulated in its nursery rhymes.  They are significant too as cultural fragments that bind societies through shared meanings.

The program is presented as four courses:

  1. Singing All Day Long
  2. Singing in My Heart
  3. Singing Just for Fun
  4. Singing to the Sky

Music Program Sing and PlayInside the Music Program Sing and Play

Each course contains Educator’s Notes, five sets of MP3s and lyric charts showing the lyrics to all the songs.  A course can be used over a period of ten or more weeks.


There are five lesson plans called parts per course.  The intention is that each part is repeated at least once (if you choose to use it as we do for a ten-week period).

The five parts have topical titles such as ‘Cooks in the Kitchen’ or ‘Over the Sea’ allowing the grouping of songs around a rich driving concept to aid concentration and support language development.  The content has direct appeal to the children, because it is within their range of experiences either directly or vicariously through books and other media.

Each part can be presented as a 45 minute session once a week or divided into smaller chunks and used daily.

The program is flexible but it also has a strong developmental core to it based on the recurring activities.  Ten developmental activities are presented in each part under headings such as ‘Body Percussion’, ‘Rhythm Instruments’ or ‘Games and Dances’.

Each of the five parts shows:

  • the part number and name e.g. Part 1 – Beautiful Farm
  • activity heading: Social Conventions; Body Percussion; Fingers; Memory; Rhythm Instruments; Melody and Harmony Instruments; Drama and Movement; Games and Dances; Music Appreciation Suggestions; Story Songs with Visual Media
  • learning outcomes for musical concepts: rhythm, melody, tempo, style, expression, timbre and form
  • a rationale or “Why?” section giving the writer’s reason for choosing the piece as well as extra historical or cultural notes
  • a suggestion for staying alert to opportunities for Language and Speech Development by mining the lyrics for repetition, rhythm, rhyme, alliteration, onomatopoeia
  • a suggested way to introduce the activities and songs
  • the lyrics
  • a simple score

Within the whole Music Program Sing and Play  there are 20 parts and over 170 songs.  The notes are laid-out in an easy to read format with a lesson overview in the front.  Each course is colour-coded for ease of differentiation.

All of the song accompaniments and vocal tracks are provided as MP3s.

All of the song lyrics are provided as lyric charts. Songs that are repeated – Hello Song, Pack Away Song, Goodbye Song and the ‘horse-riding song’ – are provided once.  They appear in the lyric charts for the first part but also pertain to the following four parts in each course.

This description is based on Sing and Play 1: Singing All Day Long Educator’s Book.  To read more from this book download the Excerpt.  Find out more about how to buy the complete preschool music program Sing and Play for children aged one to five published by Musical Child – Early Learning through Music.  

Advice for a beginning music teacher from an expert

Advice for a beginning music teacher to restore your confidence

Have you been asked to teach an early childhood program?  Are you freaking out?  Take a deep breath and read on – this is quick and painless:

 advice for a beginning music teacher

Holly at Brompton

#1. Chill out 

Most importantly, chill out, relax, trust yourself and trust those kids.  After all, you love music, they love music and so you have a lot in common.  Remember that you have something wonderful to offer because no-one can run music sessions more convincingly than a music teacher – it’s your job.  If you are relaxed, and get down on the floor to their level, you will soon have them eating out of your hand. Hey, you were once a musical little kid yourself!



advice for a beginning music teacher

Michael and Mark

#2. Mentor me please

Get a mentor.  Organise an ongoing professional conversation with an expert, even if it’s by email or through a forum.  This person need not be a music educator but s/he will know about how to engage and manage very young children.  If possible, watch her/him in action, ideally with the very children you are going to teach.  If not possible, then watch some other experts working well with this age.  Tell him/her your fears and share your delights.


advice for a beginning music teacher

Music Curriculum for 3-5 year olds

#3. Read all about it

Research.  Read books, journal articles and other academic papers.  Investigate website, especially blogs written by practising professionals.  Be a little wary of some social media posts, videos and pin-boards as persistent errors can be passed around just as easily as can good advice. Go to your trusted music teachers’ associations where you can find links to sub-branches devoted to early childhood music.  Here’s a link to the Early Childhood Music Education Commission for the International Society for Music Eduction -ISME.  And here’s a link to a free excerpt from my Sing and Play 1 Educator’s Book.

That’s it – a little bit of good advice for a beginning music teacher! Good luck. You might find that you love it and you’ll be looking forward to working with your youngest students as the best part of your working week.  To save hours and hours of preparation time, look for our recommended preschool music lessons at Musical Child.

advice for a beginning music teacher

Lesson Plan for 3-5 year-olds Beautiful Farm

How to program preschool music lessons

program preschool music

A simple way to program preschool music for 10 weeks

So maybe you’ve got a new job teaching preschoolers music and you’ve got to submit something in writing to the powers that be.  Writing a program of music lessons for a term or a year can be a pretty soul-less task. You might have write it even before you meet the children you will be educating!  Maybe having to program preschool music is something you’re dreading, especially if you have little or no experience in preschool music teaching.

A simple way – just two little words

Before you plan anything, repeat after me, “free play is essential” so make sure you implement opportunities for musical free play to happen frequently, even if you’re not there when it’s going on.  Now we’ve got that clear, let me suggest a simple way to start thinking about programming music lessons for young children.   Spend your efforts on these two words, content and activities.

Content has soul and substance and can be many things: a song- The Farmer in the Dell, or a chant – We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, or a piece of music – Henry Mancini’s Baby Elephant Walk or a story book – I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.

Great content usually has a title, is inherently musical and captures their interest straight away.

Activities can be many but here are a few that are tried and true: body percussion – clap your hands, pat your knees, hand jive, or a dance – moving different body parts in Dr. Knickerbocker, or playing rhythm instruments in an animal sound game – I Had a Rooster, or a finger play – hiding and revealing separate fingers in Where is Thumbkin? or acting out characters in a drama game –  Monkeys on the Bed.

Great activities keep them listening to the music long enough for them to learn what the music has to teach them.

Let’s trust for a moment that choosing excellent content and activities will take care of the musical concepts and skills.  Why? Because other experienced music educators will be your guide when you choose great content and activities and you are going to trust them for a while until you gain enough experience to know what “works” with your particular children.

So, now you can plot, say 10 weeks of content and activities on a simple matrix.  This is one of ours from Sing and Play 3 Singing Just for Fun.  We group our “great content” around five different themes.

You can try it as it is, or change the content by finding other songs or pieces of music. Keep the activities the same, that way you’ll cover all the concepts and skills mentioned earlier.

program preschool music

A not so simple way – especially for music teachers

When I teach this topic to adults in music education courses and training sessions, I rely on a metaphor of a double-layer cake where we sandwich together two ways of organising ideas – the first around a set of musical concepts, the second around a set of musical skills.

Those of you who are musicians will take to this approach easily.  I’ll give a brief run-down.

When talking about the concepts or elements of  music, a standard list might include: rhythm; pitch; melody; harmony; timbre; texture; expression – made up of tempo, dynamics, articulation, interpretation; form; and possibly style although that can be considered to be an aggregate of everything else.

All of these concepts form part of the early childhood music curriculum.  This may sound contentious, but from my reading and  observations, young children show subtle discretion in their listening.  They just can’t perform skilfully because their bodies (including voices) and emotional controls are not ready.

The musical skills are generally listed as listening, moving, singing, playing, improvising (sometimes expressed as creating) and the literacy skills of reading, notating and composing (sometimes expressed as writing music).

The first five of these skills are crucial in a complete early childhood music curriculum.  Reading, notating and composing can be included (be careful not to force literacy).  These are not the things you need to concentrate on “teaching” although they can easily be part of free musical play.

Once we sort out concepts and skills, we have to add the time dimension.  Given, say 10 weeks in a term, 40 weeks in a school year or 51 weeks in a day-care setting, how do we plot those concepts and skills over time?

When should the children sing?  We might need to ask ourselves should we expect them to sing perfectly in tune and get the pitch and  melody right?   Do we program singing for every day or once a week?

How often should the children play instruments? Do we expect them to be able to play rhythms in perfect time?

What about timbre, how do we program for our children to develop a deeper understand of tone colour?  There are, literally, hundreds of questions that lie behind a neat little A4 piece of paper that sets out a block of “lessons”.  We could spend ages philosophising about music education but if you need to get started quickly, you can either write your own program or go with ours over at Musical Child, Early Learning through Music.


Pre-primary music currciulum in Namibia and South Africa

bs-1-boy-castanets-hard-cut-outWelcome to all of you who love teaching music to young children in Africa.

I have been surprised and delighted by the growing number of educators in Namibia and South Africa who have discovered and embraced the Musical Child curriculum in recent months.  I must thank those of you who network and disperse information so generously by word of mouth and through newsletters.

It is incredibly humbling to have our resources  valued in the cradle of human culture where music is in the very blood.  Years ago in the 90s, when I was working as an academic in the University of South Australia, an opportunity arose to write curriculum materials for the South African schooling system.  I refused to write a word, removed as I was from the people for whom it was intended, people who lived and sang and danced in the very heartland of World Music.  Ironically now I find that our songs and activities strike a chord.  I feel truly blessed.

I hope that this trend continues and that those of you who belong to professional associations are able to share your experiences and make sure that all of the naturally musical children in your care are nourished artistically throughout their early childhood. Please feel free to use the comment box below to let everyone know how you run your music sessions.

Several years ago when we were selling our large printed kits, we sent some to a kindergarten teacher in Pretoria.  That proved costly because they were over 2 kilos in weight. Now we are able to sell directly off the website  and provide a much more timely delivery without all the postage expenses and waiting time.  Email me on the Contact form with any inquiries as to how it works.  Or click here 40 Music Lesson Plans to see the whole range.

Full music curriculum for 1-3 year-old children

music curriculum

Bounce and Sing 1: Bouncing All Day Long

Would you like a music curriculum for toddlers for a whole year?

We’re so pleased to be able to announce that our full year-long music curriculum is now available online for the 1-3 year-olds.  The Bounce and Sing program in its entirety provides you with four half-semesters worth of music activities all programmed into lessons that run for two-three week blocks. You’ll find all 20 lesson plan titles here.

A whole lesson plan will save you valuable preparation time, and having all 20 on hand would set you up for years!  This is the final form of the program we developed and refined in community classes and child care centres over thousands of hours.  We tested it with parents, teachers and early childhood professionals of all kinds.  It’s now in use in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, South Africa, Namibia, China, Hong Kong, Nepal, Cambodia, New Zealand and many other countries.  And the children everywhere love it!

Our music curriculum consists of four courses:

Bounce and Sing 1: Bouncing All Day Long – Lesson Plans 1-5

Bounce and Sing 2: Bouncing on the Bed – Lesson Plans 6-10

Bounce and Sing 3: Bouncing Up and Down – Lesson Plans 11-15

Bounce and Sing 4: Bouncing Kangaroos – Lesson Plans 16-20

Our preschool music curriculum

We also have another full-year music curriculum called Sing and Play for the 3-5 year-old.

Buy your music curriculum today and save yourself hundreds of hours of preparation. Just put all 20 Lesson Plans into your order and you can download them instantly.   Click here  Bounce and Sing for Toddlers.

Set up your Music Program for parent and child

Would you like to set up your music program for toddlers and preschoolers?

This is a short article on how we developed the curriculum materials for Musical Child – by running weekly classes for parents and children and working out which were the very best songs, games, dances and instruments to use with young children. Now we want to share these ideas with you so you can set up your music program.

For children 1 up to 3 years-old,  we developed our program Bounce and Sing. For children 3 up to 5  years-old, we developed Sing and Play.  These then became the initial platform for people all over the world who had the impulse like you to set up your music program.

The over-arching aim – to provide joyous learning and self expression in relaxed, small-group music lessons.

The year-long program

Each weekly lesson, over a year (four 10-week terms), follows a similar structure so that the children quickly begin to feel familiar with the activities. The lessons are designed for small classes usually not more than 10 children, although you can modify them for bigger groups in day care with other carers helping you.

We firmly believe that it is music itself that teaches children to think musically. Most of the time in class is spent engaged in music — singing, listening, moving to music and playing the instruments.

Each child’s name is sung at the beginning and end of the lesson. Quiet songs start and finish the lesson so that the children can concentrate on socialising with each other and the adults. Shy children are allowed to take their time; vigorous children are given scope for expression.

The songs, games and dances

Most of the songs taught are based on traditional melodies. They provide the perfect basis for developing an appreciation of music in its various styles.

The songs teach:
• melodic shape • rhythm and timing
• rich use of language • song structure
• emotional expression • tonal variety

The games, dances and finger-plays teach the child to control separate body parts and the whole body in a fun-filled, imaginative way.

Familiar activities occur each week such as tickling, bouncing, animals, story songs, nursery rhymes and lullabies. This structure gives you and your children repetitive forms that will help you to sing and laugh together in order to share joyful times and calm fractious moods.

The educator teacher presenter

In music classes, as educator, teacher or presenter you will have fun too, as you rediscover the joy of simple music-making.  So will the other adults.

Many teachers and pre-school carers have virtually no ‘formal’ experience as musicians and consequently feel at a loss when faced with planning weeks of activities. With the program already written for you and the resources readily available, it is easy for you with your enthusiasm to provide the inspiration needed for a lesson to take wings.

The programmed lesson provides a guide to activities that you can repeat with the children throughout the week, working on the principle that repetition is one of the keys to successful learning.

You will be thrilled at the learning taking place as you notice children spontaneously singing at their play, skilfully playing instruments and interacting musically with others.

The child

Every child is a Musical Child. Some are gifted, some develop at their own pace, but all children possess musical intelligence.  Research has proven that we are all born musical.  Prof. Sandra Trehub, Professor Emeritus, Infant and Child Studies Center at the University of Toronto, tells us that music is naturally interesting to babies – they are ‘wired’ for music in the same way that they are ‘wired’ for language.

There are enormous benefits for your children in experiencing an early music education.

• influence over brain growth
• musical habits of mind last a lifetime
• coordination through games and playing instruments
• language patterns repeated in song lyrics strengthen neural pathways
• fine listening skills are given time to develop
• rhythmic training through repetition of instrument games
• singing and melodic training
• instrumental skills develop though repeated handling
• aural training develops a discriminating listening response
• muscular development – strength and balance improve through rhythmic movement
• dramatic expression increases communication
• musical play with other children gives pleasure and sense of community

Mother and child both playing the drum

What the parents have said . . .

Parents, grandparents and carers have been involved in the evaluation of the program throughout its evolution. Here are some of their comments:

“I really have noticed a big difference since we have started the classes, he may not show much expression during the class but I can tell he has enjoyed himself. We always sing on the way home in the car.”

“An enjoyable time for child & parent, I have more ideas to use at home.”

“We go to different classes everyday eg Kindergym, Gymberoo, Playgroup etc. I feel that the attention, the equipment, the structure of the class and the ‘teacher’ excel in every way. We look forward to coming every week. It’s definitely excellent value for money.”

“I think the class is wonderful. Both my daughter and I look forward to and enjoy the class. She seems to watch the teacher a lot and enjoys following her movements.”

“I like the song sheet being supplied so that I know what’s happening for the lesson (and the words). I can revisit the songs at home.”

If you think you would like to set up your music program and run your own music classes, read more of these blog posts and check out our Lesson Plans Bounce and Sing for 1-3 yrs and Sing and Play for 3-5 yrs.