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Music is an invaluable source of learning for children


Article from the Early Childhood Council

Swings & Roundabouts Magazine December 2009 issue

How music and movement can help kids

to discover & develop

different ways to be expressive

In what ways can you enhance music and movement within your programme to support children to discover and develop different ways to be expressive?

Throughout life, many of our discoveries are vicarious.  In other words they are realised through someone else.  And kids are particularly influenced in this way, as their innocence is their openness and this should be cultivated throughout their lives.  And the best way is to start early!  Leading and following (we have a song that is directly about this on the Jollytime album—Do Like I Do) is something kids do a lot of.

Children are probably more curious when they are around other children, particularly early on.  And while participating in activities, like listening and moving to music, they will be keenly aware of what kids around them are doing.  This will likely cause them to take more risks.  Which are, of course, positive learning risks in a controlled environment like a preschool.  When we see other people doing something, we feel less inhibited.  So in the shared, common experience of music we tend to be more expressive.  This is both unconscious (particularly in the case of music) and conscious in our observations of what others around us are doing (or saying).  Since music harnesses both sides of the brain, you get the unconscious discoveries and resulting development—individually and collectively—coupled with the more overt elements of (conscious elements of) expressiveness that comes from observing and participating in what those around us are doing.  This is particularly notable in children, but remains with us for all our lives.

The power of music is effective with or without words.  The advantage of words is that it gives kids a focal point (direction) for their expressions.  So in this sense they are actively encouraged to act out a certain role or carry out a certain movement.  This gives them a start and stimulates their own ideas.  In terms of organisation, coordinated movements provide a solid foundation for greater expression.  And also they are sharing this experience (as above), so they tend to be more demonstrative (they egg each other on and lose some of their inhibitions…and sometimes, try to outdo each other!—this is also the case for instrumental music).

Kids discover things about themselves by being captivated by music and participating in coordinated movements.  Music engages their minds and bodies naturally.  And music that allows space for them to reflect supports their development.  Teachers obviously have a role here too, to encourage reflection on the things kids are doing, hearing or saying.  So I think talking with kids afterwards (or even guidance during music sessions; we provide guides!) and allowing them to say what they thought or felt about a certain thing (does swaying your trunk or stomping make you feel like an elephant?…what is an elephant like?; what is it that you are drawing there—see Doodlin’ from Things We Love to Do). And what do they remember about what they listened to or acted out…what stood out?

There are rewards for all this:  among other things, improved memory.  When we remember things that brings more of our character to the surface, enhancing our character and allowing us to apply that to our next expression.  As our senses and imaginations are expanded and enhanced, we naturally become more expressive and more confident.  So the knowledge and the feelings (emotions) we gain from our experiences spur our growth (including confidence).  Through music and movement, children naturally become more expressive and discover things about themselves and the world (including those around them).  The more they practice this, the more ways in which they can be expressive and be encouraged to be expressive.

Simply put, use music more for learning.  It enhances procedural memory and expressiveness.  And yes, teachers need to decide what music best serves the children’s needs.  We have all this in mind when we create our music.  (When I hear about preschools using radio music, for example, because it is cheap or they don’t care or know any better, I feel for those kids.  Objectivity is what is important and kids deserve to have music that is for them, entertaining, while enlightening!).

It’s amazing how even very young children have a natural sense of rhythm, and so, movement.  And music also provides powerful development in language skills.  Again, start early!

1. Coordinated activities—Sharing!

2. Hear and do actions—comprehension/individual coordination

3. Left Brain/Right Brain coordination

4. Practice makes perfect and/or leads to further developments

5. Direction and followup

© 2016 Kelvin Roy  Martian Music