Be kind to animals

I want to share some thoughts about working and playing musically with preschoolers aged three to five years with our preschool music lesson plan – “Be Kind to Animals”.  The  rich driving concept, as you’d expect, is the encouragement of kindness towards animals, with songs and activities designed to tap into feelings of compassion.

The most extreme compassionate response showed up early in the lesson during our finger playBirds Flying‘.  Anita -a particularly sensitive child aged three suddenly removed herself from the group sitting on the floor in front of me- a place she usually prefers to be. She climbed into mummy’s lap and covered her ears. Apparently, she didn’t want to ‘wake up the birds’.  Strange that she could achieve this by refusing to listen!  She did however, take her fingers out when I signaled to her that the birds were singing ‘good morning’ and her face showed delight on hearing the bird sound effect on the track. You never know how they’ll respond to anything, so it’s good to relax your expectations and tune in to what’s really happening in the room. I rarely take my eyes off the children- monitoring, monitoring.

The next funny response was during our memory song, ‘Five Little Pussy Cats‘. I performed it for the first run as a sort of puppet play with toys- five orange ball-shaped kittens from IKEA, a bird, a dog, a butterfly and a mother cat with two rows of teats. As I sang each verse I ‘subtracted’ one kitten from the pile on the floor and popped it into a large blue tub behind my back. By verse five there are no kittens left and in the final verse, six, I tipped the box of kittens and they all tumbled onto the mother cat. Then it was time to repeat the song so I invited the kids to each choose a toy. One of the children had a sibling in the room, about eighteen months old, who chose a kitten. I thought to myself, ‘This isn’t going to work out true to the subtraction sum but hey- they’ve seen it once and now it’s all about interactivity right?’ But no, I was wrong. At exactly the right moment, the little tacker volunteered her kitten into the big blue tub. All the adults laughed and mathematical integrity was achieved.

Ah well, you get those magic moments to make up for when things are an absolute muddle-like the next activity. I began by attempting to add a layer of meaningfulness to our rhythm instrument song, ‘I Had a Rooster‘ by laying out an array of toy animals featured in each verse. I managed to stand a rooster and a cow on the floor but as I (foolishly) turned away to reach for the dog and the cat, the raiders came in and snaffled my first two animals. In a sanguine fashion I retrieved them and thought ‘Hmm, time to slow things down- it’s a bit excitable in the room today. I knew the track featured highly realistic sound effects for each animal because I’d put them there myself, so I said ‘We’re just going to listen’. I put all four toys behind my back and brought them out one at a time. I didn’t even sing the lyrics- just had the kids wait for each sound effect to show up. It worked a treat at calming them down and I got the chance to notice something funny and charming – you can actually ‘see’ them listening.

After that things went haywire as they gathered their four instruments; guiros for the rooster, drums for the cow and so on but after that shemozzle they did a pretty good job of playing them at the right moment in the song. All of which goes to prove that you have to be patient and tolerate a fair amount of confusion because things may still turn out well. Teaching’s messy.  Learning’s what really matters.  I know they’re learning because their parents tell me how they play with the songs in the week between lessons.

(Note: children’s real names are not used)