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.