Musical Play and the Neurosequential Model

Musical Play is based on an understanding of neurological development, as per Bruce Perry’s Neurosequential Model (see above). It recognises that: “One of the most powerful sets of associations created in utero is the association between patterned repetitive rhythmic activity from maternal heart rate, and all the neural patterns of activity associated with not being hungry, not being thirsty, and feeling ‘safe’ (in the womb).”

“Patterned, repetitive, rhythmic somatosensory activity…elicits a sensation of safety. Rhythm is regulating.”

(Perry: Rhythm Regulates the Brain –

According to Perry, the core elements of a positive developmental, educational and therapeutic experience are:

  • Relational (safe)
  • Relevant (developmentally-matched to the individual)
  • Repetitive (patterned)
  • Rewarding (pleasurable)
  • Rhythmic (resonant with neural patterns)
  • Respectful (of the child, family, and culture)

(Perry: Rhythm Regulates the Brain –

Key Points about Musical Play:

  • Musical Play is the child’s first language and is based on an innate understanding of calming, regulating, joyful, relationship based play. A newborn baby responds to the nurturing, playful, soothing musical qualities of the mother’s voice (see the beautiful musical interaction between mother and baby Elsie, aged 7 weeks, in the video clip below).
  • It is a natural part of the life and culture of children and there is no right or wrong way to play.
  • It brings everyone together in the moment, opening up a world of emotional connections and building a strong sense of community.
  • It helps children to understand and use the elements of music in their own play.
  • It follows the child, encouraging a child-centred approach, fostering self-esteem, thought and creativity.
  • Through musical play, children develop the ability to listen, watch, wait and wonder. A sense of wonder is the child’s key to learning.

The Aims of our Musical Play Programme are:

  • To enhance children’s natural musicality.
  • To use music for arousing or calming.
  • To develop a sense of music community.
  • To develop musical singing, saying, moving and playing.
  • To promote tuneful singing for children and adults alike, using scale songs in conjunction with counting and body awareness.
  • To help parents and teachers feel confident and competent singing instructional songs and incorporating music into daily routines.
  • To reinforce and follow the children’s musical ideas in their own play, thus building self-esteem and communication.
  • To help establish rhythmical play and steady beat, as well as an understanding of weight, time, space and energy.
  • To use a range of props in group music sessions such as natural materials, scarves, the parachute, the rainbow ring and maracas, in ways that help children to listen, wait, take turns, follow sung instructions and enjoy musical play as a group.


Musical play and exploring the natural environment go hand in hand. Outdoor play awakens the senses and is important for healthy brain development. Natural learning environments help children’s aesthetic, creative, imaginative and sensory development. Through outside play, children naturally tune into the sounds of nature, marvelling at the colours, shapes and patterns with a sense of joy and wonder. Nature provides a rich and diverse environment for children to learn about themselves, each other and the world, through play.

Julie’s song “Down at the Beach” from her CD Teddy Bears’ Tango, is an example of a song which facilitates sound exploration with natural materials. Children discover that shells, stones and driftwood can all be used as instruments. This song can be used as a starting point for helping children to tune into the sights and sounds of nature and followed up with treasure and sound hunts outside.

The pictures below show two brothers going on a bear hunt after the younger brother enjoyed “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” at Julie’s musical play classes.

Ideas to Try

  • Lie on the grass with children and look up at the sky. What do you and the children see in the clouds?
  • Go on a treasure hunt outside to collect natural materials and identify what sounds you can hear. You could sing “We are going on a nature hunt. We are going on a nature hunt. What will we see? What will we hear? We are going on a nature hunt” to the tune of “We are Playing Music” (see below). Note down what the children hear, keep the treasures they find and use the experience as a starting point for writing songs and stories together.

© Julie Wylie Musical Play, 2018


It is true that you can’t get enough of a good thing. My daughter fell in love with Julie Wylie’s Musical Play classes and at home she would “practise” with great gusto what she learned week to week. Her enjoyment of the songs, the actions that accompany them and the playing of instruments filled much of her time and from her bedroom we could hear her “being Julie”, in full voice!!

So naturally Julie’s DVD’s and CD’s were  a must have for Clara-Jane!!

The Julie Wylie Musical Journeys DVD quickly became the most played DVD in our home. For Clara-Jane to be able to watch, participate and learn, whenever she wanted to, in the comfort of her own home,  just added to her love of Julie’s programme.

The DVD is beautifully put together. Presented by the very tutors that the children already have a warm connection to, and featuring songs that are already familiar makes it highly accessible. The learning is in context and it beautifully complements the learning in class. Even the much-loved Oscar the clown, who opens and closes each class, is present. Clara-Jane just loves watching the children as they, so naturally, and in everyday locations  doing everyday activities, find fun and pleasure in things musical.

I have to admit that I equally enjoy the DVD. It is engaging, encouraging, and undeniably catchy. Neither Clara-Jane nor I have tired of it and we have played it literally hundreds of times.

Perhaps the best testament to just how appealing the DVD is became clear when Clara-Jane was unwell following her immunizations and she took to her bed. The only thing she wanted was to do was watch “Julie on TV”, and even feeling under the weather  she still sang the tunes!!

Julie’s CD’s also enjoy huge “play time” in our home and in our cars. It simply would not be Christmas without the “Sing Merry Christmas” CD which is a wonderful combination of children’s favourites, old and new, and rich traditional carols. To hear our daughter singing songs she had never heard before, adding her own (hilarious) actions and then creating “Christmas concerts” for us to enjoy is priceless. “When Santa Came Down The Chimney” is a favourite and like many of the songs, it captured her imagination. A great feature of Julie’s CD’s is the fact that many songs are sung by children, making them relevant and accessible for young listeners.

The joy Julie’s DVD’s and CD’s have brought into our daughter’s life is matched only by the learning they have fostered. Quite simply they bring Julie’s programme to life for any child, whether they are fortunate enough to attend Julie’s classes or not. They have played a significant role in Clara-Jane’s life and learning and they have given us huge pleasure as we watch her growing appreciation and love of music.

Sarah Long, Parent
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