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


My philosophy of Musical Play is based on thirty years of Musical Play experience in my Julie Wylie School of Music, working with young children aged 0-8 years and their families, and through a lifetime of parenting, being a grandparent and working closely with highly experienced therapists in an Early Intervention Programme at the Champion Centre. Musical Play is the child’s first language. The newborn responds to the nurturing, playful, soothing musical qualities of the mother’s voice.

Our work in Musical Play is based on our experience and understanding of neurological development.

The brain is hierarchically organised from the bottom to the top, from the lowest part: the brain stem and the lower brain, as per Bruce Perry’s Neurosequential Model below.


The cerebellum right at the bottom of the brain is the time keeper of the brain, controlling movement such as foot tapping, dancing and playing an instrument. It plays an important role in emotional reactions to music. Our lower brain develops early and is functional from birth. It is involved with the regulation of all our primary body functions such as heart rate, breathing, digestion, temperature and regulation. Music helps with calming and regulation because it is an intuitive language of the emotions. We don’t have to think in order to process music. It can provide a calming, regulating environment of sound. The lower brain systems function without any conscious thought, but they respond to stress by speeding up our heart rate and breathing, slowing digestion, making the body ready for action. When we are highly aroused, it is harder for us to access higher levels of the brain. Music can calm stressed systems through the use of soft singing, rocking, patting, use of slow tempo and specific use of the elements of music.


Music is a language of the emotions. It helps us to become calm and regulated by matching our emotional level and either arousing or calming us, thus allowing the midbrain to integrate incoming sensory information from the environment and from our own body. It is also where the limbic system is situated. The limbic system controls our emotions and memory and is involved in every action or plan that we undertake. When a child’s lower brain is calm, regulated and more organised, they are able to develop emotional connections and relationships with their families and those people who are close to them.


The upper part of our brain is the cortex, where thoughts and plans are formulated and language and reasoning are possible. When the brain is over-aroused we cannot think clearly. When children are anxious or over-aroused, this affects their overall learning. Young children simply cannot calm or regulate themselves. Use of specific songs and music, plays a vital role in the calming and regulation of stressed systems.

The C major scale with the notes C,D,E,F,G can be used to help children to become aroused, as we sing up to the fifth note G, and for example, sing questions just using this fifth note, thus keeping children in a state of suspense and the brain in an interested state of arousal, before coming back down to the calming tonic or home note C. We can sing “Up, up, up, up, up……down, down, down, down, down” with corresponding hand gestures, so that children can learn the pitch directions from a sensory perspective. Use of these five notes fits into Perry’s “Neurosequential Model” “Applying Principles of Neurodevelopment”.

“Rhythm stirs our bodies. Melody or tonality stirs our brains. The coming together of rhythm and melody bridges our cerebellum (the motor control, primitive little brain) and our cerebral cortex (the most evolved, most human part of our brain)”, (Levitin, D).

The elements of music are used in very specific ways within Musical Play to match children’s energy levels, to build joyful, musical, regulated, relationship based music interactions between parent and child, and parents and their children, within each Musical Play group.

Reference: Levitin, D, J. This is Your Brain on Music (2006) Dutton, Penguin Books, London, England.

© Julie Wylie Musical Play, 2017



Why does music make us feel? On the one hand, music is a purely abstract art form, devoid of language or explicit ideas. The stories it tells are all subtlety and subtext. And yet, even though music says little, it still manages to touch us deep, to tickle some universal nerves. When listening to our favorite songs, our body betrays all the symptoms of emotional arousal. The pupils in our eyes dilate, our pulse and blood pressure rise, the electrical conductance of our skin is lowered, and the cerebellum, a brain region associated with bodily movement, becomes strangely active. Blood is even re-directed to the muscles in our legs. (Some speculate that this is why we begin tapping our feet.) In other words, sound stirs us at our biological roots. As Schopenhauer wrote, “It is we ourselves who are tortured by the strings.”

We can now begin to understand where these feelings come from, why a mass of vibrating air hurtling through space can trigger such intense states of excitement. A brand new paper in Nature Neuroscience by a team of Montreal researchers marks an important step in revealing the precise underpinnings of “the potent pleasurable stimulus” that is music. Although the study involves plenty of fancy technology, including fMRI and ligand-based positron emission tomography (PET) scanning, the experiment itself was rather straightforward. After screening 217 individuals who responded to advertisements requesting people that experience “chills to instrumental music,” the scientists narrowed down the subject pool to ten. (These were the lucky few who most reliably got chills.) The scientists then asked the subjects to bring in their playlist of favorite songs – virtually every genre was represented, from techno to tango – and played them the music while their brain activity was monitored.

Because the scientists were combining methodologies (PET and fMRI) they were able to obtain an impressively precise portrait of music in the brain. The first thing they discovered (using ligand-based PET) is that music triggers the release of dopamine in both the dorsal and ventral striatum. This isn’t particularly surprising: these regions have long been associated with the response to pleasurable stimuli. It doesn’t matter if we’re having sex or snorting cocaine or listening to Kanye: These things fill us with bliss because they tickle these cells. Happiness begins here.

The more interesting finding emerged from a close study of the timing of this response, as the scientists looked to see what was happening in the seconds before the subjects got the chills. I won’t go into the precise neural correlates – let’s just say that you should thank your right NAcc the next time you listen to your favorite song – but want to instead focus on an interesting distinction observed in the experiment:

In essence, the scientists found that our favorite moments in the music were preceeded by a prolonged increase of activity in the caudate. They call this the “anticipatory phase” and argue that the purpose of this activity is to help us predict the arrival of our favorite part:

Immediately before the climax of emotional responses there was evidence for relatively greater dopamine activity in the caudate. This subregion of the striatum is interconnected with sensory, motor and associative regions of the brain and has been typically implicated in learning of stimulus-response associations and in mediating the reinforcing qualities of rewarding stimuli such as food.

In other words, the abstract pitches have become a primal reward cue, the cultural equivalent of a bell that makes us drool. Here is their summary:

The anticipatory phase, set off by temporal cues signaling that a potentially pleasurable auditory sequence is coming, can trigger expectations of euphoric emotional states and create a sense of wanting and reward prediction. This reward is entirely abstract and may involve such factors as suspended expectations and a sense of resolution. Indeed, composers and performers frequently take advantage of such phenomena, and manipulate emotional arousal by violating expectations in certain ways or by delaying the predicted outcome (for example, by inserting unexpected notes or slowing tempo) before the resolution to heighten the motivation for completion. The peak emotional response evoked by hearing the desired sequence would represent the consummatory or liking phase, representing fulfilled expectations and accurate reward prediction. We propose that each of these phases may involve dopamine release, but in different subcircuits of the striatum, which have different connectivity and functional roles.

The question, of course, is what all these dopamine neurons are up to. What aspects of music are they responding to? And why are they so active fifteen seconds before the acoustic climax? After all, we typically associate surges of dopamine with pleasure, with the processing of actual rewards. And yet, this cluster of cells in the caudate is most active when the chills have yet to arrive, when the melodic pattern is still unresolved.

One way to answer these questions is to zoom out, to look at the music and not the neuron. While music can often seem (at least to the outsider) like a labyrinth of intricate patterns – it’s art at its most mathematical – it turns out that the most important part of every song or symphony is when the patterns break down, when the sound becomes unpredictable. If the music is too obvious, it is annoyingly boring, like an alarm clock. (Numerous studies, after all, have demonstrated that dopamine neurons quickly adapt to predictable rewards. If we know what’s going to happen next, then we don’t get excited.) This is why composers introduce the tonic note in the beginning of the song and then studiously avoid it until the end. The longer we are denied the pattern we expect, the greater the emotional release when the pattern returns, safe and sound. That is when we get the chills.

To demonstrate this psychological principle, the musicologist Leonard Meyer, in his classic book Emotion and Meaning in Music (1956), analyzed the 5th movement of Beethoven’s String Quartet in C-sharp minor, Op. 131. Meyer wanted to show how music is defined by its flirtation with – but not submission to – our expectations of order. To prove his point, Meyer dissected fifty measures of Beethoven’s masterpiece, showing how Beethoven begins with the clear statement of a rhythmic and harmonic pattern and then, in an intricate tonal dance, carefully avoids repeating it. What Beethoven does instead is suggest variations of the pattern. He is its evasive shadow. If E major is the tonic, Beethoven will play incomplete versions of the E major chord, always careful to avoid its straight expression. He wants to preserve an element of uncertainty in his music, making our brains beg for the one chord he refuses to give us. Beethoven saves that chord for the end.

According to Meyer, it is the suspenseful tension of music (arising out of our unfulfilled expectations) that is the source of the music’s feeling. While earlier theories of music focused on the way a noise can refer to the real world of images and experiences (its “connotative” meaning), Meyer argued that the emotions we find in music come from the unfolding events of the music itself. This “embodied meaning” arises from the patterns the symphony invokes and then ignores, from the ambiguity it creates inside its own form. “For the human mind,” Meyer writes, “such states of doubt and confusion are abhorrent. When confronted with them, the mind attempts to resolve them into clarity and certainty.” And so we wait, expectantly, for the resolution of E major, for Beethoven’s established pattern to be completed. This nervous anticipation, says Meyer, “is the whole raison d’etre of the passage, for its purpose is precisely to delay the cadence in the tonic.” The uncertainty makes the feeling – it is what triggers that surge of dopamine in the caudate, as we struggle to figure out what will happen next. And so our neurons search for the undulating order, trying to make sense of this flurry of pitches. We can predict some of the notes, but we can’t predict them all, and that is what keeps us listening, waiting expectantly for our reward, for the errant pattern to be completed. Music is a form whose meaning depends upon its violation.

Homepage image: Kashirin Nickolai, Flickr.


Reflections and Insights from the Dyspraxia Conference: The Other Side of the Looking Glass


Recently I was very fortunate to attend the Dyspraxia 2017 Conference, which was organised by the Dyspraxia Support Group of New Zealand, whose National Office is based in Christchurch ( This year the theme of the conference was “Moving Forward: Living Positively with Developmental Dyspraxia/DCD”. Julie Wylie was one of the presenters and she led a workshop about “The Positive Power of Musical Play” and also presented a joint workshop with her colleague Alex Gosteva, entitled “The Positive Power of Musical Play and Play Therapy”.

One of the workshops I attended at the conference was called “The Art of Science and Therapeutic Play” presented by Julie Frew, who is very familiar with Julie Wylie’s work and referred to it at various times throughout her presentation. When Julie Frew spoke about the way she uses singing in her work as an Occupational Therapist to connect with, engage and motivate children to do tasks they might otherwise not be motivated to complete, it dawned on me that singing provides the perfect opportunity for children to practise speech in a playful, engaging and non-threatening way. Recently I’ve noticed that my 4 year old’s speech has become easier for other people to understand and this coincides with his newfound love of singing.

When I discussed my observations about my son’s speech clarity with Julie Wylie, who is doing a wonderful job of fostering his love of singing, she reminded me about the movie “The King’s Speech”, which tells the true story of how King George VI overcame a stammer with the help of the unorthodox methods of the Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue. “One of the treatments used on the King was getting him to sing the words he was having trouble speaking.” (The King’s Speech: the real story, Nigel Farndale – Lionel Logue was certainly onto something!

During the conference, several teenagers who have Dyspraxia spoke very articulately about how it has affected different aspects of their life. A quote from one of these teenagers, Alex Iggo, which was shared in a PowerPoint presentation by the Occupational Therapist Emma Ratcliff, who worked with Alex when he was younger, really struck a chord with me. It said, “You’ve only looked one way through the looking glass, but we have looked the other way”. As I reflected on this statement, as well as something Dr Susan Foster-Cohen had said earlier in the conference, along the lines of “Children make change when they are ready to make changes”, I had a glimpse of what it might be like for my 4 year old to know that he needs help with his speech, while at the same time, for very valid reasons, not being motivated, right now, to do the speech therapy homework that could help him.

As parents and professionals, all the things that might help a child to take steps in the right direction may seem obvious, but I believe we must always remember that we are “looking from the other side of the looking glass” as we try to find the best ways to help a child take the risks required to learn and embed new skills. I am so grateful that my son has discovered a joy of singing, because singing is such a powerful mechanism to facilitate language development and self expression.

In the words of Julie Wylie, “Musical play is our first language. It supports speech language development through timing, phrasing and musical form. Musical play takes out the stress of having to concentrate on all the aspects of making the sounds and words. The steady beat of songs, chants and clapping games helps the brain to become attuned to the pulse. This pulse provides moment by moment support. All songs, chants and rhymes have a steady pulse which is driven by rhythmic patterns of words and sounds. The brain really responds and tunes into these rhythmic patterns which keep the brain continually alert and curious about the ever-changing musical information. In language, the presence of pattern is very evident, especially in nursery rhymes and poetry. Consider how every word when divided into its syllabic rhythm, displays its pattern. For example, “I like o-ran-ges, I like to-ma-toes”.

Pulse or steady beat paces, drives and causes an anticipation of pattern. Pattern embellishes, teases, drives and causes the anticipation of the next beat. We can play these rhythmic patterns on our bodies or on a drum, and we can move to the rhythm of words and phrases. Rhythmic pattern is one of the most important elements in the pacing and learning of spoken language. Vocal activities in song, and the production of nonsense sounds and imitation of sounds, help to organise language articulation, breath control and auditory sequencing.” (Reference; Berger, D.S. (2002) Music Therapy, Sensory Integration and the Autistic Child. London. Jessica Kingsley Publications p.116).

To finish, here is a link to an article featuring another of the very articulate teenagers who spoke at the conference, Adam Hodgson. While the article was written a few years ago now, I believe it provides very valuable insights into the life of a person with, in Alex’s own words, “learning differences”, as we consider life “from the other side of the looking glass”

Victoria Boyd

©, 2017


This month I was invited to be a keynote speaker and presenter at the ACECEA conference in Sydney. As part of the conference, we were invited to visit Early Childhood Education Centres to look at the way they have developed beautiful outdoor learning environments.

Features at all these centres included inspirational natural learning spaces that give the children many opportunities for creating, imagining, risk taking, problem solving, experimentation, hypothesizing, researching and investigation. Within all these centres, the children have a real sense of connection, ownership and stewardship. “If we want children to be passionate about nature, they need to be involved with nature”.A child led us through a gateway to the Macquarie College Early Learning Centre Bush Garden, with tall gum trees swaying gently in the breeze. She proudly showed us a square construction of four logs that she described as a picture frame that we could have our photos taken in. She showed us a construction covered in green shade cloth that looked like a trampoline. When I asked what they used it for, several children told me that this was the place where they lay together to watch the clouds in the sky and the branches of trees swaying in the breeze, and that if I looked very carefully at the ends of two tall branches I would be able to see the nests that birds had just made and that now the birds were sitting on their nests waiting for the eggs to hatch. “We like to lie together and make up songs and stories about what we see and do you know that clouds keep changing and that a cloud elephant can go sailing by and turn into a dinosaur as the clouds change? We see lots of things in the clouds”.All the children were totally absorbed in their creative play. A branch had been cut off a tree leaving a short low V shape that was perfect for a seesaw that two children were constructing. They carried a short log and placed it in the V, only to find that the log was not long enough for their seesaw to move up and down. They enlisted the help of two more children to help them carry a longer log and together they positioned the log in a way that could help them all to get on their wonderfully constructed seesaw.There was a big hill with a narrow concreted water-course. Several boys were busy with engineering and construction using sticks, small logs and mud. They were very engaged and settled and were exploring different ways of using the water to create dams and rivers. Right alongside, was a group of little girls playing in a very simple log hut. They invited us over to come and have tea. They had a big bowl of mud and added bowls of water to get the mud to the right cake consistency. Flowers were added for decoration and we were given a plate of cake each, and told that it was ‘delicious’.In another area, a teacher was collaborating with children as they looked for caterpillars. They were using a powerful magnifying glass to examine all the details of the caterpillars. Such play inspires a sense of awe and wonder at the miracles of nature.

Newsletters, photos and children’s drawings are sent regularly to families, illustrating highlights of the children’s play. Parents tend to stay longer watching the children as they chat to each other. There is a real sense of timelessness and freedom. There are no time constraints on the children’s play.Play is building memories, laying the foundation for creative thinking, imagination, agility, conservation, co-operation, compassion and self-confidence. Play in the outdoor environment awakens the senses and is important for healthy brain development, causing the brain to release feel good chemicals like serotonin, adrenalin, glutamate and dopamine, that orchestrate nerve development, neural pathways and alignment all over the brain.

These busy, productive children are learning about the world and how to interact with nature and with each other in a caring, co-operative, co-creative way. It is giving them a strong awareness of where others are in relation to themselves. Their play teaches them social skills, to be courageous, to learn rules, to establish boundaries, to care for others and to lead and to follow.

Natural learning environments help children’s aesthetic, creative, imaginative, spiritual and sensory development. Through play, they naturally tune into the sounds of nature, marveling at the colours, shapes and patterns with a sense of joy and wonder. They develop the ability to dream and turn their dreams into reality. Literacy, numeracy and communication can become a natural part of co-operative, collaborative play with the support of their teachers.Providing natural learning environments such as these for children is a social investment that promotes a caring, loving society, nurturing the scientists, environmentalists, artists, musicians, creative thinkers and problem solvers of the future.

© Julie Wylie Musical Play, 2017


Stories and Musical Play go hand in hand. We have been using the book “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” each week this term with our children 2-5 years. Parents have reported that their children have been inspired to recreate this story in so many ways. One family had their coffee table transformed into a cave with a blanket placed over the top to make the cave. The children acted out this story every night before bed time and started adding their own sequences to the story.

Another family created their own story, “We’re Going on a Beach Hunt”. They found a cave, imagined that there was a bear, and collected sticks, shells, colourful stones and driftwood treasure, which they took home to add to their musical sounds treasure box.

Yet another family had a Bear Hunt as their birthday party theme. They had a birthday cake with a Bear on top, they had a teddy bears’ picnic and played several of my teddy bear songs including “Teddy Bears’ Picnic” and “I’ve Got a Teddy Bear”.

Such play extends children’s creative thinking, problem solving, language development, rhythmic patterning and musical skills. When families join in such play it builds special bonds and memories that can last a lifetime.

© Julie Wylie, 2017

The Parallels between Art and Musical Play

Click HERE to access Julie’s writing on this subject from 20th January 2016.


Many of my songs on my CDs are designed to bring children into a place of calm and relaxation. Songs that arouse, then calm, like “Baby Massage” from my CD “Rock-A-Bye Blues” help you and your child to relax and encourage mutual feelings of calm through the use of the beautiful predictable simple melody and deep pressure massage strokes. Deep pressure cuddles using the palms of your hands, (not finger tips) as you hold and cuddle your child, help your child feel safe and secure, helping your child go to sleep.

The science supporting use of deep pressure touch is called Deep Pressure Touch Stimulation (DPTS). Most of us would have would have been swaddled/wrapped tightly in a blanket at bedtime, and we might then have been rocked gently as our mother/father or grandparent sang us a lullaby. The pressure from being wrapped, rocked, stroked and sung to relaxes the nervous system. This pressure from being wrapped and held in a loving way helps generate serotonin, which then generates to melatonin. This is the chemical that tells your system that it is time to rest or sleep.

At the Champion Centre we find that children who are anxious or upset can be calmed through the use of massage, slow singing, or being gently rolled in a mat, covered with a weighted blanket. We all find that at the end of Summer we can sleep more easily when we can once more feel the weight of our duvet or a thick comforting blanket, or wrap ourselves up in a blanket and enjoy a soothing hot drink as we cuddle back into a comfortable chair.

Other strategies that can be used:
The slow, blowing of a bubble, or a feather. This naturally slows our breathing rate. As a child watches, listens to your slow breathing, waits and watches the bubble grow, they learn to become calm and regulated. This is a beautiful, interactive calming activity that can be used as a regular routine after bath-time and before bed-time.

Developing regular daily calming routines such as:

Singing beautiful songs and playing at bath time. Make this a relaxing fun time to enjoy each other.
Singing a book of lullabies, nursery rhymes, reading rhythmic stories, rocking together in a rocking chair, singing to your child as they rock on a rocking horse. Rolling a ball slowly back and forth to each other.

Swinging your child in a swing and singing songs that fit the swinging action.

At the end of each day take time for deep pressure massage and cuddles before bedtime.

A well regulated child is able to learn and develop cognitive skills because the lower brain is calm and regulated.

© Julie Wylie, 27 June 2017








Hoops are a wonderful music prop and can be used in so many creative ways within musical play for circle dancing, spatial awareness, understanding prepositions such as up, down, in out, through, under/over.
We have been singing the children’s ideas such as being in our space ships, rocket, bus, pirate ship.
We have been composing our own individual tunes which Tamara accompanies on the flute. As children move up and down the 5 note or octave of hoops, they choose which “notes” to play. These notes are sung and played as the child moves slowly/quickly, thus reinforcing children’s innate musicality, listening, watching, waiting, creativity and building their self esteem. Every child’s idea is valued, there is no right or wrong way to play.
Parents report that their child is singing and playing music games all the time at home. They regularly involve the family and delight in being the leader.
© Julie Wylie, 22 June 2017


Reflections from my recent invitation to present my musical play philosophy in North China. Julie Wylie. Copyright 2017.

I have worked with many children, families and teachers in different parts of the world, and once again my trip to China demonstrated clearly how music can brings families, communities, society and cultures together. It doesn’t matter if we can’t speak the same language, when we sing, dance and play together, we are all united through the infectious, universal, emotional, joyful language of music.

Children everywhere have the same wonderful response to music, especially when they can participate freely responding to the predictable structure of musical form and the expressive elements of music which unite us as a group. The children I worked with in two very large pre schools were so excited when we sat around the rainbow ring and bounced in time singing echo songs and improvising with sounds, gestures and movement. Some children went into the middle of the circle and were so full of joy when I copied their actions. Teachers were amazed that there clearly was no right or wrong way to play. The secret was  total enjoyment through predictable songs with a clear beginning, middle and end. Every child responded to our play and stop games with the extended pauses. Every child responded to our improvisations, that incorporate elements of surprise, anticipation and stop! Soon many of the children were singing their versions of “Bop it in the Rocket”.
I used playful music games with pitch and rhythmic patterning designed to help the children to read the words, to experience the melodic shape of the pitches through pitch games and to sing the tune from the simple notation. Although we are from different cultures,these children in China, like ours in New Zealand, were using creative and analytical thinking, coding and simple reading/literacy skills to read the pitch, notation and words. We focus so much on literacy and numeracy in our schools, but music helps memory and is the only language that helps children to decode three symbolic languages simultaneously!

At the end of one large music session, every single child came up and one by one they hugged me. I looked around at all the parents and grandparents and they we all nodding and smiling at me. I was invited to people’s homes and experienced wonderful hospitality. Two distinct cultural groups came together to sing, dance, say and play together. Many of the children were experiencing a range of rhythmic songs, dances and words from the English language. We were altogether in the moment and they were singing, clapping and dancing along, even though the words were strange.

Every time I presented music sessions in China, whether it was for families, children or teachers, something magical happened. We were all connected in a very powerful way. We experienced how music naturally brings a strong sense of harmony, of connection and well being. Music activates our brains and releases feel-good hormones like dopamine. Music is a natural part of our humanity and draws us together in incredible ways. When I was sharing my music in China I felt completely at home. Regardless of our culture, our backgrounds, music binds us together, breaking down barriers,  opening up rich experiences of creativity, imagination, communication and love.




I WONDER WHERE YOU ARE HIDING. Julie Wylie copyright 2017

Organza is a beautiful prop to use in music to promote interactive, relationship based musical play between parent and child, to help pitch awareness as we sing up and down the major and minor scales, floating the organza, teaching children about prepositions through sensory experiences such going around,  over, under, between, inside, outside. Social skills are developed as children play follow the leader games going under the red, blue, green or the rainbow. Langue skills, concepts of colours, numbers, spatial awareness and creativity develop when children come up with their own ideas.

Babies love the beautiful peek-a-boo games with their parents. These are the babies’ first games which help to develop understanding of the world of pretend. I know you are there, but where are you? I see Mummy peek out from behind her hands. Such games promote watching, waiting, listening and anticipation and loving interaction and relationship and what a special moment when the baby sings the answering “Boo!”

Here is a beautiful family joining in our hiding game:

I wonder where you are hiding

I wonder where you are hiding

Where are you?

Where are you?

Peek a peek a peek a peek a Boo!

Julie Wylie 2017


We are really excited about another great Term of Musical Play with you! Theo gets so much out of the classes so we’ve decided to book his preschool days around Music classes on Tuesday mornings.

We held a Native Bird theme party for Theo’s 3rd Birthday this year and used several of your songs, especially the 1-2-3-4-5 little singing birds from your newest album. Theo loves the Piwakawaka’s in our garden, they are so tame and playful!

Margot, Justin, Theo & Mackenzie Holcroft
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