Musical Play in Early Childhood Centres

James St Preschool and Nursery Professional Development – Musical Play

Final Reflection by Sarah Marra

It has been such a pleasure to work alongside staff in such a beautiful, nurturing preschool and nursery. Over the past eight weeks I have noticed wonderful amounts of musical play happening organically around the James St environment. Children are singing as they play independently, sharing familiar songs as they play together, keeping the beat on the playground and exploring the natural sounds of their outside world.

Musical play has helped to secure routines in a positive, playful way. The preschoolers are lining up with ease to a familiar, repetitive song; the nursery children are happily following daily routines with sung, clear instructions; all of the children are able to regulate and prepare themselves for learning when deep pressure and song are united in basic routines.

I have watched the staff confidence grow in taking group music sessions as well as in using song to underpin routines and activities. Group music sessions have become relaxed, improvisational, and harmonious.

One of the most exciting things about using music to develop movement, communication, social interactions and understanding is having the privilege of witnessing “firsts”. The children at James St Preschool and Nursery were no exception. I was so privileged to be able to use music to underpin a child’s first steps, a child’s first social group engagement, a child’s first understanding of their own space in relation to others, as well as many other special moments.

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TEACHERS’ FROM JAMES STREET PRE SCHOOL PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT EVENING

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TEACHERS’ FROM JAMES STREET PRE SCHOOL PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT EVENING.

As part of the Musical Play programme at James Street Pre School Julie Wylie gave an interactive training PD evening for teachers.

WHY DOES MUSIC WORK?

Music is an intuitive universal language of the emotions. Babies respond to music from birth, especially the singing voice of the mother. Interactive musical play helps to establish strong loving relationships.  Music can be used effectively to calm and regulate the brain. When the lower brain is calm and regulated, this has a flow on effect allowing learning to take place in the upper brain.

HOW DOES MUSIC WORK?

Rhythm stirs our body and we see this in the way young children bounce, or move in time to steady beat.

Tonality or melody (tune) stirs our brains.

According to Levitin the coming together of rhythm and melody bridges the very primitive lower brain (the motor control part of our brain: the cerebellum)  and the cerebral cortex (the upper most evolved part of our brain).

A single note can immediately arouse the upper brain. When we use songs within the child’s pitch range (middle C-A) and sing pitch songs in relation to the body (feet, knees, tummy, shoulders, head as we sing up the scale C D E F G) our brains are interested and aroused.  When we sing back down the scale to middle C, we move from high arousal to calm.  Teachers sing with the children and sing with enthusiasm.

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  WHAT SHOULD WE INCLUDE IN EVERY MUSIC SESSION?

Remember to start with calming activities, arouse, then back to calm.

Include the elements of music: rhythm, melody, dynamics, (loud and soft), harmony,  form: (clear beginning, middle end through songs, nursery rhymes, stories, chants, using much repetition. USE REPETITION.  It is OK to sing  “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or  songs like”the “Wheels of the Bus” in every session until every child knows and does the actions of the song. This song can be done with a rainbow ring, parachute, following the actions, or singing the song with the accompanying illustrated picture book. It can be sung in the sandpit, at the dough table, anywhere.

Explore weight, time, space and energy through dance and action songs.

Use changing tempo, rhythms, matching the energy levels of the children through song and musical play. Use poi, ribbon sticks, organza, scarves.

Include lots of body percussion activities, clapping, patting, stamping.

Use your singing voices as much as possible and tune yourself in through use of tuned instrument like chime bars or beautiful tuned instruments. Go on line and look at EVERY EDUCAID selection. End the session with calming activities eg “Baby Massage” track 13 or “Sula Lula” “ROCK-A-BYE-BLUES Julie Wylie.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF GROUP MUSIC?

  • To establish regulated, relationship based musical play, musicality, well-being, communication, exploration and a sense of community
  • To develop self esteem
  • To match mood and emotions
  • To develop listening, fine/gross motor and cognitive skills
  • To bring about changes in mood, changes in relationship, changes in attention
  • To develop tuneful singing and rhythmic playing
  • To develop non-verbal and verbal communication
  • To develop understanding of order, predictability, routines and musical form, (clear beginning middle and end). Include play and stop games
  • To honour and follow the child’s offerings
  • To incorporate songs/dances/games from other cultures
  • To weave all strands of learning

HOW CAN WE USE MUSIC IN EVERY FACET OF OUR PROGRAMME  WITH CHILDREN OF ALL AGES?

  • Sing questions, sing step by step instructions for daily routines
  • Sing about what children are doing
  • Practise daily routines through sung instructions such as washing hands, tidying up, lining up, kai time.

MUSICAL PLAY PROMOTES:

  • Speech, language, tuneful singing, rhythmical play, following a sequence of actions, dance, musicality, communication
  • Thinking and memory
  • Social engagement
  • Practising of routines
  • Joyful play where it all comes together
  • Musical Play helps to weave all strands of learning

WHAT CDS DO WE USE?

SING AND PLAY, MAGICAL MUSICAL PLAY, BEAN BAG BOP,

TEDDY BEARS TANGO, ROCK-A-BYE BLUES all from Julie Wylie Sing and Play

WHAT PROPS DO WE USE?

Beautiful illustrated rhyming books including “Brown Bear” “Hairy McLary”.

Drums including gathering drum

Maracas

At least one tuned instrument for each group to tune you and the children in

Organza, Ribbon Sticks, Rakau, Poi, Organza fabric, Parachute

SEE: EVERY EDUCAID go online or view their catalogue

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REFLECTIONS ABOUT MUSICAL PLAY WITH THE CHILDREN FROM JAMES ST by Sarah Marra

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It was wonderful to see the children in both the nursery and preschool become really settled in their music routines today. They are familiar with our routines – coming to the same place, starting with the Hello song, twinkle twinkle and finishing with “music time has finished” and Ka Kite.

We have intentionally repeated some of our songs from last week to encourage learning in a familiar environment. This week I noticed a wonderful amount of singing coming from the children. They were happy to sing along with the melody and form of the songs that we had practiced previously and are now beginning to incorporate movement and dance too.

We have been working on body awareness with our body pitch songs in all of our sessions. As the developmental ages increase throughout the morning so do our pitch songs. The nursery is focusing on labelling body parts, the 2-3 year olds are now including counting up to 5 with accurate understanding of body in relation to pitch, and our 4 year olds are now including counting up to 8 and back down again.

The rakau sticks have been a wonderful exploration of hand eye coordination for all ages. The children have been encouraged to offer ideas and we have supported their offerings in song. As the routine has become more familiar we notice more children willing to share their ideas during their music time.

This morning we also encouraged the children in team work, supporting each other – this was shown in simply taking a partner for ‘row row row your boat’ in the nursery, or more complexly in the preschool with sharing their partner’s rakau to create shapes.

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PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD CENTRES.

MUSICAL PLAY TRAINING PROGRAMME FOR JAMES ST, PRE SCHOOL CHILDREN AND STAFF.

We have been enjoying working with teachers and children from James St. Pre School in Redcliffs, Christchurch. They are participating in an eight week programme which includes weekly musical play classes designed to suit the different ages and stages of development of their children from toddlers, middle years and older children about to transition to school.

The aims for this 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 staff alike using scale songs in relation to counting and body awareness.
  • To promote musical play in all aspects of the curriculum and to help teachers feel confident and competent in singing instructional songs and using music throughout daily routines.
  • To reinforce and follow the children’s own music ideas in their own play, thus building self esteem and communication.
  • To help establish rhythmical play, steady beat, understanding of weight, time, space and energy.
  • To use a range of props in group music sessions such as natural materials,  poi, rakau, parachute, rainbow ring, maracas in ways that help children to listen, wait, take turns, follow sung instructions and enjoy musical play as a group.
  • To include a training PD evening for teachers so that they learn how, why  what music does in relation to children’s emotional, physical, cognitive, social and psychological development.

Reflective practice is a vital part of helping teachers to listen, watch, wait and understand how children naturally include the elements of music in their own play. Such musical play promotes brain growth and development and joyful relationship based  music interactions. Music can then underpin every aspect of the curriculum.

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New Postgraduate Certificate in Play Therapy and Musical Play

 

Oscar Aged Two Sings the “Hello Song” and “One Man Went to Mow”

Friday 1st July 2016
Julie Wylie

Oscar aged two is singing the “Hello Song” and “One Man Went to Mow”. It is very evident in the moments of silence that Oscar is hearing the song in his head. It is as if he has an internal metronome which helps him to sing in time adding key words in the right musical spaces. Notice his very tuneful, musical singing. He accents key words in the “Hello Song”. He uses his toy just as we use the little marionette clown to greet each child in our Musical Play class. He is beaming with pride and delight as he sings. Oscar is a classic example of a music child who plays musically and takes delight in each musical moment. His family are key players. Even though his English grandmother has returned to England, she has left him the precious gift of her well loved family song “One Man Went to Mow”. Songs and music games are passed on through families and build precious memories of relationship based musical play.

 

Play the Blues

Monday 27th July 2016
Julie Wylie
Here is a photo of the keyboard with the notes of the Blues Scale outlined with stars. In our musical play classes we sing echo songs using the blues scale or aspects of the blues with children from babies upwards. The children all respond to the use of the minor bluesy tunes with catchy rhythms. The more we sing elements of this blues scale, the more children start to start to sing it in their own play. Today were playing with our hoops and I heard a four year old boy sing to his mother: “Watch out for my hoop, I’m bowling to you”. She sang straight back to him echoing his tune “I’m watching and I’m ready to catch your hoop”. The boy’s singing was rhythmic, tuneful and very bluesy.  He was using a pattern based on the notes C and E flat (the first two notes on the left of the keyboard with the red stars in the photo).
Children love to explore the keyboard and we help our four and five year olds find the blues scale by using these stars for each note of the blues scale. Children might start by playing their own composition  1 3 4 3 1,1,1, or starting up on the highest note with the star and work their way down the blues scale playing every note with a star to the bottom note middle C.
"Play the Blues" Click here to read another of Julie's most recent blog posts.

“Play the Blues”

The Nurturing Power and Musicality of our Singing Voice

Sunday 19th June 2016
Julie Wylie

Four-year-old Isobel sings to her baby brother in exactly the same loving way that her parents have always sung to her.

When we sing to our babies and young children we instinctively share our feelings of love, playfulness, our joint experiences and emotions. Singing is mutually enjoyable for parent and child. We might think we are not musical, but parents everywhere have to realize that their singing voice is the most important in the world for their child.  You sing a question, your baby answers with musical expression.  These singing games at bath time, changing time, cuddle time are building strong emotional bonds of connection. All the elements of music are incorporated in singing, listening waiting, filling in the gaps. These interactive musical moments are building the foundation for musical behavior.

Notice how all the elements of music are incorporated in this beautiful film footage of big sister Isobel singing to her little brother Reuben. She is using loving touch in her massage song, rhythmic patterning, beat and repetition. She sings the increasingly higher notes of the body pitch song as she sings up the five-note scale. Her facial expressions are highly expressive and exaggerated. She uses loud and soft (dynamic variation) expression and musical form.

Notice too how Reuben is listening, watching intently and taking turns with his big sister, singing his little musical offerings. This very loving musical exchange has come about because their parents have regularly played music games with them.  Isobel is able to play so lovingly and musically with her little brother precisely because she is imitating how her parents have always played with her.  Sister and baby brother are forming strong emotional bonds of love because they impact hugely on the infant’s ‘visual, vocal, and kinetic signals. Such interactive musical play contributes to healthy and optimal growth through the early years. It lays the foundation for healthy brain growth and development, brain/body connections, musical play, positive relating, timing, warm sympathetic interactions with others, mental health and well-being.

References: 

Dissanayeke,  E. (2008). If music is the food of love, what about survival and reproductive processes? Musicae Scientiae, Special issue, 169-195.

Wylie, J.C. (1996, 2000). ‘Body Pitch Song ‘ p.96.  Music, Learning, and Your Child.  Canterbury University Press.  Christchurch. New Zealand.

 

Why Sing the Blues?

Babies and young children respond to the use of the “Blues Scale” and the use of echo songs (call and response) that are a natural part of singing and playing jazz and the blues. If parents aren’t sure of how we use the blues, the first song “Bop it in the Rocket” on my CD “Bop it in the Rocket” is a great musical example of how we this minor blues scale with echo, nonsense words (scat).

The babies in our musical play classes for babies really get into the groove of singing, moving and communicating when we come to the blues section of our musical play. Often a baby will take over the singing using shrieks, squeals, singing clear musical notes and showing obvious pride when we all copy his/her sounds. We sing this song using the babbling sounds of young babies and they quickly start joining In with their own movements and sounds. We sing the blues echoing the babies. They demonstrate obvious enjoyment of the repetition, predictability and emotional quality of the blues.

The blues originated from African Americans and has played a huge part in American Music history and in many of our pop songs. The blues helped the singers to express a wide range of emotions, to move, sing about their experiences, to draw comfort and inspiration from these songs.  Many of the pop songs we enjoy have been inspired by the blues. Jazz originated from the blues. Composers like Gershwin use a lot of jazz and blues elements in their music.

When a parent and their child get into the swing of communication this leads to wonderful singing, moving, turn taking that resembles the singing and taking of parts of  Jazz musicians. This bluesy singing and playing has strong rhythmic and melodic elements.

The baby or young child might take the lead as conductor. The parent copies the sounds, gestures of the child. This reinforces what he baby is offering and gives vital feedback which helps the child to develop a strong sense of self and pride in their musical offerings. This turn taking is the beginning of communication. What is happening is a kind of musical sound game between two musical people: parent and child enjoying every moment of their blues games. There is a real sense of structure, waiting, watching, listening, appreciating, turn taking, feeling the emotional bonds of connection.

Trevarthen says that even a newborn can take the lead in the earliest  “conversations” between mother and child. Although the infant’s sounds have no semantic meaning they are conversational in terms of the exchange of sounds and gestures. To quote the words of the well-known song by Irving Mill and Duke Ellington: “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing”.

With our older children 3 years and upwards we use the blues scale using a range of props, so that they can see, hear and feel the pitches (notes) and start to use elements of this scale in their own play. A grandmother showed me a video of her grandson listening to ” Teddy Bear Blues ” track 4 from my CD “Swing Me A Song” . He kept dancing and singing along. When the song stopped he would put it on again on his IPad. She said he had been practising his dance moves every day with the repeated song and she could hear him singing snatches of the blues in his everyday play.  I quote a seven year old from my after school music class who was dancing and singing his own words: ” I really, really, really love to sing the Blues, and I like wearing my blue suede shoes”.

References:

Bjorkvold, J.R. (1989) The Muse Within. Harper Collins. New York

Trevarthen, Colwyn 1988) “Infants Trying to Talk: How a Child Invites Communication from the Human World.” In Ragnhild Soderbergh, ed. Children’s Creative Communication. Lund and Kent.

Autumnal Instrumentation

Wednesday 13th April 2016
Sarah Marra – Musical Play Tutor

Autumn is upon us and our music classes are so excited by the sounds, textures and new instrumentation that can be found around their gardens and local reserves. This week our homework was to go on a nature hunt and find some autumn treasure. The children delighted in sharing their treasure with the class as we sang an improvised song about what each child found during the week. The children and parents played their autumn instruments to the song ‘We Are Playing Music’. We then sang about the textures of the treasure, the smells of the treasure, the sounds of the treasure, and the look of the treasure. This was exploring the different leaves, nuts, shell casings, and seed pods by use of our different senses creating a sound understanding of what each item of treasure is.
What a wonderful sensory musical learning experience we shared.
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Julie has been wonderful to work with! With her years of experience and expertise she came up with a tune for a song within minutes of hearing about our project and it’s key messages! Julie composed lyrics that fitted our purpose perfectly- she knew what to repeat and emphasise. The tune is wonderfully catchy so children pick it up so quickly. Julie is passionate and skilled and we are so grateful to have had her working with us on our project.

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