Children feel at home in the balanced ecosystem of nature, because it is here that they and their playing belong. Nature is a constant source of beauty, inspiration and imagination.

The child’s environment consists of the sensory information fed back to his/her own body by environmental stimuli. Through opportunities to listen, watch, touch, move and play in a variety of outdoor environments, the child develops a strong sense of connection to the land. From these early experiences of nature, powerful memories are formed and lay the foundation for a sense of well-being, belonging, nurture and conservation.

Musical play offers opportunities for us to experience a spontaneous, joyful, lost in the moment sense of wonder at the infinite possibilities that outdoor play can offer. It is this sense of wonder that helps children to imagine, create, take risks, nurture and protect.

Music can be played using natural resources such as leaves, sticks, stones, shells, flowers that can be collected, displayed and continually added to.  As children become aware of sounds, patterns, shapes, textures, colours, this influences their play and so stories, songs, art, dance, art and craft evolve and develop.

Look for patterns outside: “Round and round and up and down and now get ready to stop” See what you can find that has circular patterns as well as lines. One young child lay on the grass and sang his song:

“The sky is up, the earth is down, and the world goes around and around.

Listen for the elements of music. These are:


  • Rhythm is everywhere, from the sound of our heart-beat, the rhythms of the universe, to the rhythms of our daily lives. Rhythm is a physiologic organizer. It can bring everyone together in the moment as we keep the beat together.
  • We can listen to rhythmic patterns of nature, the sounds of the wind in the trees, the sounds of the waves at the beach, the rhythmic patterns of birdsong. Listen with your children. They can hear sounds with a higher frequency. When we listen regularly with children, they become tuned in to the sounds of nature.


  • Melody is a series of tones or notes that go up or down. Melody is music’s linear contour. Nature is full of pitched sounds especially the melodic song of birds such as the blackbird, thrush, chaffinch, korimako (bellbird)
  • Play listening games with your children. What is that sound? Where is that sound coming from? What bird is that? Google bird song recordings. Help children to listen to and identify familiar bird songs.
  • Sing scale songs together using the 8 notes of the C major scale Up, up, up, up up to the sky. Down, down, down, down, down to the ground


  • This refers to the structure of a piece of music and helps children to listen to the beginning, middle and end of the music.

DYNAMICS or volume.

  • Is that a loud sound? or is it a soft sound.


  • Is it one voice? Is it many voices e.g. one bird singing , or many? One dog barking, or a whole lot of dogs?


  • The sound colour or tonal quality that makes one sound easily identified from another. The sound of splashing in water, the sound of the wind in the trees, the sound of a black bird singing its spring song.

HARMONY occurs when two or more notes are sounded together and combined in a special way.

Listening ideas:

Go on a sound hunt together. Find treasure to play such as leaves, gum nuts, stones. Make rhythm patterns: stone, stone, little stone.

Go to different environments, the backyard, the local park, the beach.

Have a quiet listening time at the same time each day. Make up a picture book about the sounds you hear. Have a sounds table decorated with the sound objects you found. Set these out in rhythmic patterns. Make up songs about what you heard.

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