What is the surest way to a young child's heart? Singing, of course. Add a few dance moves or a musical instrument, and you're in, for sure. Parents and educators have known for a long long time that there's no better way to soothe, delight or teach preschool age children than through music. Silly songs, counting songs, alphabet songs, rounds and lullabies - we love to sing them with our kids, and they learn so much from them! What have your kids picked up from all of this music-making? And what other tunes or instruments might inspire our young songsters?
These are some of the skills that experts have identified as essential for preschoolers to learn along with a few ideas to help you help your children learn even more about the world around them.
To help your child learn to move responsively to music ...
... play Elephants on a Spider Web
Using masking tape inside, or chalk outside, construct a spiderweb frame with three long intersecting lines. Then use the tape or chalk to connect those lines with a spiral, starting in the middle where the lines intersect and moving out. Once the spider web is finished, gather your kids and pick one to start the game. The first child, or elephant, should walk around the spider web while you sing a song: "One elephant went out to play, out on a spider's web one day. He/she had such ENORMOUS fun, he/she called for another elephant to come." Everyone should then shout, "Hey elephant!" and another "elephant" can come play on the web. When the web is full of elephants, you all can sing, "They had such ENORMOUS fun, but the spider web broke and they all fell down!" This is most fun with at least 4-6 kids. If you can, leave the web and be a "fly on the wall" to see them reenact the song by themselves. This song "Los Elefantes" is also available in Spanish on the CD by Jose Luis Orozco, Letras Numeros y Colores. Have fun!
To help your child begin to hear differences in sounds ...
... play What's That Sound?
Try this activity to help your child learn to identify different sounds. Gather different noise-making props in advance and don't let your child see them. Stand behind your child's back and make different noises with your props. Then see if he or she can guess what is making the noise. If your child has trouble guessing, make the sound again and give him or her clues: This is something I use to drive the car or This is something that we read every night.
To show your child how to perform simple movements in accompaniment to music ...
... create Paper Tube Maracas
Take an empty paper towel or toilet paper tube. Cover one end with a small square of construction paper and fasten the square to the tube with a rubber band. Then fill the tube with dried beans or uncooked rice -- you can experiment with different amounts and with different materials (or combinations of materials) to create different sounds. Once you've placed the desired amount of beans or rice into the tube, cover the open end with a small square of construction paper and fasten it to the tube with a rubber band, creating a maraca. Then, wrap the entire tube with construction paper or white drawing paper, gluing it to the tube so that it's secure. You can then let your child decorate the paper with paint or markers so that it's fun and colorful. Make a whole bunch so that you can have a percussion section for your kitchen band!
To help your child learn to discriminate between fast and slow music ...
... listen to Victor Vito by Laurie Berkner
The title track alone is so great that it justifies the purchase of the entire album. It teaches your child all the essentials -- how to sing fast, how to sing slow, how to rhyme Alaska and Tabasco! Kids love Laurie Berkner because she looks an awful lot like their own moms rockin' out in the living room, but she can actually carry a tune! And, well, parents love her for precisely the same reason!
To help your child learn to discriminate between loud and quiet music ...
... play A Little Bit Louder Now!
Play your child's favorite music and have your child begin to dance while you slowly turn the volume up. Have your child dance faster as the music gets louder. Then, slowly turn the music down, and have your child slow down their movements. Keep decreasing the volume until the music is off, and have your child freeze when they no longer hear the music.
To show your child how to imitate and produce sounds ...
... play Going on a Bear Hunt together
With your kids, sing the old summer camp song 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt.' (If you can't remember the words, you can find them here.) Afterwards go back through the song and discuss (depending on the age of your children) each environment they go through on the bear hunt (grass, tree, river, cave). Then explain that they will color and create each location using construction paper and crayons, markers, etc. Then take their artwork and place it throughout your house with the ending place being a bed. Now as you go on your 'bear hunt' sing the song and go through each 'station' of their artwork as the scene and end the song by jumping on the bed and pulling the covers up over your heads. It's guaranteed your child while ask to do it again!
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