This blog has been contributed by Boogie Mites Trainer and Licensee in Newbury and surrounding area, Lizzie Lock.
Anyone who’s spent time with young children knows how much they love being outdoors: research has shown it has a positive effect on our emotional and mental wellbeing – great for both children and the adults who care for them. And we also know the positive effect of music-making for children’s development and wellbeing – so combining the two means we can harness even more benefits!
I’ve been working with preschool children from Acres of Fun nursery in West Berkshire, exploring how Boogie Mites music programmes can work in an outdoor setting. This setting has a wonderful outdoor space, with open grass, slopes and woodland areas – don’t worry though, you can still provide children with a great experience of music-making outdoors in whatever type of outdoor space you can access.
Why take music-making outdoors?
Physical space and freedom: Sometimes indoor music sessions can be constrained by the physical space you have. We know young children love to move (and need to for their development of course!), and being outside generally means more physical space so that children can explore those big movements that are so important for their gross motor skills: e.g. running, jumping, climbing, skipping. You can also find a variety of surfaces/terrains for children to challenge their physical skills: travelling up & down slopes; negotiating rough ground; weaving in & out of obstacles such as trees or large stones; walking on or jumping over logs. Our Choo Choo Choo song works brilliantly outdoors, as children can really employ a wide variety of movements and utilise the larger space available.
Spontaneity and creativity: Physically we have more space outside – and I’ve noticed this translates into a greater sense of freedom & creativity during the session, for both the children and the practitioners. Outdoors, we have less control over our environment, and it can present lots of lovely opportunities to follow children’s observations and interests. We’ve also seen children in settings who use Boogie Mites programmes initiating their own music-making when playing outdoors – for example playing Bangedy Bang Bang together on some wooden decking in their garden area. What a wonderful way to practice those beat-keeping skills, which research has shown to be linked to speech & language development!
Sensory-rich environment: During music sessions, the main sensory focus is obviously on sound. By taking music and listening outside, we open up a much more varied soundscape to tune into – whether that’s the birds singing, a lorry rumbling past, the wind in the trees, or a plane flying overhead: perfect for supporting development of listening skills. Shakey Shakey is a song all about tuning into environmental sounds, which lends itself perfectly to an outdoor discussion about what children can hear.
There’s also plenty of stimulation for our other senses: e.g. the smell of the air after rain, the feel of the breeze ruffling our hair, the sight of a crane in the distance. Stopping to notice what’s around us can be really calming, as well as encouraging children to develop their vocabulary, or even tell a story about what they notice.
Connecting to and understanding our world: With growing concerns about climate change, the destruction of habitats and loss of wildlife, it feels more important than ever that we all understand the world around us, and our impact on it. Being outdoors strengthens our connection to the world we live in, providing opportunities to notice the creatures, trees and plants that we share our planet with. Songs like Munch Munch Munch and Frog’s Life prompt children to think about some of the wildlife around us, while Do Re Mi explores how we can reduce our impact on the world by recycling.
Ideas for Music-Making Outdoors – Make a Nature Shaker!
We LOVE making shakers here at Boogie Mites – all you’ll need is a plastic container or bottle with a lid, and an outdoor area to explore!
By filling our shakers with things we find in the natural world, we open up the opportunity for children to develop a range of different skills:
- Identifying the objects they’ve found: Ask your children where did it come from? What does it do or what’s it for? It’s a great way to understand more about our world.
- Describing the quality of the objects they’ve found: Are they large or small? hard or soft? Smooth or rough? What colour are they?
- Filling the container uses hand-eye co-ordination and fine motor skills as children practice their pincer grip.
- Early maths skills also come into play: Spatial awareness through learning which objects will fit into their container; counting the objects as the child puts them in; talking about how full or empty the container is.
- Sound discrimination: Once you’ve made your shakers, have a listen to how they sound – can you discover together what affects the sound? Which objects make the loudest sound? Or how does a full shaker sound compared to one with just a few things inside? This is a great way to develop phonological awareness – laying great foundations for learning to read & write using phonics.
Ready to take your musical play outdoors?
Whether you’re a parent or practitioner, here are a few other things to think about to get the most from your outdoor music-making:
- Location: Think about how you can build the features of your chosen location into your music-making, and whether you can draw it into your session: will there be trees? What’s the ground covered with, could you make use of it for sound-making? (e.g. rustly leaves, squelchy mud). Try to choose somewhere without too much background noise if you can.
- Weather-ready! As with any outdoor activity, make sure you’re prepared for the weather conditions (whether that’s hats & gloves, puddle suits & wellies, or sun hats and suncream!) You can incorporate the weather into your music-making too – a rainy day creates some lovely listening opportunities, such as the pitter patter of raindrops on an umbrella or bucket over your head.
- Equipment and resources: You really can make music with minimal resources, depending on the songs you choose. A portable speaker will mean you can take recorded music outside to support you – but if you don’t have access to this, choose songs or rhymes that you feel confident leading without backing music. Instead of taking your homemade sticks & drums outside, why not encourage the children to find sticks outside to use, and let them explore tapping on different surfaces for their drums? If the outdoor area you’re using doesn’t already have sticks lying around, you could always ask parents or carers to help their child find some from their local park, wood or garden to bring.
And finally, be prepared to go with the flow! Build time and space into your music time for children to bring in their own ideas and creativity. Being outdoors opens up a range of new experiences, which children will love to express through their words and music!
Boogie Mites has recorded all ideas for taking our school Ready Music Programme outdoors so if you are a licensee of the upgraded version of this programme you will have access to this Music Outdoors Guidance pdf.
Enjoy pirate adventures and music outdoors this summer, with our Making Music Outdoors webinar, including our Pirate Adventure Workshop!
Take regular music-making outside and harness even more benefits of being outdoors for our young children.
Join Lizzie as she presents her experience and findings of our Boogie Mites Outside project, along with the neuro-musical evidence.
- Pirate Adventure Workshop
- Access to the songs and supporting resources
- CPD Certificate
- Access to the recording for one week afterwards.
MONDAY 19th JUNE, 7-8:15pm UK TIME, VIA ZOOM.
Find out more and sign up here: http://www.boogiemites.co.uk/shop/making-music-outdoors/
Don’t worry if the time is not convenient you will gain access to the recording for one week following the training.