If you read part 1 of this series, you will be convinced of the value of effective music practice in the early years and of sharing the information with parents. But what is effective music practice?
Early years practitioners know about the value of nursery rhymes and traditional songs but is there more that can be gained from a wider range of music activities? Nursery rhymes are a valuable element of early years music provision, but neuroscience evidence suggests that nursery rhymes alone will not maximise the potential brain boosting benefits that music can offer in early years development. But do your parents know this?
At Boogie Mites
We love nursery rhymes and traditional songs – the more singing, rhythm and rhyme the better! We all know that nursery rhymes are a valuable part of musical activities in early years, not least because of the regular repetition of these songs that under 5’s can be exposed to.
These traditional rhymes and songs of any culture being sung by family and carers from birth to 5 years at home, at toddler groups and at nursery, provide the repetition required to develop the neural networks associated with music and language processing. Lullabies, nursery rhymes and traditional songs of every culture carry a special ‘signature’ of melodies and inflections which helps to prepare babies’ ears, voices and brains for language. Regular opportunities to hear these songs and rhymes will help support development of auditory processing skills and matching syllable beat patterns to language, all of which are known to support strong reading and writing skills. Indeed a research study showed that children who know 8 or more nursery rhymes by heart by the age of four years will be among the better readers and writers in their class by age 8.
Regular, varied, creative practice
However, we should not think that nursery rhymes and traditional songs provide all the benefits that music can bring to early years development. They provide a valuable element but there is so much more that children can get from different types of music-making opportunities in early years. Neuroscience studies provide evidence that given the opportunity of regular, varied and creative music provision, children in early years can develop the neural pathways that provide strong foundations not only for literacy and maths but for learning generally. Pretty amazing.
The 3 most important aims for music making that we can put into place to maximise the benefits for brain development – preparing the brain for learning generally and specifically foundations for literacy and maths are:
Feeling the beat – developing rhythmic awareness
As soon as children are able to move, clap, grasp sticks or shakers to keep the beat, they can learn to synchronise actions, developing their rhythmic awareness. Nursery rhymes go some way to support this development. Regular moving to and keeping the beat using body percussion, movement and instruments, to recorded music with a strong steady drumbeat will maximize the potential to develop rhythmic awareness.
Listening and singing – developing melodic awareness
Listening to musical arrangements from birth help to develop pitch and melodic awareness. Encouraging children to listen to and sing daily with a wide range of melodies will help them to develop an awareness of pitch, tempo, dynamics and to refine their ability to hear and sing in tune. Again, nursery rhymes will go some way to support this development but listening to, singing with, and responding to recorded music of many different styles and genres will maximise the potential development of melodic awareness.
Playing with words – developing phonological awareness
Playing with words through musical activities can further support this aim. Such as tapping syllables of words or phoneme sounds as part of a song and follow the leader sequencing of sounds and actions to music. Again, nursery rhymes go some way to support this development but more specifically developed musical activities that focus on the sequencing of sounds, actions and syllables will maximize the development of phonological awareness.
Other important aspects required to lead effective music provision
- To engage and motivate the children the music activities should be led by enthusiastic adults. Upbeat music, catchy tunes, props and instruments all help.
- To inspire and engage the themes should be relevant and exciting – such as jungles, dinosaurs, dragons.
- To encourage group engagement all children should have the same instrument or prop and learn to work together, following a leader.
- To maximise progression, regular practice of the same songs with extension activities should be offered.
- To encourage confidence and creativity children should be given opportunities for exploration and child-led music play, as well as adult-led music time.
- Music time should be in a quiet space so that listening can focus on the music activity. Playtime should be without music playing in the background so that listening can be focused on play and communication with others.
Our original songs
At Boogie Mites, we have written and recorded music of many different genres and developed specific musical activities so we can achieve the maximum brain-boosting benefits that regular music practice can offer to support early years development. Also, and most importantly, we recognise the importance that this music is as enjoyable for the adults (parents and practitioners) taking part as it is for the children. Children in early years delight in taking part in the things that their significant adults enjoy taking part in. They will feed off the enthusiasm of adults taking part in our upbeat music-making activities, the same enthusiasm for nursery rhymes is often lacking in adults – according to recent surveys.
Along with traditional nursery rhymes, Boogie Mites music programmes will provide practitioners and parents with a resource that they can use to turbocharge their music provision in the setting and the home, ensuring that their children get the maximum brain-boosting benefits that music-making offers at this vital foundation stage of development.
We have written a parent information sheet about effective music practice in early years to support their home practice, that you can share via social media, email or print and handout.