Early childhood music has incredible benefits for babies, toddlers and young children. When a child is between the age of 0 and 5, the brain is highly active – it is actually the most active during this period in a child’s entire life! Because music impacts a child’s whole learning, they grow socially, emotionally, physically, intellectually, creatively and in our groups, even spiritually – we love to emphasise how each child is incredibly special and wonderfully made.
The songs, activities and programs have been developed by an early music childhood teacher, designed to engage both parents and children, to create fun, memorable moments that will last a lifetime.
Our SMILES curriculum ensures that children receive the best learning possible from the program.
Two and three year olds may start to develop little friendships, though don’t be alarmed if some children are very shy and just want to be with mum and perhaps even just observe. We love to call this “observation mode” – children learn through watching others. Often those who like to observe do the activities in the privacy and safety of their own home. Reassure parents that “observation mode” is totally normal. We toddlers are often very “me” focussed, they are learning to share, show kindness to others and to behave in loving ways.
As children grow older, peers grow in importance. Kids are growing in their ability to cooperate, share, take turns and show empathy to another person’s feelings. Be sure to include activities that promote group activity – circle games where cooperation is needed are great. Leading and following activities are also great for this age group, for example, mirroring activities, or taking turns to choose a movement for a song.
Two and three year olds love to move, so be sure to include lots of movement opportunities – activities that include gross motor skills (jumping, walking, marching, stretching up and down, even hopping and skipping with older children), along with the fine motor skills (finger rhymes, using a pincer grip to hold finger cymbals and other instrument play and exploration.) Affirm each child’s attempt to try new movements.
Galloping, skipping and hopping will become easier for 4-5 year olds. Include movement activities that will challenge, engage and extend. Actions that are more complicated and require more control are beneficial, including gross and finer movement control.
With all young children, but particularly babies and toddlers, repetition is important. They will soon remember and recognize faces and objects while exploring things with their mouths and hands. They will grow to anticipate particular songs that delight them, through plenty of repetition. One year olds start to identify their body parts and will enjoy copying you and their parent. They will be interested in instrument exploration – tasting, touching, shaking, banging and more!
Toddlers begin to engage in pretend play. Acting like tigers, frogs, rockets or other exciting things captures their attention. They begin to recognize animals, numbers, colours, shapes and sounds, concept opposites such as high and low, loud and soft, fast and slow. Be sure to feed their growing brains with a variety of learning activities and topics. Be prepared to go with the flow with the ideas and conversation the children bring to your class.
Older children may like to think up verses for songs, choosing actions for movement activities, selecting instruments and so forth. Include opportunities for older children that promote pre-reading skills (ie using felts for counting). Even older children love to role play and imagine that they are in various situations or doing imaginative things. The phrase “I wonder…” is often a great starting point for encouraging kids to use their imaginations.
Finally, a recent Australian study has shown that interactive, shared musical play with mum or dad at home, improves literacy, numeracy, social and emotional regulation by the age of 5, with the social, emotional and numeracy trumping over and above the benefits of shared book reading.
A toddler’s vocabulary grows from roughly 200 to over 1000 words. Younger children generally won’t sing every word in a song, but pick out a few. Leaving off words at the end of phrases is a great technique to encourage the children to sing and finish the phrase.
Four to five year olds generally have a vocabulary up to 10,000 words. Always encourage and affirm a child’s willingness to be involved verbally, whether it’s in relating an experience, telling a story or describing how they feel. Kids LOVE silly sounds and silly words. Make songs fun by creating these fun experiences.
Emotions in two to three year olds often run high. Always have an encouraging cuddle, safe lap, or a small teddy available to help console (and distract) an upset toddler. As they develop a desire for more independence, they love to be the “big helper”. Two year olds may struggle with sharing and putting things away – a basket in the middle is usually the answer.
Kids are often eager to please, love to be big helpers and independent. Each child needs to feel special and important – giving them individual roles to play (ie taking turns at playing a xylophone or drum, solo turn-taking within a song) can be very affirming. Affirm each child’s music making – encourage exploration and avoid “right” and “wrong” ways of playing. Children need to believe that they are indeed successful at making their own music and loved and important within a group.
Nurturing a child’s sense of wonder and magic for the world around them is the beginning of spirituality. A toddler will be healthier physically and emotionally if they feel connected to nature, and also feel loved and safe in their environment. Developing gratitude through conversations and rituals like grace before a meal and saying “thank you” is best done through modelling. Our depth of gratitude directly impacts our ability to receive – the deeper our ability to be thankful, the more we get out of life. Helping children learn the joy of contributing encourages a child to feel proud of making a better world and results in happier children. Being a “little helper” can be very important a young child’s life.