Little Kids, Music & Singing: "We Love Opera"!


Our December Kindermusik Unit featured Mozart's opera, "The Magic Flute" and the children (and I!) fell in love with opera. By the last class session, we were uninhibited about dressing up like kings, queens, princes and princesses, parading around regally, and singing in our strong opera voices!

I decided to present a kid-friendly version of the story of the Magic Flute and the children were entranced. Our Kindermusik unit, "Sing a Story"offered wonderful short pieces from the opera, performed by seasoned opera singers in stage productions from all over the world.

We used puppets to distinguish a "solo" performance from a "duet," and we even sang a familiar song,"Star Light-Star Bright," using beginning sight reading of basic notation. It is such fun to see preschoolers jump at the challenge to use their most beautiful singing voices.

Here is a video of the fun duet of Papageno (the bird catcher) and Papagena (the lady bird catcher):

          Papageno and Papagena singing with joy when they first meet (from "The Magic Flute" by Mozart)

Singing is one of the best ways to express emotions,  get work done, celebrate happy occasions, and honor sad ones, as well. 

When my son was in his early teens, he attended The Arthur Morgan School, a Montessori-based middle school located in the  Celo Community in Western North Carolina. Each morning, the whole school began the day with a "Morning Sing" before going off to their academic classes, daily chores and rugged adventures in the world of nature. 

When my son passed away in 2010, there were elaborate ceremonies performed by the Navy (he was on active duty when he died) and beautiful memorial services with music and singing. But, one of the most meaningful remembrances of my son, Cal, was the current students at the Arthur Morgan School honoring his passing by singing for him at their "Morning Sing" that week.

My heart goes out to the families in Connecticut who have lost a family member in the recent tragedy, and I hope there are songs that are sung, along with the condolences, in remembrance of those children and teachers.

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Outdoor Classroom: Autumn Leaves, Pumpkins and Halloween!


This time of year is very exciting for Preschoolers since Halloween night is a big "Let's Pretend..." party for all ages! We, who work with this age group, are spending lots of time explaining the difference between what is real and what is not real. In fact, that is one of the developmental tasks of the young child...figuring out the difference.

In the Montessori approach, we keep the environment filled with "real stuff", like plants, pets and all kinds of child-size tools for children to do the real work of life.

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

Give a young child a feather duster, or a short handled broom and they will immediately go to work on cleaning up the environment. What young child doesn't like digging in the garden with real garden tools? Real work is truly appealing to young children because it is what they see the adults doing all day long!

Using a child-size shovel to plant a garden!
                                               Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company 

"Firefighters" harvesting peas from the garden!
                                             Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

Likewise, children will clamor to use a child-size rake to rake up the leaves that are falling this time of year. And, pumpkins are a favorite for scrubbing, decorating, cutting open to get the seeds for roasting, and of course baking pumpkin pies.

Harvesting pumpkins from the Children's Garden!
Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

4 Yr old sweeping off the walkway!
Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company 

More sweeping with a child-size broom!
                                            Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

Hauling pumpkins from preschool garden!
    Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company


 Children scrubbing pumpkins!
  Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company 

             Preschooler raking leaves with a child-size rake!
                                            Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

For sure, Preschoolers are trying their best to learn the skills that are necessary in the real, adult world. Through pretend play, children practice what they see the adults doing. Even the youngest children love to "cook" in the play kitchen or bundle up the baby dolls before "nap time." So, when Halloween comes along, there is a night of pretend play that everyone participates in no matter what the age! 

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

With preschoolers, we offer the un-scary make-believe of kitten costumes, and tinker bell fairies, princesses, & mermaids along with Spongebob, Mickey Mouse and Pluto.  Just to mention a few of the fun costumes my students excitedly describe to me these days!

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

Then, there are the fun "costumes" that fit any season and are wonderful for the outdoor play of young children who are busily practicing the real work they see happening all around them! 

"Playing Firefighters": Pretend that goes on all year long in the Outdoor Classroom!
Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

During my recent visit to Hawaii, my grand daughter and  I  spent the last days of summer making a fun little video about going to the beach and we had to include one of our favorite themes:  silly, friendly & not-real PIRATES! A few weeks before, my "fairy godson", Myles created the little boat and helped me film some of the ocean scenes at our local beach in CA. Hope you enjoy this video with the Kindermusik poem, "Ahoy There, Mates."

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Introduction to the Elements of Music: Presto and Largo!


The musical continuum of "Largo" all the way to "Presto" is a very fun concept for children to explore.
"Presto" is the music term for fast and refers to how quickly the beat is moving in the music. The term for slow is "Largo",  and then there are so many variations in between these two ends of the musical spectrum!

                                              Photos by Jeri-Jo Idairus (from Carolyn's Magical Movement Archive)
                                                   Moving "Presto" like a bumble bee...

                                                      or a fast running cheetah!

                                         Moving "Slowly, Slowly," like a sloth...

                                         or like an elephant at a "Largo" pace!
                                                        (Photos by Jeri-Jo Idarius from Carolyn's archive)

In music classes all over the globe, children are having fun MOVING in an endless variety of ways while, all along, there are little seeds of rhythmical memory growing happily in each child's brain.
You probably already know how much young children enjoy moving FAST---! But, the challenge of moving very s-l-o-w-l-y can sometimes be even more fun for a child. And the secret benefit of playing with these opposites (Presto and Largo) is the child's growing ability of "inhibitory control."

I found this wonderful place on the web where you can interact with an on-line metronome. Check it out!  You can play some fun games with your child.

Set the metronome to a Largo beat and sing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" to match the beat you have set. Then change the setting to a Presto beat and try singing the song again to match this new beat. And of course, any kind of fun movement activities set to match the metronome beat will be fun and probably end up filling the room with lots of giggles.

Advertising Disclosure: Magical Movement Company may be compensated in exchange for featured placement of certain sponsored products and services, or your clicking on links posted on this website. Thanks for your support!

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Music, Dance, Drama: Storytelling and Young Children


The art (and music) of storytelling: These pictures tell all!

This photo and the one prior are from the artists at Dollar Photo Club

Photo from the artists at Dollar Photo Club

Photo from the artists at Dollar Photo Club

During our recent Kindermusik celebration, ending the school year semester classes, we all played our drums to accompany a wonderful African story about "Spider, the Drummer" (learned from Beverly Botsford). I realized that telling a story to children can be so mesmerizing and very different from reading a story out loud to a group. This story is from the genre of "Anansi the Spider stories" from African folklore.

Add songs, chants, rhymes, dances, or musical instruments to a storytelling scene and the story experience is even more enriched! These kinds of music stories follow the important tenants of the Orff-Schulwerk Method of teaching music. Read more about this at the website: What is Orff-Schulwerk (AOSA)

I also found some interesting information on a website called "". Here's the link:

From the "Storynet" site:
"What are Americans most scared of? In second place is death. In first place is public speaking. Let's nip neurosis in the bud! ...Storytelling has all the benefits of read aloud. It improves language skills such as vocabulary, prediction, sequencing, comprehension, story structure and recall. These skills will also help children become better writers. Just as is the case with read-aloud, children who engage in the activity learn about history and culture, develop emotionally and have better self-esteem. Storytelling stimulates imagination to the nth degree. And storytelling creates a love of story that translates into a potentially life-long love of books the same way read-aloud does. 
Storytelling and read aloud must be brother and sister. Or, at least, first cousins.The difference between read aloud and storytelling ... is that the act of storytelling is always active and inventive. The child needs to synthesize all sorts of cognitive operations (brain stuff) with gross motor skills (body stuff) and emotional interpretations (feeling stuff) to execute this performance, and because of this synthesis, every performance is unique to the teller. The other difference is the connection with the audience. The eye contact alone makes storytelling a different animal than read-aloud. When you try it, you'll see."

Click the link below for a short video of Beverly Botsford giving a preview of one of her story telling gigs:

More from the "Storynet" site:
The adult storyteller is setting up a model for children who are listening to the story. Important components of good story telling are:

  • Storyteller is loud and clear! (Project from your diaphragm)
  • Eye contact!  You must try to make each listener feel as if the story is being told just for him or her, and eye contact helps the listeners feel that way. 
  • The story will have a clear beginning, middle and end (folktales often fit this bill)
  • The story will have places where the audience can join in (repeated verses, cumulative tales, playing an instrument)
  • The story will make you laugh or cry or feel scared...plays on basic emotions!
  • Practice by writing the story in your own words and reading it aloud three times. However, you only need to really memorize the first and the last lines!
  • Express! Use not only expression in the voice, but also in the face. Practice different types of voices for different characters in the story.
  • Practice in front of a mirror!
  • Create an introduction: set the mood for storytelling "magic" (Carolyn's note: Tinkling of chimes worked well for me with our Spider the Drummer story)
  • Plan a dynamic group participation ending (Carolyn's note: In the Spider story, we all ended with a long drum roll that started out loudly and gradually got very quiet)

                                                                        Beverly Botsford again
 The storyteller is preserving stories and it is important to leave the audience with the feeling of the story, that way they will remember it! Beverly Botsford emphasizes that storytelling (accompanied by drumming) comes from the heart. 
Children often enjoy and ask over and over again for stories about their families (what Mommy or grandfather did as a child, or even what happened on the day the child was born!). What a wonderful way to preserve "oral family history." Adding a favorite childhood song to the story often is the ingredient that keeps the story going on for generations.

Photo from the artists at Dollar Photo Club

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The Orff-Schulwerk of Music: "Angry Birds Baked in a Pie"!


"Angry birds baked in a pie...Wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the king?

Illustration by Randalf Caldecott (1846-1886) from Hey Diddle Diddle and Bye, Baby Bunting. London: George Routledge and Sons, 1882.

True, many of the old nursery rhymes are what we consider politically incorrect and out of style. Nowadays, it's angry birds on a hand held device who are being noticed by children playing a video game. Nowadays, it seems cruel to think of baking black birds in a pie just so the king could have a joke or two!

Photos from the artists at Dollar Photo Club

However, many educators believe that the children of today are missing out on a rich part of language development because they don't listen to and recite old fashioned nursery rhymes.

This book is available at Amazon at this link: Favorite Nursery Rhymes

Doug Goodkin, an internationally renowned Orff-Schulwerk presenter and instructor, has written many books on music and young children. He happened to be one of my instructors when I took my Orff-Schulwerk training in the 1990s and I can attest to his expertise in the field of music education. He has also been the music director at the San Francisco School since the 1970s and he has worked with children from preschool age through middle school. Here is the link to his site:

His wonderful book, A Rhyme In Time,  is chock full of great ways to introduce children to the principles of music through nursery rhymes. His books can be found at Amazon: Amazon Doug Goodkin's Page.

In his book, Doug observes:

Nursery rhymes are rich in sound; "Jack and Jill," "Lucy Locket, "Peas Porridge Hot"... all set the young speaker down the garden path of alliteration. The work of phonetics is greatly enriched by Mother Goose...the play of language comes to the forefront.
Here, Doug offers a great comparison about imagery:
Imagery: "The cow jumped over the moon...the dish ran away with the spoon"       "Five geese in a flock...sit and sing by a spring"Such delicious images in these rhymes! The young child's dreamlike world is given an even greater vibrancy by the color in these word pictures.Years later, this experience with alliteration and imagery will re-surface while reading Gerard Manley Hopkins:"...skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow; moles all in stipple upon trout that swim..."Compare that to some contemporary children's songs:"Oh, you walk and you walk and you walk and you stop!""Touch your shoulders, touch your knees, raise your arms and drop them please."Gone is the fancy, the music, the poetry! The children fed on this diet will grow up to be good respectable citizens who read the newspaper, but they will miss one of the great gifts of language---its capacity to evoke fantastic imagery." (from A Rhyme in Time, Doug Goodkin)

Illustration by Randalf Caldecott (1846-1886). "And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon," from Hey Diddle Diddle and Bye, Baby Bunting. London: George Routledge and Sons, 1882.

Parents & teachers can play many musical games with young children using old fashioned nursery rhymes. Some of Doug Goodkin's ideas are:

  • Adult speaks each phrase, leaving out the rhyming word, then inviting the child to fill it in
  • Child (and adult) can "mime" the actions
  • Adult & child can sing one part and then say one part, or match gestures (ex: arm high/low) and sing/say the words in a high then a low voice
  • The text can be transferred to rhythm instruments or to body percussion
  • You can create a new text
  • Create a new text in another language!
  • Turn the whole thing into a movement activity (ex: hop to the words of one part of the rhyme, then tiptoe for another part)

There will probably be many fun ideas that your child comes up with all on her own, too!

Advertising Disclosure: Magical Movement Company may be compensated in exchange for featured placement of certain sponsored products and services, or your clicking on links posted on this website. Thanks for your support!

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Modeling the Love of Music: Parents and Scaffolding Learning!


Do you know who your child's first and most important teachers are? 

Photo from the artists at Dollar Photo Club.

Parents, grandparents and primary caregivers! 
Photo from the artists at Dollar Photo Club

The child pictured here is copying the modeling provided by the adult in this fun music activity of playing maracas. The happy child is being held in the adult's arms. This loving support happens to be a foundation of the scaffold of learning that this child is experiencing. 

Photo from the artists at Dollar Photo Club

"Modeling" to a child how to do something has always been a teaching tool and parents often do this spontaneously. These "teachable moments" occur daily in the lives of families with young children. This is often referred to as part of the process of "educational scaffolding". 

Photo from the artists at Dollar Photo Club
Photo from the artists at Dollar Photo Club

Here's a definition of scaffolding learning:

"Instructional Scaffolding"
Instructional scaffolding is a learning process designed to promote a deeper learning. Scaffolding is the support 
given during the learning process which is tailored to the needs of the student with the intention of helping the student 
achieve his/her learning goals (Sawyer, 2006).
Instructional scaffolding is the provision of sufficient support to promote learning when concepts and skills are being 
first introduced to students. These supports may include the following.
Use of instructional scaffolding in various contexts:
  • Modeling a task
  • Giving advice
  • Providing coaching
These supports are gradually removed as students develop autonomous learning strategies, thus promoting their own 
cognitiveaffective and psychomotor learning skills and knowledge. 

From Kindermusik International,  the following is an outline of the musical profile of preschoolers. By having fun with these activities together, families can help children develop important skills.

  • Developing beat awareness
  • Matching beat to external sound source 
  • Becoming increasingly successful with the rhythm and tone of songs
  • Beginning to sing accurately 
  • Differentiating between the singing and speaking voice
  • Beginning to understand musical concepts of:
                           Photo by Jeri-Jo Idarius (from Carolyn's Magical Movement Company archive)

Great games can be created by singing or chanting a familiar song with a change of dynamics each time.  Helping the child to develop these skills at his/her own pace is something parents can do while "modeling" and just plain having fun.
Photo by Jeri-Jo Idarius Photography (Carolyn's Archives)

Photo by Jeri-Jo Idarius (from Carolyn's Magical Movement Archive)

Here you can see a mom and daughter making a sock puppet together in summer music camp at the Muse in Willits, CA. Later, the mother/daughter puppets can "sing" and "play games" together. A fun way to scaffold learning!

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Music & Movement Go Together: "We All Fall Down"!


Why do young children love games that incorporate falling down and getting back up?

Photo by Jeri-Jo Idarius from Carolyn's Archives

These photos show "The Carousel Game" in Summer Music Camp: Up and down then we all fall down!

              Photo by Jeri-Jo Idarius from Carolyn's Archives

 "Rat-a-tat-tat" building the carousel back  up again!

Foundations of Learning from the Kindermusik International  curriculum, offers one answer to the question of why children love falling down games so much:
As young toddlers have the physical experience of falling down and then getting back up, a significant emotional event occurs as well. They are encountering and overcoming a fear of imbalance, and are developing confidence in their physical skills. From, The Emotional Life of the Toddler, by Alicia F. Lieberman, we learn: "Bodily movements often carry strong psychological meanings. With young children in particular, motion conveys emotion more powerfully than words. In the second year of life, motion is centered on the achievement of balance, and the risk of losing this balance becomes a central concern. Physical balance stands as a symbol for emotional balance in child play as well as in adult imagery."

                            Photo by Jeri-Jo Idarius from Carolyn's Archives

Throughout early childhood, children continue to enjoy "falling down" games. Even older children love to incorporate "falling down and jumping back up" into pretend play. One of the favorite games in the 3-5 year old curriculum from Kindermusik is the song about the jack-in-the-box:
(The children start out by crouching down inside their pretend boxes and the adult begins by winding up the pretend crank on the boxes)
The Jack-in-the-box jumps up (children jump up)
The Jack-in-the-box goes flop (children fall down)
The Jack-in-the-box goes round and round (children stand again and wobble around)
The lid goes down with a plop! (children fall down again)

                                        Photo by Jeri-Jo Idarius from Carolyn's Archives

There are so many motions that help children continue to develop a sense of balance and self confidence. Here is a list of ways to move from Kindermusik's Movement Chart. A wonderful benefit is the vocabulary development that comes from using these fun words.
Add some great descriptive words like:
high/low/in the middle
on balance/off balance

If you run out of fun movements here are some interesting ideas:

Have fun playing and moving and singing and grooving!

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