The Benefits of Music: Movement is the Magic Ingredient


My mentor used to tell us that turning a child upside down nurtures brain development.

Photo from the artists at Dollar Photo Club

Nina Mogar, Professor at City College in San Francisco, has been studying brain development in young children since the nineteen sixties! I was fortunate to have been in her Child Observation Classes during the 1970s when my own children were very young. Read more about Nina at his link: Nina Mogar Project Commotion

Nina Mogar, ECE Professor at City College San Francisco, CA

One important component of these parent education classes sponsored by City College, was the Movement Room. The first half of Nina's 2 hour class would be held in the activity room where children 15 months to 5 years old would explore hands-on activities like sand play and building blocks. Nina would be buzzing around the classroom quickly explaining to parents the benefits of these activities for their child's overall development, especially their brain development. 

 Photo from the artists at Dollar Club Photo

Photo from the artists at Dollar Club Photo

The second half of Nina's class was held upstairs where we  had a whole gymnasium set up for little tots to move to their heart's content! This was Nina's passion! There were metal and wood climbers along with large balls and cloth tunnels galore. But the really popular activities were Nina's "inventions." 

There were sturdy hammock swings hung with both ends connected to the ceiling from a single huge  hook so that a small child could straddle it like riding a horse. We put small pillows in the "swing" to create a comfortable spot for the child to sit and the child's feet were able to touch the floor so they could push themselves off with little help from the adults. Children could swing back and forth or even twirl around and they did! 

                                                                    From the "La Siesta" Hammock Swing Site

This, Nina told us, helped nurture both sides of the child's developing brain so that the child could later easily learn to read and write as well as solve problems. 

There was this "thing" she called a "Bumpity-bump" that was a very popular activity center. Nina sewed king-sized sheets together and then filled these with chunks of  foam cut-offs that you could get at foam bed stores around the city. When a child took a step onto the Bumpity-bump, s/he would immediately experience a change in the center of balance and with each step that center would change. There was always a soft place to land and roll around upon a Bumpity-bump, and children clamored to get a turn on this fun "thing."

                                                      From "Star Fish Therapies" Website

 But the true benefits of walking, crawling, and  tumbling on this "thing" was, according to Nina, the beginning of problem-solving and negotiating in space that the child was forced to do. The child was finding her/his own center of gravity.

Amidst the giggles and wonderful movement fun, the children were getting a good dose of food for their developing brains. Learning to take risks in a safe environment! And, this was definitely the most engaging part of her wonderful program for young children and their parents.

Movement fun in Music Class October 2011

                         The Following photos by Jeri-Jo Idarius Photography (from Carolyn's Archive: Magical Movement Company)

Movement is a part of every one of my music classes for children and the adults who attend with them! Music simply cannot be experienced without moving and so it is a natural occurrence, especially in the case of young children. 

However, we also understand that children need to move in order to learn. This important component of a child's experience in music class is thoughtfully incorporated and welcomed in every one of my lessons.

A young student will be encouraged to hop, hop, hop along to music that is "staccato" (filled with short, separate notes) and then encouraged to sway and rock to music that is "legato" (filled with long, connected notes). 

And, of course, the teacher always delights in the child's spontaneous expression (within safe classroom guidelines!) of movement to the varied musical selections that are offered to the children. 

Movement is the magic ingredient for success in the music classroom for young children!

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!

View Post

Little Kids, Music & Singing: Lady Bugs and Developing a Singing Voice


If you want to see a darling video of an engaging echo song for children from Frank Leto,  click here:

Frank Leto is just one of the most fun music educators around! He happens to be a Montessori teacher as well. Frank uses the Orff-Schulwerk technique of instilling a good sense of steady beat into children's music experiences by introducing clapping and stamping games from toddlerhood on. He does this by offering echo games to children. These start with clapping echoes that can be very simple, but gradually develop into intricate rhythmical patterns as the children grow in age and skills development.

Of course, the echo games carry over beautifully into singing in a "call and answer" fashion and Frank specializes in these types of songs for young children. Check out his cds on itunes and also on his website. Everything he produces is the highest quality and very enjoyable for children!You can check out his website here:

High quality early music lessons almost always involve echo singing of some kind. Echo songs provide instant success for children because they don't have to learn the words of the song to be able to sing it. They just copy! We all know how much fun copy games are for children.

You can also play echo games with children whenever you like. Start with patting a steady beat to keep the "pulse" and then say something like this:
"Copy my words..." (child repeats)
"Say what I say..."
"I love you..."
"You look cute..."
"Let's make sounds..."
"Ready, set, go..."
"Oink, Oink, Oink..."
"Meow, meow, meow..."
"Ready for a bath..."
"One, two, three..."
Don't forget to let your child have a turn to be the leader and you be the echo!

Not only are echo games great for developing language and rhythm, they are also a way to calm the energy down since they offer some large motor movement with the beat keeping (clapping, patting knees, etc.) and give the child a chance to get focused again as well. They are irresistible!

Photo from the artists at Dollar Photo Club

View Post

Benefits of Music: Clapping and Musical Development!


Did you ever think about how satisfying clapping games of childhood really are? Clapping with a partner in early elementary- aged children is still a popular playground activity and research shows us why! I found this article on the Mothering Magazine blog:

Clapping Games Build Brainpower

Posted on September 27th, 2011 by  | Find Out More About Laura Grace Weldon

Photo by Jeri-Jo Idarius (from Carolyn's archive)

"In our family, changing the lyrics to “If You’re Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands” is essential to the song. We substitute words like silly, grumpy, snotty, and even verklempt for “happy.”  Making up appropriate accompanying motions, well, that’s the fun part.Apparently hand-clapping rhymes and songs are actually linked to cognitive skills. Research by Dr. Idit Sulkin, of the Ben-Gurion University Music Science Lab, found that young children who naturally play hand-clapping games are better spellers, have neater handwriting, and better overall writing skills.Intrigued, she conducted further research. For ten weeks she engaged groups of children, ages 6 to 10, in a program of either music appreciation or hand-clapping. Very quickly the children’s cognitive abilities improved, but only those taking part in hand-clapping songs.She also interviewed teachers and joined in when children sang in their classrooms. She was trying to understand why they tend to enjoy hand-clapping songs until a certain age, when other activities such as sports become dominant. Dr. Sulkin observed, These activities serve as a developmental platform to enhance children’s needs — emotional, sociological, physiological, and cognitive. It’s a transition stage that leads them to the next phases of growing up.”

Interestingly, Dr. Sulkin also found that hand-clapping songs benefit adults. When adults engage in these games from childhood they report feeling less tense and their mood improves. They also become more focused and alert.

Clapping and singing, clapping and chanting. There’s a reason these activities are found across all cultures in storytelling, religious ceremonies, solemn rituals, and joyous celebrations.  The experience of calling and clapping may speak to something deeper in us.  Maybe we all should play a round of Miss Suzy or See See My Playmate at the start of every political debate, business meeting, or extended family get-together." (From Mothering Magazine Blog Sept 27th, 2011.)

Photo from the artists at Dollar Photo Club
A Fun Clapping Activity from Carolyn

While sitting down, a fun activity for young children is to clap their own hands together then pat their knees. Introduce a steady beat between the two motions and before you know it the children will be following your beat themselves. This is an old trick of seasoned teachers to get the attention of a group of rambunctious young children. 
One of my music students, a four year old, is always showing me the clapping beat that her mother plays with her every day. Lily incorporates this fun beat into our instrument exploration in class and she is very good at it! The beat is ta-ta-ti-ti-ta-rest (2 quarter notes, followed by 2 eighth notes, another quarter note and a quick rest to transition into the repetition of the pattern again). Not only does Lily clap this beat very accurately, but she also plays it out consistently when we are exploring various rhythm instruments. This is another confirmation of what an important teacher a parent is for a child! 
Clapping hands can work with just about any song, rhyme, or poem from childhood. This is one of the all-time favorites:
One-two, tie my shoe
Three-four, shut the door
Five-six, pick up sticks
Seven-eight, lay them straight
Nine-ten, begin again (a little faster...)
(Repeat with a faster tempo and end with the line:)
Nine-ten, a big fat hen!
I like to start out very slowly for the first round...then ask child/ren to do it a second time, "A little faster!"

Clapping activities are another fundamental part of the Orff-Schulwerk Method of teaching music to young children. Find out more at this link: What is Orff-Schulwerk (AOSA) 
and at my website: Magical Movement Company: Carolyn's Classes

Here's an amazing video I found on Youtube featuring clapping!

View Post

Music Benefits the Child: Trains, Steady Beat & Academic Performance!


Trains are still a big favorite with children, even if the only train they ride is the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit)!

 Riding on a train with Mom
Photo from the artists at Dollar Photo Club

Lucky for us early childhood music teachers, trains have  many sounds and motions that can relate to formal music concepts, like  "Steady Beat" or "Accelerando" and  even "Staccato" vs "Legato." (Click on the links to read more about these musical terms.)

Photo from the artists at Dollar Photo Club

Trains offer a great example of the term in music for quickening the tempo, gradually getting faster, or "Accelerando." 

Then there are the sounds of "toot-toot" from the train horn that correlate beautifully with the musical term, "Staccato" or short, pronounced rhythm. 

The term, "Legato" (meaning smooth, connected notes in a piece of music), is perfectly illustrated by the "whoo-oo-oo-oo" sound of the train whistle.   

Of course, the clickety-clackity, clickety-clackety sound of the train going down the track is great fun for playing around with steady beat.  Young children enjoy pretending together to be a train, and this adds another element in the musical game: everybody keeping a steady beat together! 

Photo by Jeri-Jo Idarius Photography from Carolyn's Archives

Currently, there is a lot of interest in the positive effects of early musical experiences for children and how this can effect learning in the more academic areas, reading, writing and math. I found a study done by developers of the High Scope curriculum used in many early elementary programs across the nation.

From the website for HIGH SCOPE

Movement, Music, & Timing

Timing in Child Development
By Kristyn Kuhlman and Lawrence J. Schweinhart 

AbstractThis study investigated the metronome and musical timing of 585 four- to eleven-year-olds in Effingham, Illinois....Timing in Child DevelopmentA child's timing — ability to feel and express steady beat — is fundamental to both movement and music, affecting both sports skills and musical performance, as well as speech-flow and performance of timed motor tasks. In addition, children's timing has been found to be positively related to children's overall school achievement, as well as mathematics and reading achievement (Weikart, Schweinhart, & Larner, 1987); self-control; and gross-motor skills (Kiger, 1994; Mitchell, 1994; Peterlin, 1991; Weikart et al., 1987). Many children enter elementary school lacking the ability to identify and express a steady beat. One study revealed that fewer than 10% of kindergarten children could independently feel and express the steady beat of recorded music (Wright & Schweinhart, 1994). Fewer than 15% of first graders tested had this ability (Mitchell, 1994). Fewer than 50% of the children in grades 4 through 6 could walk to the steady beat of a musical selection (Kiger, 1994).

The article goes on to reveal:
Timing studies have examined children's personal tempo and its relationships to age, handedness, gender, and school achievement. Children's personal tempo improves with age (Ellis, 1992; Jersild & Bienstock, 1935; Osburn, 1981; Petzold, 1966). There is little evidence that children's personal tempo is related to handedness (Grieshaber, 1987), nor does it appear to be related to gender (Petzold, 1966; Walter, 1983). Children's personal tempo has been found to be correlated with achievement test scores of children in grades 1 and 2 (Weikart et al., 1987); gross-motor skills and reading group levels of children in grades 1, 3, and 5 (Kiger, 1994); and the language and mathematics performance of children in grade 1 (Mitchell, 1994).

I found this part of the study to be very important in our work with young children and how developing the skill of carrying a steady beat can directly effect a child's cognitive development in a positive way!
It is worth noting that in this study, metronome and/or musical timing were more strongly correlated than household income and parents' highest level of schooling with children's ability to pay attention. Schools that want children who pay attention can do little to affect their household income or parents' schooling. They can, however, offer training programs in timing. Although the significant correlations between timing and ability to pay attention do not guarantee that improved timing leads to improved ability to pay attention, it is highly plausible that it does. Similarly, children's metronome timing was statistically significantly correlated with their participation in special and compensatory classes. These are high-cost programs, much higher in cost than programs that train teachers to provide children with activities to improve their timing. If improving children's timing could reduce their need for special or compensatory classes, it is plausible that such teacher training (e.g., Weikart, 1995, 1998) could eventually pay for itself in this way.


Children's timing is important in its own right. It is important because it is a key factor in sports, music, and dance, in speech and general life functioning. Movement educators have also detected signs of a relationship between improvements in children's timing and improvements in their reading. If further research confirms such a relationship, the perceived educational importance of timing programs will increase, and we will have obtained one more tool in our efforts to achieve our national goal of having all young children complete third grade with the ability to read. 

Enter: Magical Movement Company!
"Carolyn & kids" in music class have gazillions of experiences with keeping a steady beat---"timing." From musically moving to all the dynamics of sounds & motions of trains to tapping out the pattern of pitter-patter of raindrops with rhythm sticks. Walking to a steady drum beat, then tiptoeing, marching, and even running as a response to the drum beating, are engaging activities for young children that continue to offer experiences with establishing that inner "timing" we call keeping a steady beat.

Carolyn leading children in a steady beat activity with a drum!
Photo by Jeri-Jo Idarius from Carolyn's Archives

Child leading the class in a steady beat activity with a drum!
                                            Photo by Jeri-Jo Idarius from Carolyn's Archives

Steady beat with echo games

A great way to have fun with a child while practicing keeping a steady beat is playing echo games in which you, the adult, clap out a simple pattern such as CLAP--CLAP--clap-clap-clap  (Or one--two--tie my-shoe) and then ask the child to copy (or echo) your beat. In order to keep the pulse going, establish a signal that shows the child it is your turn and then a signal that it is his/her turn. That way you don't have to interrupt the flow of the steady beat by saying "your turn..." Eventually, the child will want to be the leader in this game, and it is also fun for you to follow his/her lead too. 

Watch for more on the importance of clapping in next week's blog!

                                         Photo by Jeri-Jo Idarius from Carolyn's Archives

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!

View Post
Next PostNewer Posts Previous PostOlder Posts Home