Little Children and the" String Family" of the Orchestra!


                         Photos from the artists at Big Stock Photo site

The fun of listening to the strings in the Orchestra is pretending that you are playing a violin! We've been pretending this in our music classes this week by using our rhythm sticks like violins. Hold the smooth one up to your shoulder with one hand and then scrape the ridged one across it like a bow across a violin...lots of fun!

                       Rhythm sticks from Basic Beat found at this link:  West Music

The next step...just a few years away!

We started the lesson with focused listening to the stringed instruments of the Orchestra:

Once again, I used the selections from the cd, "Baby's First Introduction to Instruments of the Orchestra" available at Amazon at this link: Baby's First Instruments of the Orchestra
(which by the way, is not just for babies by any means.) I think this cd is the best for introducing the instruments of the orchestra because each instrument family is introduced as a group ensemble and then there are short excerpts of the individual instruments. 

Next, I show the children photos of musicians playing in the String section of the orchestra. This week, I introduced the violin & the viola and the children got to see my miniatures up close...which is always a big hit!  You can read more about miniatures and where to buy them at my blog post here:The Music: Orchestra for little kids

The violin miniature I have is just about the tiniest violin in the world! We decided it was mouse-sized.

We also explored the miniature viola and the children saw that is was a lot like the violin only bigger and lower in pitch.
I couldn't resist introducing more fun music from Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens. You can learn more about this music at the link below:

The selection called, "Animals with Long Ears" features the violin sounding like a donkey braying. So, I showed these little ones a photo of a donkey and then invited them to listen to an actual donkey braying on my recording!

That got some giggles, but it also made the violin song much more fun to listen to...
Here's my quirky little video with the donkey & violins that you can watch with your children!

I download lots of classical music from a website that has royalty-free recordings. The site is called Musopen, and here's the link:

Hope you enjoy this wonderful music! 

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The Outdoor Classroom: Creating Wild Bird Habitats!


Now that you've set up a bird feeding station in your Outdoor Classroom, it's time for even more fun & learning!
Little children love watching birds...even the youngest children will gaze at the sky with wonder at the beauty of a bird soaring by. So, the idea of have a "birdwatching bag" is just irresistible for little kids.

I set up a child-size shoulder satchel for a wonderful little birdwatching bag with these tools inside:
  • Binoculars
  • Hand-held bird call
  • Bird identification book
  • Small spiral notebook & pen

You can also add things like a directional compass and even a child-size camera, for older children.
I've found all the above items at the Wild Birds Unlimited Stores on-line site. They also have lots of actual stores and we are lucky enough to have several in our region of the SF East Bay. One of my favorite places to explore with children!
The birds will definitely visit your Outdoor Classroom when you offer them a feeding & watering station. You can read more about setting up kid-friendly bird habitats in some of my past posts:
and more at this link: 

Binoculars are always a big hit!

                    4-yr old observing the birds through child-size binoculars

      Great view through binoculars from the top of the slide!

I like the little bird calls that are made by Audubon (found at Wild Birds Unlimited, see above link). They are hand-operated and when twisted they sound just like birds!

The bird identification book that I like is Beginners Guide to Birds  by Stokes. The Stokes books are great for little children because they are small sized and feature photographs (rather than drawings) of the birds of the region according to color.

One of the all-time favorite activities for little bird watchers is recording their observations in the child-size journal! You can provide little spiral bound notebooks that have lined pages for the older children to write down the names of the birds observed. Or, you can provide a small-sized unlined sketch pad for children to "draw" the birds they see.

So there, you can see some of those great skills for the little kids to be developing:

  • Observing (visual discrimination)
  • Recording (writing & pre-writing)
  • Caring for the environment (compassion)
  • Having fun, too!

Hope you enjoy birdwatching with your little ones...

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The Outdoor Classroom & Making Art!


Here are some fun, easy, artsy things that mix art and the outdoors...
I love this simple and wonderfully fragrant little garden bracelet you can make from lavender flowers!

All Photos taken by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company 

Children enjoy cutting lavender and then putting the fragrant flowers inside a small bandana to create a potpourri  bracelet. Rolling up the bandana is half the fun! Then, someone else can tie the fragrant "bracelet" around the child's wrist. I have bought packages of bandanas from Michaels and also, JoAnns Art supply stores and then I cut the bandanas in half or in quarters depending on the size of the bandana.(One package goes a long way)

Our little ones LOVE to pluck kernels from Flint or Indian Corn, so we added some extensions to this popular outdoor activity. I always buy lots of this corn during the Fall and then the children can do the activity all year long. The Flint corn lasts and lasts! 

After plucking off the kernels with tweezers, the children take the kernels to the mortar & pestle and crush them up to feed to the wild birds. SAVE THE CORN HUSKS for making little corn husk dolls!

Just fold over one of the husks from the Indian corn and wrap a pipe cleaner around to create the arms for the dolly. Then use markers to add a face.

Hopefully your environment offers lots of art materials for children to explore in their own way. Here's a photo from our Preschool Art Area:

Children fill up their "art buckets" with everything they will need to make their creations. "Free Choice" art areas give children opportunities to engineer their ideas into reality! Lots of creative thinking and problem-solving skills continue to develop in this exploration of art materials.

"Free Choice" art bins can include: 

  • scissors
  • a variety of markers, crayons, colored pencils 
  • special kid-friendly ink pens 
  • tape 
  • staplers 
  • glue & glue sticks 
  • pipe cleaners 
  • variety of materials for collage, (including nature objects)
  • lots of kinds of paper 
  • tracing templates
  • water color sets
  • stamps & stamp pads
  • hole punch
  • brads & paper clips
  • rulers & pencils
  • play dough & clay tools 

My favorite "masterpiece" is the original work pictured below: paper sculpture construction made by a 4 yr old titled, "Wheel Barrel."

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Music, Little Children & More Woodwind Instruments of the Orchestra!


"Show us the OBOE!"

      All photos from the artists at BigStock Photos site

The little children were excited to see the miniature oboe that I brought to music classes this week. They had already been introduced to the Woodwind Family of Instruments in the Orchestra in last week's lessons.You can read about it at this link: Introducing the Woodwinds to Children where they were introduced to the Orchestra, the Woodwinds Section, and specifically the FLUTE and BASSOON. 
                             Woodwind instruments!

First, the little ones prepared their ears for listening by rubbing the ears gently around the edges (I call it "giving the ears a little massage!") Then, we listened to the selection featuring the oboe from this great cd that you can find on Amazon at this link: 
Introduction to Instruments of the Orchestra

Of course, the children asked to see my miniature oboe, since they had so enjoyed seeing the miniature flute & bassoon in the past music classes. (see the above link for my past blog post about these miniatures & where to buy them)

I love being able to show the children miniature replicas of instruments, because first, children love miniatures (of just about anything!) and secondly, because I simply can't bring in the real instruments, even if I had all of them!

The very interesting thing about the oboe is that the mouthpiece is the REED. The miniature that I have shows this very well, but here's a photo of the real thing:
                      Oboe and case
We've talked a little about the reeds that are in the woodwind instruments. When we warm up our voices, sometimes I have the children lean forward a little and make the mmmm sound and ask them to notice if they feel any tickling in their lips, mouth, cheeks...! 

That's how I explain that the vibrations from the sound of their voices making the mmmmm, causes their lips to feel a tickle.

So, when I introduce the Woodwinds, I can refer to the tickle of the mmmmm in our vocal warm ups and relate it to the vibration of the reed of each woodwind instrument.

I found this photo of a boy making one of those little nature whistles from a blade of grass and it is a great way to illustrate a little more about how the reed in the woodwinds works. I explain to the children that a reed is a stiff grass-like plant.
                               Playing a "leaf whistle"

Then, I explain that the reed sticking out of the oboe is the mouthpiece. The children have already decided that it takes very strong muscles and lots of practice to play the oboe!
                              Playing the oboe

                                Playing the oboe

Next, we prepare for listening to the clarinet, and I like to show the miniature instrument right away because it looks a lot like the oboe, except that the reed is inside the wood of the clarinet mouthpiece, instead of showing (the way it is in the oboe.)
                            The clarinet

Playing the clarinet

A great selection for hearing the clarinet is "Cuckoo in the Woods" from Camille Saint-Saens, Carnival of the Animals, which we have listened to before in our music classes. Check out this link for my post about it: Elements of Music & Carnival of the Animals

I have an antique rubber toy cuckoo that I bought on eBay a few years ago, because I just couldn't find a plastic model of a cuckoo anywhere! The children in one of the classes I taught last week knew all about the cuckoo bird as they were studying about the Black Forest of Germany. Montessori kids!!!

Anyway, I think props like my toy cuckoo help the children to make the connections, since most didn't even know that the cuckoo sound made by the clarinet was  mimicking the actual bird's sound!
Here is one of my quirky little videos using the music from Camille Saint-Saens, "Cuckoo in the Woods." This song is fun for children to listen for the cuckoo sound made by the clarinet.

      Click here to see the video:

I have found some photos of children playing a toy clarinet and it looks like it might be a fun experience for the young child who really wants to play some type of woodwind. I think that children are usually ready for beginning to learn the recorder when they are a little older. ( at the age of 7 or 8.)
                                                            Playing a toy clarinet

                                            Playing the recorder

                               Playing a toy clarinet

These cutie-pies look like miniature jazz musicians themselves!
Thanks for visiting my blog and I hope there was information that you found useful.

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Outdoor Classroom: Planting the Garden in the Spring!


Spring Equinox is upon us and our little children are like those little sprouts growing so quickly! The bulbs planted last Autumn have indeed sprouted and tulips are adding color everywhere.

If your weather outside is warming up, then it's time to offer your children some seed starting activities. 

In the Montessori-style of working with children, activities are often set up in an individualized manner. Here is one way to set up a seed starting work:

This little set-up is designed for one child at a time to start seeds indoors in a soil compound. 
The set-up:
1. A little 4-step card with pictures of the process for the child to follow 
2. A container to hold the seeds
3. A child-size spray bottle of clean water
4. A plant label & a felt tip marker
We used a seed starting medium that has to be soaked overnight, but ordinary garden soil works just fine, too.

The little spray bottle of water is a "control of error" to prevent the child from over-watering the seed after it is planted in the soil. Children might still over-water, but they really have to spray for a long time to "drown" the seeds, as opposed to pouring too much water from a watering can. 

We allowed each child to plant one seed from each seed packet (snow peas, bush beans, pole beans, and pumpkins) and then mark their little seed-starting "plot" using a plant label with their name on it.(The older children wrote their own names on the labels.)

Each child cares for their little indoor seed plot by watering every day (once again with the spray bottle of water) and the children take this responsibility very seriously!

Meanwhile, the children have been busy in the Outdoor Classroom digging and preparing the vegetable garden. You can read about this process in my earlier post at this link: Time to haul & dig in the garden

Some seeds work better planted directly in the garden. Radishes and lettuce are great veggies to start directly in the garden in the early Spring. 

After preparing the garden beds, the children planted the seeds in rows that we marked with cute little plant markers and string.

This technique offers a "control of error" for the children:
1) where to plant the little seeds, and
2) later, where the seeds are planted so they can easily avoid walking on the area and squashing the little seedlings!
Also, there is that added component of READING. The children love to read the names of the veggie seeds that were planted!

I found these gnome plant markers on sale at my local nursery supply store, but I have seen really cute plant markers on Etsy at this link:

Even if you don't have space for a raised bed veggie garden, little children still love to plant in a garden box using a child-sized garden trowel (plastic works just fine) and garden gloves are always very popular!

 I've found child-size garden tools, garden gloves, and even the gardening boxes at both Home Depot and Lowe's during this time of year.

And, children can still have fun hauling soil in the child-size wheelbarrow over to the garden boxes. I often buy huge bags of garden soil and instead of carrying them to the garden, I open the bags next to my car and then the kids can fill the wheelbarrow with soil and haul it over to the boxes. Much easier for me and more fun for the children!

These garden boxes, planted with herbs, were donated by some of the moms who built them of wood, then had their children decorate the boxes with colorful hand prints.

In California, our water is precious, so we mulch whenever possible. I set up an Outdoor Classroom activity for an individual child. There is a big bag of mulch, a handy bucket nearby and a child-size hand trowel. The child fills the bucket with mulch and then carries it over to the garden and pours the mulch out, then gently spreads it on top of the garden bed. 

My all-time favorite mulch is pictured above. It really holds in the moisture in our dry climate and it mulches for a whole season.  I buy it at my local nursery supply store. Here's the link: 
It's made from cocoa hulls and can be pricey. However, the huge bag lasts a long time and the mulch smells so, so good! 

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Introducing Little Kids to the "Woodwind Family" of the Orchestra!


                     Photos are from the artists at the Big Stock Photo site.

The little children are really enjoying our latest studies of the Families of the Instruments in the Orchestra. I think, for little children, the fact that the sections of the orchestra are sometimes called "families" of instruments is a selling point! 
We started off with the Woodwind Family since the children had listened to the selection called "Birds" from Camille Saint Saens' Carnival of the Animals in several of our recent lessons. This music piece features the flute and there is a long passage of flute music as a solo, so the children can really hear its unique sound. For more about this wonderfully fun music see my Blog post in February at this link: Kids, Elements of Music & Carnival of the Animals

I have a collection of miniature instruments (complete with their own tiny velvet-lined cases) that I pass around so the children can actually see the details on these replicas. The mouthpiece on the flute is important for a child to understand why a flute is played to the side, and the miniature flute is great for being able to see the position of the mouthpiece up close. And, as educators, we all know how much children love small versions of the real thing!
I found many of my miniatures at this site:

I have found that miniature replicas of the instruments of the orchestra are a great (and portable!) substitute for being able to show and play the actual instruments for young  audiences. I have always wanted to bring the local high school band into my Preschool music classes...

Back to our lesson. First, the children see a photo of an orchestra:

Then, I show them a photo of a woodwinds ensemble:

There is a wonderful packet of photographic small-sized posters (8 1/2 x 14) of all the Orchestra families (and each individual instrument) that you can order from West Music. There's a digital version, too! Here's the link:

After the children carefully examine the delicate miniature flute, we listen to a short excerpt from Saint Saens, "Birds".

Next, it's fun to introduce the bassoon, since it is the largest of the woodwinds and its very low sound is a good contrast to the higher sounding flute.

The children, once again, are invited to see the miniature bassoon up close, so that they better understand how this unusual instrument is played!

One of my favorite cd's for introducing young children to the instruments of the orchestra is "Baby's First Introduction to the Instruments of the Orchestra". This cd features each instrument individually and also in ensemble groups. The cd selections are less than a minute long (usually 30 seconds or less!) and that's about right for young children to be able to hear the featured instrument but not lose interest.

What child can resist this wild-looking instrument with its equally wild sound and a name like bassoon!?

                        Man playing the Bassoon from the artists at Big Stock Photo

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