What's the Magic Word? Music Please! Oops, That's Two Words

Let's just do both!

In music class, children learn a lot about listening attentively, waiting patiently, and playing/singing (acting) their very best. In the "Montessori world" we call these Lessons in Grace & Courtesy. 

Aren't these the character traits that we all strive to instill in our young children throughout their childhood? It's just good manners! Interesting how music and good manners can strengthen each other.

For music class to benefit all, there have to be ground rules and generally these are based on common sense and good manners. 

As in every early childhood activity, safety is the top consideration. Throwing a musical instrument (even by accident) could end up hurting someone, so from the very beginning, we teach the children to take good care of the instruments and handle them gently. 
Preschoolers understand this pretty well, however, the toddler group LOVES throwing and this is a developmental need of this age group!
I don't offer egg shakers to's just so easy to throw them!  Small maracas (with handles) are better for toddles since they can be given two of these and then both hands are occupied. Short rhythm sticks are good for this age group as well. The children are pretty busy holding on to these instruments. 
The following are excellent choices for both Toddler & Preschool music class! Click on the links to see more.

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

The best safety measure is prevention, of course. I spend a lot of time encouraging the children to use their strong finger, hand, and shoulder muscles to control how they handle the rhythm instruments. 

We begin each class with a little warm-up not only of our voices, but  also of our muscles in the hand/arm that we will be needing to play instruments. 
We simply "flex" these muscles in a quick activity, but the children love to show me how strong they are by flexing and  relaxing (good exercise in control too!) And, I always make it very dramatic and fun!
Later, when we are preparing to play our instruments, I remind them of using their strong finger & hand muscles to hold on to the instruments so they can make a pretty sound with them.

If a child accidentally drops his/her instrument, I ask if they are OK and remind them to use their strong muscles to control the instrument. However, if a child throws or pokes their instrument on purpose, then I quietly take the instrument away saying, "I'll bring this back to you when you are ready...for now you can pretend that you are playing."
Whenever I have done this, all the children tighten up their instrument playing and usually the "thrower" is "ready to play their best" within a few moments.

Throughout the class, the children are not only moving to music with consideration of the other children close by (their neighbors), but they are also not moving at certain times. 

Even though it is challenging for young children, I ask them to "rest" their instruments when we are first giving them out, since some of the children don't have theirs yet. This concept of "resting our instruments" is re-inforced at EVERY class. Just a little friendly reminder each time, before we even start to give the instruments to the children. I'll usually say," Are we going to pick up our instruments right away or are we going to rest them until everyone has theirs?"

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

I always comment on how considerate the "musicians" are in our group today! As soon as the instruments are distributed, I instruct the children, " Now, play your instrument your favorite way!" This way, they all get some fun open-ended time to explore the different ways to make a sound with their instrument before we try some more structured musical activities.

During other parts of music class, we will often sit quietly to listen to some music or musical sounds that go along with the theme of the lesson for the day. We usually do "focused listening" activities after we have just finished a movement activity in which the children have been up and moving!

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

When they are sitting again, I ask them to get their ears ready for listening to some music. We do this by rubbing our ears gently around the edges..."like giving our ears a little massage." This helps children settle so that they really can listen to the music. This kind of listening activity will be set up to last for about one minute. (short excerpts!)

Once again, politely listening in music class goes hand in hand with lessons in Manners & Social Graces that the children are working on throughout their early years!

When we do play or sing in music class, its important that the children put forth their very best! I ask children to sing in their "pretty singing voices" and sometimes I show them by singing for them! I model the correct way to take a breath and then how to sing out (but not too loud) so that the voice fills the room! Perhaps, they've been "screaming" out the song...I have them stop. Then, I tell them that I am going to sing in my best singing voice. Once they see & hear me "showing them" my pretty singing voice, then the group immediately corrects and we sound just beautiful again!

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

Likewise, with playing the rhythm instruments. Sometimes, children want to play loudly, or wildly, or with a very large motion that can disturb the other children in the group. 
That's when I remind the children to use their strong muscles to control their instruments so that they can play their very best! Sometimes, when children are trying out a small hand drum for the first time, I will take it around to each child to play a little rhythm. When a child plays too loudly and it doesn't sound good, I ask that child to try it over and to use their strong muscles to strike the drum with a purpose so that the sound is pleasant and resonates. I think the reminder of using the "strong muscles" of their hands helps the child focus on control...and that is what is important in making music.

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

Sometimes music class has a special one of a kind instrument that will be passed around the group for each child to try out. While waiting for their turn, the children must practice waiting patiently! Now, that is one of the big things we are all working on in the Social Graces category!

I hope I've helped you see that music class is yet another opportunity to teach children Good Manners & Social Graces! I'd love to hear your ideas, so feel free to leave a comment below and I'll reply right away.

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