Making Music in the Montessori Room: It's The Doing of Music That's So Important In A Child's Development!


All photos in this post are by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

We've read lots of studies about the cognitive benefits young children receive from early music experiences. Giving children a rich variety of music listening experiences definitely enhances the sensory learning for the child, especially when the music is LIVE! Young children will often move to the music spontaneously and often the adult is bouncing or "dancing" with the babe in arms.  I think the important part of this general assumption that music benefits children is that the "doing" part of music is where the child really benefits in the long term. 

A milestone in development arrives when a child learns how to skip. Being able to use alternate feet to skip is generally achieved by the age of five (Bear in mind that each child develops at a different pace, but will probably be able to skip by around this age.) You can read more about developmental milestones at this link: Wikipedia Child Development Stages. One of the very easiest ways for children to practice skipping is by skipping to music, such as the all-time favorite, "Skip to My Lou." And, I have found that children love to skip with a partner to this song. When I play & sing this song for children to skip together, I sometimes substitute the words "Step-Hop...Step Hop" for "Skip, Skip... Skip to My Lou." This can be helpful for children to actually connect the actions required in skipping. If you prefer a recording for skipping to the song,  "Skip To My Lou", here are 2 of my favorites:
From the album, You Are My Sunshine from Elizabeth Mitchell. 
From the album Rise Sally Rise from Peter & Alice Amidon.

For the Montessori environment, the study of the continents is usually a big focus throughout the year. Sometimes when the children are dancing to Skip to My Lou, I have asked them what continent they want to skip to...then the song gets a second verse:
Verse #1 
Skip, skip, skip to my Lou
(repeat 2 more times)
Skip to my Lou, my darlin'

Verse #2 (Ex: child has chosen the continent of Antarctica)
Going to Antarctica, Two by Two
(repeat 2 more times)
Skip to my Lou, my darlin'!
I've been reading a very useful book, Music Makes Your Child Smarter, by Phillip Sheppard. Sheppard is Professor of Cello of the Academy of Music, London, and a guest lecturer at the Royal College of Music, as well. He's written this book to give parents information about the research around this topic and he presents it in a very readable way. The best part of the book is the cd and the music activities Sheppard suggests throughout the book. He has arranged these sequentially from before birth through age nine and they are based on his many years of experience working with young children in music environments.

This book is available at Amazon at this link: Amazon

Sheppard definitely believes that we are all "predisposed  to be musical" and he sites that the doing of music is where the real benefits are. Shepherd writes:
Music can dramatically improve physiological and mental coordination, which makes it an extremely effective catalyst for learning and development. 
Moving to music is a primal reaction that is at the very core of our development.(Sheppard p. 9) 
In my Montessori Music Classes  we always have large motor activity in the form of dance/ movement to musical pieces that offer music concepts in a fun way. We have movement at the beginning of class because this gives the child a concrete experience with the music right away! In the Montessori philosophy, the child is always given concrete experiences well before abstract concepts are introduced. And in music there are wonderful ways for little ones to move to the music and really experience it in a concrete way--- the body! 
Here is an insightful quote from Dr. Maria Montessori:
We found individual activity is the one thing that stimulates and produces development. (from Daily

Skipping with a friend is a magical way for a child to develop their own physical coordination skills along with coordinating their movements with another person! It becomes a social experience as well and is so delightful when the children get to pick their partners. 

Usually, they will spontaneously hold hands while skipping which is yet another challenge and makes for more fun, too. 
So, the children end up:

  • Listening to the tempo of the song 
  • Responding to the tempo of the song
  • Skipping along to the tempo of the song
  • Coordinating movements with another person while skipping along to the song
  • Having fun!
Generally, young children begin "doing" music by their spontaneous movements when they hear music. (Have you ever seen a toddler's response to music being played on a cd?...They start moving immediately!)

Then, the child progresses to making vocal sounds to go along with music and before you know it, they are consciously using their first musical instrument: their voices! 

When children begin to sing lovely little childhood songs as a group, they are experiencing what it is like to be in a choir! In the photo below, the young "trio" is singing a little blessing song before eating snack. This activity was part of our classroom daily routine in this urban preschool setting.  And, I was always charmed by how well the children sang together and also that they always chose to hold hands and swing their arms to the tempo of the song!

Phillip Sheppard goes on to write:
Physical movement to music can stimulate mental development.
Music plays a critical role in all periods of accelerated childhood development.
Music can be a crucial tool in the development of attentive listening, absorption, and comprehension skills. (Sheppard p. 9) 

As little children grow musically, they become interested in making music with instruments. Child-size percussion instruments offer even more practice with skills in listening, in fine motor development, and in body coordination. When children play instruments together, then they begin to feel what it is like to play in a musical ensemble.  (click link to read more.)

Making music with others is one of the most engaging parts of the experience of music. When children have worked together in music class for a while, the group begins to develop a rhythm of its own.  Even the youngest children gain much satisfaction when following a set rhythm together. 
So here, the children are developing:

  • Memory skills
  • Eye/hand/body coordination
  • Coordination with others' movements
  • Focused attention
  • A learning community!
Not to mention SELF-CONFIDENCE!

Recently, our Montessori music classes have been practicing  rhythms with echoes, clapping, and large body movement activities.  This week the children played their percussion instruments with the rhythm patterns that we've been practicing, and it was delightful to hear the rhythm played in unison and nearly perfectly! (You can read more about our recent activities with rhythm patterns in my past post:
The Dinosaur Stomp Movement to Rhythm Patterns)

Our "Dinosaur Stomp" song has the "Ta Ta Ti-ti Ta" pattern as the chorus for the song, and the children played it very well together even while singing at the same time! The big smiles on their faces showed me how much they enjoyed the experience and now I think they may just be hooked on making music for the rest of their lives!

For parents, I think it is so worth it to invest in some nice sounding and well-made musical instruments for the children in your life. I like the early childhood percussion instruments and music props at West Music. Here's their link:
My all-time favorites are:

  • 8 in. combination rhythm sticks (by Basic Beat)
  • Brass Finger Cymbals (by Basic Beat)
  • 4 in triangle (by West Music)
  • 6 in tambourine with a head (by Remo)
  • Small chiquitas/ maracas (by Basic Beat)
  • Colorful scarves or rainbow ribbons 

Then, playing music games, making music together, singing and dancing can easily become a part of your home daily routine. The ideas & activities in Sheppard's book and the wonderful music on the accompanying cd will give you plenty of hours of music fun (and learning) with your child/ren. You can also find some fun activities at my website here: STUFF FOR KIDS and in the link on the header of this blog: MUSIC

I am so happy to have you read my blog and hope that you have enjoyed the visit. I love to hear your ideas, so don't hesitate to leave a comment if you have a moment! 

This post is part of  of the Montessori Monday Link-ups at the wonderful site, Living Montessori Now

Click the link to read more great articles on a variety of Montessori topics: Montessori Mondays

My post is also part of a fantastic Music Resource article at Trillium Montessori's blog. There are a TON of MUSIC RESOURCES there, just click the link: Trillium Montessori Blog Music Resources for the classroom

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!

Next PostNewer Post Previous PostOlder Post Home