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Columns | Spring 2015

Music in Bloom

Tapping into Musical Power

Ideas for working with younger children

Music in bloom for young children at the roots of their education and growth begins with the importance of learning a steady beat. Hearing a steady beat, feeling it, and moving with it all encourage exploration. Age appropriate activities can provide children with the opportunity to practice singing, dancing, marching, and using rhythm instruments as they keep a steady beat.

Children can explore different types of body percussion such as clapping and tapping while counting and chanting to a steady beat, as in the song below.

Body Rhythm
© M Conlin 2014

Clap your hands and count with me 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8.
Tap your knees, if you please, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8.
Now pop your cheeks and make a sound 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8.
Now it’s time to move around 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8.
Everybody move like this: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8.
Come on now and do the twist 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8.
Everybody march your feet 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8
Then sit down and have a seat 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8.

Ask the children for suggestions on other ways they can explore steady beat using body percussion and body movements. “Hands Up, Hands Down” is a simple chant written to encourage children to explore and feel a steady beat.

Hands Up, Hands Down
© M Conlin 2014

Hands up (hands clap in the air),
Hands down (pat hands on knees),
Celebrate yourself in sound.
With two feet, we keep the beat.
March or hop until you stop.
Hands up, hands down,
Celebrate yourself in sound.
Hands can clap and fingers snap.
Slap your thigh, give it a try.
Hands up, hands down,
Celebrate yourself in sound.
Making sounds is so much fun,
Now click your tongue until you are done.

Multicolored rhythm sticks can be used to encourage young children to play a steady beat along to music. Using 3/4-inch PVC pipe that is cut into segments of 6 inches allows children to tap along to the music without the worry of having them tap the other children. Wrap different colors of electrical tape around the PVC pipe as children sit in a circle and use the names of the colors to maintain a steady beat by reciting the color each child is holding. “Blue, blue, blue, blue, green, green, green, green, red, red, red, red, etc.” Next, have the children sing a song they are familiar with as they tap their rhythm sticks to a steady beat on the floor, in the air, end to end, or together.

Play the game of Conductor Says (similar to Simon Says) using rhythm sticks or body percussion. Demonstrate to the children how the game works—that a steady beat is played and the children echo this back as long as they hear “Conductor Says.” If they do not hear “Conductor Says,” they don’t echo the sound back. Have the children take turns being the conductor. An example is:

Conductor says “tap your sticks 1-2-3-4.”
Conductor says “tap your sticks on the floor 1-2-3-4.”
Conductor says “tap your sticks ends together 1-2-3-4.”
“Tap your sticks behind your back.”
(Oops, conductor didn’t say.)

Another way to encourage the children to explore and experience beat is to ask them to move to a steady beat, such as with this song/chant, as they imitate the movement of different animals.

On The Move
© M Conlin 2014

Hop like a bunny moving all around.
Jump like a kangaroo up and down.
Swing like a monkey high up in the tree.
Stomp like an elephant 1-2-3.
Kick like a donkey, feet are in the air.
Sway like a crocodile, or growl like a bear.
Squirm like a wiggle worm moving all about.
Crouch like a tiger; is he hiding out?
Fly like an eagle, soaring in the sky.
Move like a butterfly passing by.
Swim like a fish living in the sea.
Now make the sound of a buzzing bee.

A colorful parachute or bed sheet is another fun way for children to explore steady beat. Children sit around the parachute holding it with thumbs on top and moving the parachute up and down reciting the rhyme “Bubblegum, bubblegum in a dish, how many pieces do you wish?” Children then lift the parachute up and down to a steady beat as they count the pieces of bubblegum: “1-2-3-4-5-6.” Another rhyme to use is:

Cinderella dressed in green
Went outside to eat ice cream.
How many scoops did she have?

Cinderella dressed in white
Went outside to see stars at night
How many stars did she see?

Cinderella dressed in black
Ran outside to run the track
How many laps did she run?”

Drums are yet another way for children to discover a repeating pulse. Show pictures of animals and ask the children to play on their drums how it might sound if that animal were moving to a steady beat. Show them a picture of an elephant for a loud steady beat, a mouse for a quiet steady beat, a horse for fast steady beat, and a turtle for a slow steady beat.

Children can also explore soft, loud, fast, and slow steady beats using these lyrics:

I can play a steady beat, a steady beat, a steady beat.
I can play a steady beat, in my music class.

I can play a beat that’s loud, beat that’s loud, beat that’s loud.
I can play a beat that’s loud in my music class.

I can play a quiet beat, a quiet beat, a quiet beat.
I can play a quiet beat in my music class.

I can play a beat that’s fast, a beat that’s fast, a beat that’s fast.
I can play a beat that’s fast in my music class.

Now it’s time for my beat to rest, beat to rest, beat to rest.
Now it’s time for my beat to rest, in my music class.

Use creative movement props and jump, hop, sing, dance, play instruments, and enjoy the activities as children bloom starting with their roots and gradually adding their wings until they fly into rhythm!