Toddlers’ Response to Sound and Movement (page 2)
Music often elicits a particular response from toddlers. They can be seen swaying or stepping in time to an appropriate rhythm. One has only to watch young children as a band plays a lively march or dance to observe their response to music. If they are in a setting in which they can move, most of them will invariably begin to clap their hands and move their feet in time to the music. Their faces will light up with pleasure and delight.
Toddlers enjoy banging. Any percussion instrument can instantly become a rhythm instrument. Tambourines are lightweight and can be carried and tapped by children as they move around the room. Teachers can use tambourines to encourage children to change from a slow movement to a fast movement (Strickland, 2001). Select music that children can listen to and play along with. Be sure to include different styles of music, such as jazz, country-western, classical, gospel, and lively multicultural music. It is very important that children have the opportunity to play their instruments along with many different kinds of music. It is through these experiences that toddlers learn the feeling of rhythm, learn how to establish a beat, are exposed to music from different cultures, and have fun (Smith, 2000).
Music making at this age is usually an individual activity. During a play period, for example, Sara may use a wooden spoon to tap on a pan; Andrew might push his fire truck across the floor as he makes an authentic siren sound with his voice; Jennifer might stand on tiptoe to reach and play the white keys on the piano. On occasion, children will form a musical group of their own and play their sound-producing instruments as they stand beside one another. It is from these spontaneous activities that we should take our cues in helping children enjoy these playful, musical experiences.
Music for young children facilitates discovering sounds both inside and outside the home and school. As adults, we need to observe young children closely, particularly in their play, and learn more about the many ways in which they deal with sound and movement. Children ages 2 and older are always on the move and involved in sound-making experimentation.
Developing Listening Skills
As children grow and develop, one of the most important things that we can do is help them build good listening skills. Children have little motivation on their own to listen carefully unless parents and teachers encourage it. This does not imply that we must impose drill-like, structured procedures to accomplish this purpose. We need to assist children in helping them make sense out of the myriad kinds of sounds in their environment. As Carleton (2000) reminds us, “Listening is necessary to hear same and different letters of our alphabet, words, sounds in our environment, and musical pitches. There will be a lifetime of sounds our children will need to identify. The sooner we encourage listening skills, the more opportunities children will have to develop them” (p. 54).
Music in Context
For children to make sense and meaning out of the sounds they hear, sounds need to be put in context. Adults can do this quite easily by helping children relate sounds closely to everyday objects and events. It is easier to do this for children around the age of 2, since children at this age are becoming more mobile and have increased ability to talk about the things they are doing. Children need to acquire language so they can talk and think about sound. With the help of understanding adults, conversations about sound can be initiated through a variety of ways. For example, the adult might say to the child, “Listen, do you hear the siren? Is that the fire truck?” (Use your own judgment when talking about any type of siren to young children. Always use them to make children feel safe rather than afraid.) Here are some other examples you might use: “Listen to that barking dog. He sounds like he is very happy!” “That’s the doorbell ringing! I wonder who’s at the door. Do you have any idea?” “I hear the telephone ringing. Do you hear it, too?” “Hmmm, do you smell the popcorn? Listen and see if you can hear it popping.”
One of our challenges as teachers is to provide quality music and listening experiences with respect to the collective needs of all the children. Because children’s intuitive responses to music and listening activities may vary, be sure to remember that all responses have value. It would be a boring classroom indeed if all the children responded the same way at the same time.
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