The standards in this section are intended for 4-year-old children. It is important to remember that the skills of young children develop along a continuum, and developmentally appropriate activities can be used with younger children (Music Educators National Conference, 1994).

Singing and Playing Instruments

Young children enjoy singing and playing instruments. Four-year-olds are able to differentiate between their singing and speaking voices. They are also able to express themselves by playing instruments. The following standards identify the type of singing and instruments that are most suitable for 4-year-olds.

  • Children use their voices as they speak, chant, and sing.
  • Children sing a variety of simple songs in various keys, meters, and genres, alone and in groups, becoming increasingly accurate in rhythm and pitch.
  • Children experiment with a variety of instruments and other sound sources.
  • Children play simple melodies and accompaniments on instruments.

Creating Music

Four-year-olds are quite capable of creating sound patterns with their bodies, their voices, and instruments. They often create simple melodies while at play. They also create musical sounds to express an idea. The following standards focus on a child’s ability to create music.

  • Children improvise songs to accompany their play activities.
  • Children improvise instrumental accompaniments to songs, recorded selections, stories, and poems.
  • Children create short pieces of music, using voices, instruments, and other sound sources.
  • Children invent and use original graphic or symbolic systems to represent vocal and instrumental sounds and musical ideas.

Responding to Music

Four-year-olds are able to recognize musical phrases and show an awareness of simple cadences. They can identify the speed of music (fast/slow, getting faster/slower) and can describe the volume of music in their own words. The standards listed below focus on responding to music.

  • Children identify the sources of a wide variety of sounds.
  • Children respond through movement to music of various tempos, meters, dynamics, modes, genres, and styles to express what they hear and feel in works of music.
  • Children participate freely in music activities.

Understanding Music

Four-year-olds will listen attentively to a selected repertoire of music. They are also capable of using musical terms and concepts to express thoughts about music. They are good at practicing basic audience and performance etiquette. This last set of standards addresses understanding music.

  • Children use their own vocabulary and standard music vocabulary to describe voices, instruments, music notation, and music of various genres, styles, and periods from diverse cultures.
  • Children sing, play instruments, move, or verbalize to demonstrate awareness of the elements of music and changes in their usage.
  • Children demonstrate an awareness of music as a part of daily life.

Selected Characteristics of Three- to Four-Year-Olds

  • Like to gallop, jump, walk, or run in time to music
  • Are much more fluent with language, like to talk and chatter, want adults to listen and to give their undivided attention
  • Have more interest in detail and direction (for example, can usually find a favorite book or CD from a shelf upon request)
  • Enjoy simple versions of imaginative, dramatic play
  • Enjoy singing games and rhythm instruments (they still need to explore, experiment, and manipulate instruments)
  • Are beginning to dramatize songs
  • Spontaneously make up their own songs, often with repetitive words and tunes that resemble familiar ones

Consider the following when planning musical activities for a child this age:

  • Encourage informal singing throughout the day.
  • Continue to improvise short action songs based on what the child is doing.
  • Provide plenty of opportunities for the child to dramatize songs and to "act out" song-stories.
  • Provide simple props like scarves, puppets, and instruments for the child to use with musical activities.
  • Continue to introduce rhythm and melody instruments to enhance musical activities.
  • Provide increased opportunities for movement with music, such as performing locomotor movements (walking, running, jumping), nonlocomotor movements (swinging, pushing, bending), and clapping or tapping the beat of steady rhythm.
  • Encourage children to move and dance to music using their own creative ideas.