Using music and movement with young children is just plain fun! Have you ever thought to yourself what you would do with all the energy children seem to possess? Perhaps you have even said, “Boy, I wish I could bottle all that energy?” I know I have! Using music and movement can have educational benefits along with giving children an outlet for all that energy they seem to have.
Music mimics the rhythm and rhyme of language. When we speak, our voices change and adjust to help us convey meaning. Fortunately, we do not speak in one flat monotone all of the time. Music does this too. No, I do not mean the flat monotone you might hear when Charlie Brown’s teacher is talking to the class. Music rises and falls, is fast or slow, is melodic or punctuated just like our natural language. This makes music the perfect partner for supporting children’s language development.
One element in music is singing. Singing slows down language so you can hear the individual pieces and parts of language. This supports the development of phonological awareness. Phonological Awareness refers to hearing and playing with the smaller sounds of words. Check out a great Every Child Ready to Read source at the Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy site to learn more about pre-literacy skills.
You can use music and songs found on CD’s, online options, songs learned along the way, and songs that have been made up by you and the child/ren. YouTube can yield limitless options. One of my favorites is jBrary on YouTube. These videos feature how-to’s on simple children’s songs and incorporate movement as well. They are led by two Canadian librarians Dana and Lindsey who take simple to a whole new level.
Some lyrics require active listening so you can follow the directions. One of the favorites I have used in storytime is “Milton the Mouse Likes to Help Around the House” (EXERSONGS, Jack Hartmann, 2008) and “Bop ‘Til You Drop” (KIDS IN ACTION, Greg & Steve, 2000). Both of these songs have the participants do various motions or actions to act out the song. For example, Milton likes to help sweep so children can mimic sweeping with a pretend broom and in “Bop ‘Til You Drop” the participant has to follow what Greg & Steve are indicating for them to do such as to float like a feather or go in slow motion. This movement encourages active learning and play.
Adding movements such as sign language or hand gestures gives a symbolic meaning which gives children practice understanding that something stands for something else. This is a very important pre-literacy skill to develop and is vital when children are later learning to read. Think about it. This shape, “L”, is the letter “el” and it makes a sound and can show up in words like love, lost, and light. It’s a symbol with multiple meanings. Giving children experiences with symbolic meaning informally will have long term benefits when they begin to learn the more complicated features of our language.
Recently, I had been using one of my favorites in storytime, “I Know a Chicken” (WHADDYA THINK OF THAT?, Laurie Berkner, 2000). The children love it and we get to use shaker eggs which are always a hit. I decided to add an element of movement that brought in symbolic meaning. I added the sign language symbols for chicken and egg. This did not slow down our use of the shaker eggs and gave the children practice in some sign language they may not have known and a chance to use symbols to represent something they knew. Definitely a win-win-win situation!
So, keep tapping your toes and singing those tunes not just for the educational benefits but for the FUN of it!