Thursday, May 27, 2010

How to develop your own toddler curriculum - MUSIC

WARNING - what follows is rather 'teachery' and formal but I take talking about learning seriously!!! ;)

Probably because of my teaching background  I tend to view my toddler's (and infant's) learning and experiences like a school curriculum. Basically I mentally break down the areas into:

Language * Math * Science * Art * Motor Skills (Large & Fine) * Music * Humanities or History

I make sure I provide lots of different levels of experiences in each area and then follow my child's lead for her interest and level of understanding. While I fundamentally believe that early childhood education should be experiential, play based, and child lead I also don't think there is anything wrong with introducing 'formal' learning elements if your child is ready for them. For example, by about 19 months Ava could count to 10 and identify every letter of the alphabet now at 22 months she identify shapes, colors and numbers (oh yeah and she sings an adorable version of the abc's). I took her lead by seeing her very early interest in identifying letters (she started calling out A and B with pride shortly after she turned one) and then I took on finding lots of different fun ways for her learn to more.  I never had a plan for my child to memorize those things at age One (even though I think by three most children should have those skills) I just followed what she loved.

PHOTO: Dancing this evening in the Living Room

Lately she has been really interested in music and so I am working on building music experiences. Ava does go to daycare three days a week and she just started a new school where they do a really great job with music and I have seen a tremendous increase in her interest level. It did make me think about my stay-at-home mom friends and how if you are not careful in your daily experience planning you can miss introducing something that your child might have a real passion for.
This is how I mentally break down the "curriculum":

1. Music Appreciation: The goal here is to develop a love for music.
Expose your child to lots of different styles of music from children's music to classical to early jazz. Even if you HATE kids music remember that your child will probably love it! By almost two your child will have songs they like and dislike - create a playlist of their favorites.
Make music time as fun as you can possibly muster - dancing, flags, jumping - toddlers are super sensitive to your excitement level.

2. Dancing: Both free dancing by responding to rhythms and exposure to new and mimiced movements

I think the Wiggles are really hit and miss but we all love The Wiggles: You Make Me Feel Like Dancing (almost all the wiggles you can stream to your TV for free  if you have Netflix). I won't bore you with a huge list of children's music and I have written here a little bit about it HERE before - but there are hundreds of really great options for kid friendly music that (unlike the Wiggles) will not give you a migraine ;)

3. Instruments - Create your own and use 'real' instruments
You can teach your child a lot about tone, rhythm and other elements of music without ever formally naming them. Having two sets of the most basic teaching tools is helpful because you can play together. Here are some of my favorite instruments. Everything here can be purchased from discount school supply for about the same price as the mostly links below, except that children's companies don't make great drums so I would actually just buy or look for affordable 'professional' ones like in the link below if you can. Off of this list, rhythm sticks and egg shakers are my favorites for double purchases. Obviously, exposure to any adult instrument is ideal. Ava thinks my husband's old trumpet is the Bee's Knees ;)

Basic Beat Pair of 8" Combination Rhythm SticksBasic Beat Pair of 8" Combination Rhythm Sticks $1.25
Basic Beat Single Egg ShakerBasic Beat Single Egg Shaker $1.50

Two-Tone Wood Block Musical InstrumentTwo-Tone Wood Block Musical Instrument $4.12

Latin Percussion CP376 6 Tambourine With Head Single RowLatin Percussion CP376 6 Tambourine With Head Single Row $7.20

Hohner Cluster BellsHohner Cluster Bells $2.15

Remo Pretuned White BongosRemo Pretuned White Bongos $30.15

Other ideas are - Triangles, Maracas, Jingle Clogs, Sand Blocks, Hand Castanets ... the list goes on and on ;)

5. Singing - The best way to teach a child to sing is to help them memorize a favorite song - this will probably mean that you will have to sing it about 200 times to them as they demand "again, again" - but truly once your child learns their first song it is amazing how quickly they start to memorize other songs and make up their own even. Singing is the easiest and (I think) the most fun component to toddler music education.

I am sure you all have tons of ideas here - so SHARE THEM please! But hopefully thinking about these categories will help you, as it does me, to keep your scope of toddler experiences broad and well balanced.

More toddler curriculum ideas here or under the category 'toddler curriculum'
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