"Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature can not do without." ~Confucius

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Festive Shaker / Drums!

It's such a great time with little kids and Christmas. I never knew it would be so fun! The kids just naturally LOVE Christmas and everything about it.
Since all our boys like to make music and, often, be loud about it, we made some Christmas-themed shakers to accompany their festive mood and silly carol singing. These certainly don't need to be Christmasy, but ours are (sort of.... you'll see....)

So, if you need a project to set your little one/s on while you bake those cookies, this may be it!

A tin can, rubber band, helium-sized balloon, items to put in can (like beans, pasta, rice, etc... we used jingle bells), paint, Mod Podge, and whatever else you'd like to incorporate.

1. Gather kiddos and have them paint their can in festive colors.
 You may need to come help once or twice....
These didn't turn out quite as lovely as I thought they would. Another idea that might be fun is to cut up some wrapping paper and glue that all around the can, then Mod Podge it. Maybe next year..

The boys thought they were masterpieces though, and excitedly put their jingle bells in the can when the painting was done.

Next, the supervising adult (with or without cookie dough on your fingers), should cut the head of the balloon. Make sure you cut it so that it is a semi-circle, and not still tapered at the end.
The supervising adult should next stretch the semi-circle of that recently-cut balloon across the open end of the can, stretching it taut and affix it on the side of the can by wrapping the rubber band around twice or however many times it will go.

The boys wanted to put some ribbon around them too. 
After they're dry, shake and enjoy!! Be careful - if you use the jingle bells like I did, they are LOUD! If you have an exuberant child like I do, you may wish you had used something a bit softer. :-) 
I Mod-Podged after they went to their naps so the paint didn't peel off and the surface was smoother. 

and off he goes!

It can be a shaker or a drum! Use hands or drum sticks. You could even scrape the sides with a stick too and use it as a guiro. 

Baby M liked it too. :-) 

Enjoy all the music making around this time of year and be sure your kids get in on it! 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Our Favorite "12 Days of Christmas" Books

The boys are into counting nowadays... so this carol has been one of their favorites recently. So, I decided to check out a few different "Twelve Days of Christmas" books - some traditional, some not as traditional.

Honestly, though... this is the carol that I least like to sing because of its never-ending, overly-repeating, lasting-forever nature.... But, it was also one of my favorites as a child, and seems to appeal to my kiddos currently as well. They love things that repeat, come and go in sequence, and are creatively done - and this carol fits to a "tee."

So, check out what options your library has available, then muster up the courage to sing through this long carol as you go through the book! Have your kids sing along and "help" you with the numbers and counting.

Here are a few we like:

"The Twelve Days of Christmas" - Laurel Long 

This is a beautifully illustrated book with the traditional lyrics - I personally love the artwork. My boys have yet to share in my level of appreciation.... but the pictures are all very descriptive and engaging.

"Twelve Days of a Muppet Christmas (And a Chicken In a Pine Tree)" -  Martha T. Ottersley

Oh my word. Classic Muppets silliness. And, my children love silliness. All that you would expect from the Muppets!

"The Twelve Days of Christmas Dogs" - Carolyn Conahan

This is adorable - many breeds are represented throughout and the illustrations are very charming. :-)

"The Twelve Days of Christmas Candy" - Olivia Morris
This book is very simply illustrated and is about an elf who receives all sorts of candy from his dear Daddy Elf throughout the verses of the song. This combines 2 things my boys love - counting and candy! :-)

"A Pirate's Twelve Days of Christmas" - Philip Yates

This story details a lonely cabin boy aboard a pirate ship who thinks he's being abandoned at Christmas, only to receive 12 "days" of gifts from those thoughtful pirates he plunders with (you didn't know pirates were so kind-hearted, did you?). The illustrations are lovely and very creative.

So, hopefully you can grab one of those and teach this classic carol to your own little munchkins - by whatever means they'd enjoy!

Have fun!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Classical Music Album Recommendations

Several people have asked what "Classical" albums they could pick up to get that music going in the home. So, if you're not having a soiree of musicians coming to jam at your house each night, this is probably a good idea!

Here are a few suggestions for a traditional, classical mix that combine some of the most well-known and well-loved pieces. These are not your "classical music for relaxation" types.... there is a mix of different speeds, volumes, time periods, etc.

Just fyi... don't underestimate the value of playing classical music around the home, school, etc. I would never have fallen in love with classical music if my dear mother had not bought that cheesy "Sounds of the Oboe" CD (thanks Mom!) which had on it the Largo from the "New World Symphony"  (Dvorak) and the opening to Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" - both of which were a level of beauty that I had not heard before - and when I did, there was no looking back!
Now, calm your fears, your child will probably not turn into a music nerd like me; but a quote that my husband relishes is, "the tide raises all ships." The higher the quality of music you expose your family/classroom to, the higher their appreciation and understanding will go too.

So, in no particular order are three picks you can add to your Amazon, etc. list for yourself, or add them to your gift requests for those family members who have been asking!

1. The Greatest Classical Masterpieces! - London Philharmonic (Create Space) 
Aside from the silly exclamation point on this title, it's a great assortment by a well-respected orchestra.

2. The 50 Greatest Pieces of Classical Music  - Performer: London Philharmonic Orchestra (X5 Music Group)
This is a vast collection by, again, a great orchestra. You probably won't need another after this one! :-)

3. 25 Classical Favorites - various ensembles (Vox Classical)
This is a great collection - lots of diversity and excellent choices!

Hope that helps some of you out there!
These are a few of many to choose from - feel free to browse around yourself!

Do you have a favorite piece from childhood, etc.?

And..... Just for fun:
Check out some classic Bugs Bunny.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

"I See a Song" by Eric Carle

I was so excited when I found out about the book by Eric Carle, "I See a Song." I love Eric Carle's children's books (it all started with Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?) and try to get at least one of them every time we get a bundle 'o books from the library. My boys are..... not such big fans (What gives??!). They seem to have this "Eric Carle" phase during their 1st-2nd year, then poof! It's gone!
So, I knew this would be a stretch for them to get into, but I had to try!

I love the idea behind this book! The basic premise is: a violinist enters on the first few pages. He begins to play and what results throughout the pages is a colorful depiction of his music with beautiful colors and creative artistic displays. as he says before he begins, "I see a song. I paint music. I hear color."
The book ends as it began, and the violinist exits.

So, go forth, ye, and giveth this book a try!

Here's what we did:
1. Gather kiddos at a good time of the day when they are up for creative thinking... not a cranky time of day like I do sometimes.
2. Open the book and show them the violinist, talk about what the man is doing.
   When music is played, we can see colors and pictures in our minds depending on what the music sounds like.
3. Go through the book pointing to the pictures, imagining what the music is like, singing what it might be like, describing if it looks loud or soft, fast or slow, happy or sad.
4. When the violinist exits, applaud for a fine performance! :-)

You can give your child instruments to play; like a drum, shakers, etc. and they can describe the pictures on their own through instruments if they're not quite into vocalizing a description.

Or, if you are savvy on an instrument, you can go through the book with them as you have your own piano/guitar/violin/flute, etc. there to improvise a little on what the pictures make you think of. They will LOVE this. :-)

My boys liked the whole idea, but as I said, are not (yet?) so crazy about Carle's books. So, we tried this later with one of their favorite Robert Munsch books (Boo!) and they were much more excited and heartily made up songs about those pictures. What can I say? They're my silly boys.

There is also an official animated version on YouTube (Go here!) which is great, but I would save that for after your little one/s have done their own creating. :-)

So, go get this book from your local library or on Amazon/etc. and give it a try!

Have fun!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

We are REALLY looking forward to some time to kick back with family over Thanksgiving as we think on all the kindnesses and blessings we have experienced over the past year. It's been a trying week, with 2 out of the three kiddos sick and miserable about it (those 2 are currently crying rather than napping),  one mommy who might be seen banging her head against the wall by a passing-by neighbor, and a kitchen floor that you *might* need stilts to walk  through with all the food crumbs that are down there.

But, anyway - when it comes down to it, we're really still very thankful to God for these boys, our family and a house to call our home, with loving friends and family to boot.

So, I've been talking with the kids about why it's good for us to be thankful.... not just good for us to say we're thankful, but why it is really good for the soul to really BE thankful, especially when we're tempted to grumble about so many things.

So, this is one little song we did today while making some place cards for the Thanksgiving meal (although, I think they may be the type of craft that 'only a mother-of-the-child-who-did-them could love'). It's to the tune of "The Farmer in the Dell" and here it is:

We love Thanksgiving Day,
We're happy just to say,
"Thank You for our health and home,
and family today!"

Having little pictures helped them to follow along and point to the words as we sang. And, one thing I'm thankful for is that my children are not art-critics (re: above pictures on sheet).

We sang as we worked, and we'll probably sing it some more tonight and tomorrow, and maybe ask them to add some other items in as well that they can thank God for. They can draw those pictures, and we'll sing along. Mommy should stop drawing pictures, I think. :-)

Happy Thanksgiving to you!

Now to go tackle that kitchen floor.... and the crying children...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Simple Activities to Encourage Musicality

Sometimes it's good to review rather than do new things all the time. We've been visiting some older exercises and songs to strengthen our musicality throughout the week.

Here are three ways to get it going at your house/school/playgroup/daycare too:

1. Read Rhythmically and Rhyme often! 

The natural rhythm and rhyme in our language can ignite the musical sense inside every child, so to get those going, try the following:
Read to your child. Get books that flow in rhythm and rhyme and read them that way.
For Rhythm Reading Ideas- Go Here!

Practice songs with rhyming words, like "Down By the Bay" that are silly and creative.
Rhyming and Song practice: Go Here!

2. Play and Sing -  Sing songs that involve movement, story and are easy to sing. 

Try out songs that are easy to sing and encourage activity!
Playing and Singing exercises: Go Here! and here!

3. Do simple musical skills with age-appropriate activities 

To get their ability strengthened to receive musical influences and handle them well, do simple activities to develop voice production and rhythm.
Check these out: Get their rhythm going and their voice moving!

These are some simple reminders of activities to spread once or twice throughout the week which will reap many benefits as your child soaks them in.

Have fun!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Make-It-A-Song-Monday - Working Together

We've been bagging endless amounts of leaves, and when the task seems that it will never be through, I take the advice of the 7 dwarves and decide that singing will help the time pass, and will also put me in a happier mood. So, whether you choose to "whistle while you work" or make up a song, I'm sure the work-attitude will get better! :-)

So, during our leaf-bagging, I was trying to show the kiddos how to work together, not just doing whatever-that-thing-is-that-I-wanted-to-do-and-oh-yeah-no-one-else-can-use-that-thing-but-me.
So, as we were learning how to work together, I started a little tune, which went as follows:

It's so fun to work together,
So much fun to work together,
It's so fun to work together,
it helps us get done fast!

It's so fun to work together, 
So much fun to work together, 
It's so fun to work together, 
that's what friends do best! 

This one was to the tune of "Glory, glory Hallelujah" - which is the chorus to The Battle Hymn of the Republic ("....His truth is marching on! Glory, glory hallelujah, glory glory hallelujah...." If you need a reminder, here's the melody).

There's also this one you're sure to recognize -  but, instead of singing "the more we GET together..." try "the more we WORK together..." 

"The more we work together, together, together, 
the more we work together, the happier we'll be!
You'll help me, I'll help you, 
We'll work hard 'till we're through, 
The more we work together, the happier we'll be!" 

If they sing along and enjoy it, great!! Even if they don't, that's OK. You are getting melody into their heads and showing them that singing is a great way to pass the time when working on tasks. Your example to them may be the most valuable they see to train them in a positive outlook of work - that it's not a burden and a drag, but can be joyful and relationship-building as well. 

What did you make into a song today? 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Counting and Clapping in Rhythm

Counting is recently my kiddos' favorite thing to do. So, what a great time to do some simple practice with counting in rhythm!

Did you ever do those hand clapping games on the playground when you were little? Like, "Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack, all dressed in black, black, black, etc...." Or the other ones where you slapped hands backwards and forwards while chanting and counting to astronomically high numbers....? (those were the ones the really smart girls did....)  These types of games are so valuable on a  number of levels:

  • They are fun games that make practicing counting (in whatever sequence it involves) a more challenging and motivating activity.  
  • They are spoken/sung in rhyme and rhythm, enhancing and strengthening the child's innate rhythm. 
  • They involve hand movements which increase muscle-control and agility.
  • They are a meaningful and enjoyable activity between friends, bringing smiles and satisfaction.   
So, I'm not going to try anything complicated with my 3 and 4 1/2 yr. old boys yet; we'll start basic!

First we got thinking musically by singing and clapping one of our favorite songs, "A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea"

Here are the words and for the melody, go Here!

A Sailor Went to Sea
A Sailor went to sea, sea, sea
To see what he could see, see, see, 
But all that he could see, see, see
Was the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea, sea. 

Hand motions: 
You can be as creative as you'd like,
We always clap each other's hands on each "sea, sea, sea" (or "see, see, see").
We also sit up tall on "sailor"
We put our hand to our forehead to 'peer out' on "to see what he could..."
Put our hands up to the side in an "Oh well" manner on "but all that he could..."
Put our hands to the floor on "was the bottom of the..."

We get incrementally faster and faster - it's fun. :-)

Then we moved to a clapping and counting chant.
First have child choose a number.

Then, in rhythm, chant and clap:

"Let's see how high we can count,
watch my count to _____"

Then, with either you or another child, clap hands together in rhythm (as much as possible anyway, depending on your child's age/ability), counting up to that number.

J chose numbers that didn't take us quite as long, like 8 and 12.
K wanted more exciting ones in his little 4 yr. old mind, like "32" and "21 and 11 and 16"
"So, you want 48?"
You can also have them alternate clapping each others' hands with the front and back of their hands. Keeps it a little more exciting... :-)

This is uber simple and you can adapt it to practice any type of number recitation, but it was great practice and we had fun with it; hope you can too!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Knee Bounces!

Once a baby has reached 6 months or so, they're ready for some active bouncing. It's one of their favorite things - to "ride" on your knees to a rollicking rhyme.

I was at an amusement park this summer (wearily following my tireless older 2 boys around from one ride to another - why do they have so much energy??!) and I saw a "ride" for infants where you sit the child in a booster-type seat, strap them in, then pay some money to watch them go around in a tiny circle. It was one of the most ridiculous things I've ever seen. And, being the person that I am, I thought, "how much better a warm lap and an active bounce rather than a silly, plastic ride?"

So, here are a few bounces that involve moving your baby from one knee to the other and are super easy to get into your repertoire.

Trotty Horsey
Start with baby on knees - imitating a trotting horse:
Trotty horsey, trotty horsey
went right up to town.
One foot up and the other one down,
     Lift baby up then back down
Trotty horsey ran along,
A-gallopy, gallopy, gallopy gone!
   Bounce baby back and forth on knees, optional: gently drop baby through knees on "gone!"

Jack Be Nimble
This mother goose rhyme is so simple and works very well!
Jack be nimble, Jack be quick,
Jack jump over the candlestick!
Bounce baby to rhyme, then on "over" move to the other knee. Repeat! 

Father and Mother and Uncle John 
This one was shared in an earlier post, but it's worth repeating because it works so well)

Start with a steady bounce with baby/toddler on your knees:
Father and Mother and Uncle John
All rode to town one by one.

Mother fell off - woah!
lean baby over one side of knees

Father fell off - woah!
lean baby over to the other side

But Uncle John rode on, and on, and on, and on, and on....
bounce baby on knees in middle - faster and faster. 

Get going bouncing those kiddos!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Making Spooky Stories with "Danse Macabre"

When I was a new teacher, a dear friend, Heather Henriques generously shared some of her teaching materials with me to help get me started, and I specifically remember this one because all the kids enjoyed it every time we brought it out around this time of year. It confirmed to me that children are able to comprehend classical music and have fun with it.
Thanks, Heather (if you read this!), for your help in lending me materials those first few years! :-)

This is a super-simplified version of the activity, since I do not have 2nd graders, but a 4 year old and a newly-turned 3 year old.

 What is"Danse Macabre", you may ask (click on the title to listen!)?
Danse Macabre  is a piece of music by the French composer Camille Saint-Saens. The piece is a "symphonic poem" meaning that it's a musical description of a literary work.

The basic story behind the poem is Death coming out at midnight to awaken his other spooky friends. He tunes up his fiddle and starts into a waltz as they all join him. They dance, run and leap throughout the night, but then when the rooster crows that morning has come, Death plays a mournful tune as they all depart.

So, we made it a little more munchkin-friendly by picking our own spooky characters and incorporating some of the story, but letting them fill in the rest.
This is a great way to help children understand music, by helping them describe it in actions and story.

The boys picked out three characters - a ghost (a Boo), a bat (Pat) and a jack-o-lantern (Peter).
I found some clip art, resized and printed them out. Then we grabbed some popsicle sticks to attach the pictures to.

As the boys were coloring, I played the piece and described our simple story.

"It's midnight!" (you can hear in the orchestra twelve tones played by the harp to signify the clock striking 12:00).
"Out comes Peter the Pumpkin.... He plays his violin and wakes up his friends to come out and play!"
(Then you can hear two distinct musical melodies or themes. We used one for the ghost theme and one for the bat theme.)
"Out comes Boo the Ghost! He's so excited to see Peter the Pumpkin. They dance and jump and sing."
"Now, it's Pat the Bat flying in for the fun; and he is excited to see his two friends."

... Throughout the song, we incorporated lots of things the friends did together. Some were my ideas, some were K's.  Things like... playing hide and seek, jumping, racing, flying, dancing, falling, climbing, playing, meeting new friends, etc....  And we tried to listen closely for  the first melody which was Boo the Ghost's theme, and the second melody which was Pat the Bat's theme (in the second picture, you can see K - who, yes, is dressed up as a pirate - pausing to listen for what the music sounds like, so we know what type of activity the friends are doing. Love it!).

K got into it, although this was the first time we'd done something like this, other than Peter and the Wolf.
But, most of the time, J just listened and watched us..... I think he'll get into it more when he's a little older. :-)

After we finished Danse Macabre, K wanted to do it again to a different piece of music. So, we tried it to Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King." More creativity!

You certainly don't need to use Halloween characters - grab some other animals who are awake at night and make up a story of their nighttime activities (like owls, bats, and cats)!

So, give it a try and let your child create and imagine to music! You'll be surprised how much fun it is. :-)

Below is the link again: (This is a YouTube link - remember to be aware of images on these types of sites. I wish they were clean and safe, but sometimes, they are not; other times, it's fine. Just fyi!)

 "Danse Macabre"