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

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Fingers and Toes" Chants

These chants are not only fun and produce lots of giggles, but they help baby become more aware of their amazing appendages! One good way to engage various parts of the body is to incorporate them into a rhyme.

We'll start with your favorite, and mine,
"This Little Piggy Went To Market" 
If you need a reminder, here it is:

This little piggy went to market,
and this little piggy stayed home.
This little piggy had roast beef,
and this little piggy had none.
But THIS little piggy cried "wee, wee, wee!"
All the way home!

1. Get baby's adorable little feet in your hands.
2. For each little piggy, gently squeeze and wiggle a toe, starting with big toe and moving out.
3. On "but THIS little piggy cried..." wiggle the little toe, then travel your finger/s back along baby's toes to "home" which could be the bottom of baby's foot, back to the big toe or (my personal favorite) tickle all the way up the body to the ticklish part of their neck.

Option #2:

These are Baby's Fingers
These are baby's fingers,
These are baby's toes,
This is baby's belly button,
around and round it goes!

Grab and/or tickle baby's fingers, then toes then poke belly button and move finger around in a circle around belly button.

Option #3:

Five Fingers
Five fingers on one hand,
five on the other one too!
Two eyes, two ears
and ten little toes,
Precious little baby are you!

Motions: Similar to the above rhyme, engage each body part as you go through it. On the last line, hug baby or do a tickle on their sides, or clap through the line then point to baby on "you!"

Option #4:

Ten Little Fingers, Ten Little Toes
Ten little fingers,
Ten little toes,
Two little eyes and
one little nose.
Two little cheeks
and one little chin,
One little mouth where "pudding" goes in!

Tap on each body part as it is mentioned.
You can also substitute another food of your choosing, of course.

These are great to do while baby is on the changing table, while you're waiting forever for the doctor at the pediatrician's office, or anytime! :-)
Have fun!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Why Music?

Some of you may be wondering why you, me or any parent needs to spend time trying to do musical things with young children... even babies.  I mean, really... do they NEED music?

Well, you can probably guess where I'm going with this... but it's not down the path of... "music's great because it makes your child smarter. It helps them participate with others. It helps with math. It helps with reading." That’s like saying: ice cream is important. It allows you to make a milkshake and provides a catalyst for sprinkles and cherries. It’s really important for chocolate, providing a vehicle for this important food item to be presented. Are all those things true? Sure. But, when it comes down to it, ice cream is just pretty stinkin’ great in and of itself.
Same thing with music. As we musicians say, music for music's sake.

Why bother with music so early? Why not wait until my kids get it in school?
Often by then, it's too late.

A famous composer, Zoltan Kodaly, when discussing the importance of music in early childhood, made this comment:
"What a child has heard in the first six years of life cannot be eradicated later. Thus, it is too late to begin teaching at school, because a child stores a mass of musical impressions before school age; and if what is bad predominates, then his fate, as far as music is concerned, has been sealed for a lifetime."

Any research will tell you that the most critical development in a child is between 0-7 years. These are precious, formative years in children. 
Think of a flower - Changing from a seed into a flower is extremely complex - and the most dramatic change is in its first part of life - morphing from a kernel to roots, stem and bud.

 Each child is born with the natural ability to talk and problem-solve, they are also born with an innate musical ability. This musical potential in each child is vulnerable to positive influences and to negative ones.... but perhaps the most common negative affect is that of neglect.

We must help to form and shape our child's musical ability. All the materials are there in his/her brain for forming melody, experiencing movement and rhythm, expressing ideas, thoughts and emotions through sound... but they can not draw them out and organize them on their own. They need someone to draw these qualities out and nurture them to healthy growth.

An imperfect analogy is that of puzzle pieces scattered on a table… they can form into a cohesive, beautiful puzzle.. but the pieces need to be organized in order for the wonderful whole to be brought about. Children need help to make sense of their musical abilities by engaging in stimulating musical experiences.
Many kids only get about 3 corners of their puzzle set up because there is not enough stimulation of their musical being.

Think about how you teach your child to speak or read. Would you expect him/her to learn the language without you ever speaking to them or using inappropriate grammar to teach them? Certainly not. They learn directly from you. They need our proactive leadership and example in music as well. 

So, before it's too late, get involved in musically crafting your child. You don't need to be an expert, but seek to grow in your own musical ability or creativity so that you can give the precious gift of a musically stimulated mind to your child. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Seek and Find Game - "Doggie, Doggie"

When I was about to take my first teaching job, my former teacher and dear friend, Janet was counseling me in how to set up a music classroom and was giving me ideas to use with the kids. This song is one she taught me over the phone and it has stayed in our repertoire since then.

It's a simple song about a dog and a bone. Here are the words:
Doggie, Doggie, where's your bone? 
Somebody took it from your home. 

Simple? Yes. That's why it's great. Kids can memorize this little number in a jiffy.
The melody is similar to "Rain, Rain Go Away."
Here are the boys and I singing it for your listening pleasure:
 In teaching kiddos to sing with you, the two notes used primarily in this song are easy for little voices to imitate (the minor 3rd for all you music nerds out there).  So, use them often!

Also, kids voices naturally sing higher than adult voices, so when you teach or sing these songs, sing a little higher than you might be used to and it will be easier for them to pick up the melody than if the pitch is low. Not too high, of course.... I'm sure you get the idea.

This activity/song works best in a group, but if you have at least two kids, you're probably good to go, or if you're having a playdate or need a group game to do in a teaching situation. etc.

Dog Bone. (I bought this one for a few dollars, but use one you have around or cut a dog-bone shape out of cardboard.)
Optional: Doggie. (As stated before, my boys do better with these things if there is an animal prop involved).

Teach kids the song (if you have a bunch of kiddos, sit 'em in a circle).

One child is the doggie and covers his/her eyes while another child hides the bone in the room.

"Doggie" opens eyes and tries to find the bone while everyone sings, "Doggie, Doggie..."

When "Doggie" find the bone there is much rejoicing (yay!!) and then that child becomes the hider.

Keep going as long as their interest holds. Don't drag it out... they won't want to play it again. :-/
Some children may need help closing their eyes....

If doing this in a classroom with children sitting in a circle, you can also have hider put the bone behind another student. While hiding, everyone sings the song. Doggie opens eyes and has 3 guesses as to who is hiding the bone.  

Then follow up with a book or two about dogs. My pick today? P.D. Eastman's "Go, Dog Go." All my boys love this one. Enjoy!

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Way(s) the Lady Rides...

One of the most well-known bounces is "This Is the Way the Lady Rides." It's fabulous. Who thought of it? We may never know.... but we'll keep on enjoying it.
There are also lots of variations on this wonderful rhyme... all guaranteed to bring delight to your little munchkin.

Each verse has a different description of riding based on the character, so your bouncing will change with each one. Again... these rhymes are MOST enjoyable when parent/grandparent is enthusiastic, descriptive, rhythmic and energetic. That's not too much to expect of you, right?

Here is the basic rhyme (or what many people think is the basic rhyme) and a collection of variations... chosen from those compiled by Mr. I-exude-musicality-out-of-every-pore-of-my-being, John Feierabend.

This Is The Way the Ladies Ride

This is the way the ladies ride,
A-clippity clop, A-clippity clop
A-clippity, clippity, clop.

This is the way the gentlemen ride,
A-gallop-a-trot, A-gallop-a-trot,
a-gallop, a-gallop-a-trot.

This is the way the farmers ride,
A-hobblety-hoy, a-hobblety-hoy,
A-hobblety, hobbelty-hoy!

This is the way the soldiers ride,
"And a Hep! 2, 3, 4, Hep! 2, 3, 4,
heppety, heppety, hep! 2, 3, 4.

This is the way the cowboys ride,
A-whoopy-i-ay, a-whoopy-i-ay,
A-whoopy, whoopy, whoopy-i-ay!

--As you can tell, the bounces get progressively livelier and bouncier as you go along. Can't tell if you're doing it right? Their laughs should also get progressively bigger as you go. If they're not squealing and laughing at the cowboy part.... try again with more gusto! :-)

Two Variations: 

1. This is the way the ladies ride,
Neat and small, neat and small.

This is the way the gentlemen ride,
Boots and all, boots and all.

This is the way that *baby rides,
Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!

*Substitute baby's name.

2. This is the way the ladies ride,
Saddle aside, saddle aside,
(bounce baby sitting sideways on your lap)

This is the way the gentlemen ride,
Saddle astride, saddle astride.
(baby sitting astride)

This is the way the baby rides,
tucked inside, tucked inside.
(hug baby)

And this is how they all looked great
when they jumped over the 10-bar gate.
(bounce baby from one knee high over to the other)

Who needs mechanical plastic ponies outside the store when mommy or daddy can be a far superior horsey??
Go bounce those babies! :-)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Practice Rhyming in Song

Remember Raffi? He's done more than just "Baby Beluga," my friends....
He did a fun rendition of "Down By the Bay" and it's been one of our favorite songs to sing around here because of its inherent silliness with the rhyming options (my boys' favorite characteristic) and its musicality (mommy's favorite characteristic).

Not familiar with this tune? Check it out Here.
Not the best video for its creative genius, but it'll teach you the song. :-)

This song allows your child to place rhyming words at the end that involve an animal doing something silly (like... "did you ever see some llamas eating their pajamas?").

So, gather kiddos and teach them the song. I actually find some of the best times to teach kids these songs is when we're not doing anything musical.... like getting ready for bed, driving in the car, getting dressed in the morning, cleaning up toys, etc...

It's a little tedious to have the kids hold the end of each phrase (down by the baaaaaaaay, where the watermelons grooooooooow....) without some cool guitar accompaniment, so I had the boys clap 4 times after each line.
Down by the bay (clap, clap, clap, clap)
Where the watermelons grow (clap, clap, clap, clap)...

I happened to find this great game at a consignment store:
From the above box, I selected combos of an animal and their rhyme that would work in the song (like... Did you ever see a fox hiding in a box?)
You don't need an official game though, you could simply print off pictures of rhyming words or look in your Memory Game box for some rhyming pics that would work... You don't need very many pairs - as many as you think your child will enjoy.

First, the boys had to match the rhyming pairs. Neither kiddo is reading yet, so mommy helped a lot; they did do good with hearing the matching sounds.

We chose three groups at a time to put with the song.
First we sang through the whole song for each pair.
Down by the bay (clap, clap, clap, clap)
"...Did you ever see a snake using a rake, down by the bay?"

But, you could also just sing the song once then stick all the rhymes in sequence at the end (which is what we did after the first round because boys were getting a bit rowdy to get outside...)

Ex: "Did you ever see a snail, reading the mail? Did you ever see a goat riding in a boat? Did you ever see a dog playing with a frog, down by the bay?"

Have fun with rhyming and rhythm and singing all in one activity! Yippee!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Syllable Clapping with Cars

So, a while ago, my dear friend Nancy told me that clapping syllables of various words is something she observed in speech therapy practice... and since J has been receiving speech therapy, I've noticed his speech therapist doing it too.  So, I'm more inspired than ever to do this more and more.
Motivation 1: To think rhythmically and teach my kids the natural rhythm in words.
Motivation 2: To get J to speak better! Although, I do love the little rascal the way he is...

So, today we did a similar activity to this one but used vehicles instead.

Here's what to do:

Print off pics of automobiles from an image search for various coloring pages. Copy and paste them into a word document and format to whatever size you'd like. I printed them onto cardstock because I wanted them to be sturdier than just computer paper.

We used these vehicles: 
1 Syllable: Truck, Jeep 
2 Syllables: School Bus, Race Car
3 Syllables: Ice Cream Truck 
4 Syllables: Motorcycle

You'll need the pics, some black construction paper, yellow strips and glue.

Gather kiddos and have them paint their group of cars (if kids aren't into painting, just use plain ones or print some colored pics out, or cut pics from magazines and mount to construction paper, or use toy cars... whatever!).

 Yes, I know my children need haircuts.

When they've completed the painting, move on to creating the road while the pictures dry because your 2 year old used more water than color in his watercolor-ing.

Next, start with two or three vehicles getting on their road and clap syllables with a steady beat. Again, you'll do most of the demonstration and they'll try to mimic as best they can.

Make sure YOU get a turn to choose some too.... so you can show them how awesome your rhythmic-syllable skills are? Well, yes.... remember that they will imitate you so take opportunities to demonstrate well - don't expect them to do it perfectly by themselves from the get-go.

For the grand finale, we glued all the autos on the road and then clapped the other person's road (K clapped J's and vice versa). Great fun and improvement noticed by mom. Yay!

Have fun!!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tools of the Trade

If you are curious about what "tools" to have around for music making, this post will list some of my favorites for your consideration. If you have anxious grandparents wanting to buy their darling grandchild a wonderful Easter, etc. present, or if you happen to find one of these while browsing on Amazon, consider adding one or two to your list.

We all know that the really good parents like to make their own instruments with their kids... this is of course, wonderful. But, if you still want a cool selection to have around to grab anytime for your music-making jamborees, take a look and then get your groove on.

In no order of importance...

1. A Xylophone.

Don't be bored to tears yet.... we all know they're great toys/instruments, especially for babies and toddlers. Simple and easy to play, these introduce music-making to the young and uninhibited!

2. Shakers (Maracas)

I especially like the fruit shakers. These great shakers are just a few examples.... maracas are great for any rhythm activity.

3. Triangle

These were always the favorites in my classroom - why not give your child free reign on one at home? Within reason, of course.... You may run from the house screaming if you don't keep it hidden sometimes.

4. Tambourine
Another favorite with most kiddos is this one.... I suggest one with a head (skin cover) on it because kids tend to gravitate to that kind more, but more importantly, it allows use as a drum and a shaker too. Please try and keep your child from hitting their sibling on the head with it, though.

5. Pots, Pans, Spoons, Bowls, etc...

Nothing beats what you can find around the house to make into a drum of some sort. Lots of excellent musicians began experimenting rhythmically with these humble beginnings. :-)

Combined Kits: 
Here are two combined kits I like as well where you get a bunch of instruments in one group:

B. Parum Pum Pum Drum:
Great for little ones - there are lots of sounds to explore with this set and they're designed so creatively. The container is a drum which even has a strap so your little darling can march around like the little drummer boy him(her)self!

Rhythm Band Rockin' Rhythm Bag:
This one is better for older kids.... beware of the rhythm sticks. I know what my boys would use those for right now and it would not be for music!

Reminder... As stated before, I vote for getting your child singing first and foremost. Rhythm instruments are also a natural outflow of your child's musical curiosity, so encourage them at age-appropriate levels and demonstrate well by using them correctly and keeping a beat. Don't just expect them to know what to do with these instruments, though - demonstrate for them with enthusiasm.

My suggestions for music to use these with? Any song you're singing with them... or turn on some salsa music and let 'em at it. :-)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Rhythmic Reading

A simple and fun way to incorporate rhythm into your child's body is to read stories that rhyme to your kiddo... and since it's pretty hard to get away from books that rhyme, this should be easy!

Some stories work better than others. Today, we did this with an old favorite, "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" by Bill Martin/Eric Carle.

Some great books for rhythmic reading that we've used:
"Jamberry" by Bruce Degen

"Circus Parade" by Harriet Ziefert

Also, any collection of Mother Goose Rhymes are great too. Scholastic has a series out of themed Mother Goose Rhymes. We have the colors-themed one below, which is great!

But, again, rhyming books are everywhere!

Some guidelines:
-Chant the lines as appropriate - incorporating strong and weak beats (i.e. LITTLE boy BLUE come BLOW your HORN...).
-Use different pitches in your voice - highs, lows and in betweens as fits your story or rhyme.
    For example.... in "Brown Bear..."  I usually alternate between high- and low-pitch voices for the    various animals as I think they would talk. :-)
-If child is on your lap, feel free to move your legs up and down to the beat, or tap your child's arm to the beat, or sway to the beat.... anything to communicate the rhythm of the text.
-Go ahead and sing it too! Your child is very forgiving, by the way.... :-)

So, simple and SO effective when done regularly. In my teaching, the NUMBER ONE problem I encounter in kids is a poor sense of rhythm and this is the HARDEST thing to instruct a student in if they don't naturally "get it."  So, I encourage you ALL to help the cause for rhythm!

Have fun!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Fast and Slow - The Tortoise and the Hare

The story of the Tortoise and the Hare... It's one of Aesop's most well-known fables teaching lessons of steady perseverance and the dangers of boasting.

So, this story provides great opportunities for learning many valuable things, and this post will focus on some things musical (surprised?).

First - Talk about and describe fast and slow. Have child act out each one by running, walking, or talking to each speed.

Second- Use a good book of this story to read to your kiddo/s. We're using one that I like (published by "The Child's World") because of its straightforwardness, meaning it doesn't have ridiculous modern additions that detract from the story. You can certainly find one at your library.... there are oodles to choose from.

Incorporate a song for the tortoise (slow speed) and another for the hare (fast speed) and insert them in to the story where appropriate. For example, every time the turtle is plugging away, sing the song for "slow and steady" These are ones we used:


Hare Song:
I'm fast, so fast
Oh what a pace!
It's easy, I will win this race! 

Tortoise song
Slow and steady, 
Always ready 
I can get where 
I must go. 

Third - Act out this story with kiddos being a character or with you and your kiddo, if there are no others. Sing the songs as you act each part out.

                                    Tortoise and Hare ready to go....

                                          Slow and steady wins!

Do a search for other great activities to go along with this story. I like this simple turtle one we'll be doing from one of my favorite blogs: Go Here

Also, this book compares various animals who are fast and slow:
"Fast and Slow" An Animal Opposites Book (Lisa Bullard)

Have fun and be creative!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Chants for Baby

Babies love to know that you love them. One way to show this is to have fun playing with them. They enjoy laughing with you. It really does help build happy, delightful children with a joyful twinkle in their eye!

Another fun way to engage your baby (ages 0-1ish... or beyond!) is by chants where you incorporate their little bodies into the actions. We are all probably familiar with "Pat-a-cake, Pat-a-cake, Baker's Man" - which is a great one! - and how much the babies love it because of the rhyme and hand motions the parent does with baby's hands. These types of chants are great for several reasons:

1. They are rhyming and sing-songy, teaching rhythm, patterns and vocal creativity
2. They use baby's body, helping baby become aware of various body parts and the different feelings caused when mommy or daddy uses them for motions or tickling.
3. They bond parent and baby
4. They can get baby laughing and smiling when seemingly nothing else can.
etc, etc....

So, if you're getting tired of "Pat-a-cake" here are a few more to try:

Old Hawk
Old hawk goes
around, around
finds a little.... chickie!

Motion suggestions: 
Do this one with baby lying on back.
During first 2 lines, make your hands or just fingers into a flying motion and "fly" around baby's belly.
During third line, pause briefly after "little" and plunge fingers down (appropriately!) to baby's belly and tickle on the word "chickie!"

Around, Around the Garden
Around, around the garden
the little bunny goes.
Hippity-hop, Hippity-hop,
I'm gonna get your.... nose!

Motion suggestions: 
This one can be with baby sitting or laying on back.
"Hop" your two fingers around baby's body.... belly, arms, legs, etc. until you come to the "I'm gonna get your..." where you get closer and closer to baby's nose. Then, gently squeeze baby's nose on the last word.

Bore a Hole
I'm gonna bore a hole,
I don't know where,
I think I'll bore a hole right..... there!

Motion suggestions:
Baby can be laying down or sitting.
With your pointer finger, move in circular motion in the air around baby and then have a slight pause before picking a spot where your finger dives down to baby and tickles.

Pausing a second or two before the climax of the rhyme enhances baby's expectation and usually results in more giggles because of the extra anticipation. :-)

Don't forget the old standards like "Eeny-Meeny-Miney-Mo" too!

Which chants are your baby's favorites?