Creating Centers for
Musical Play and Exploration
The presence of music in young children’s lives can sometimes be taken for granted. In most early childhood classrooms, teachers and children sing a song or two at circle time. Many teachers use musical strategies to help children handle transitions for example, singing “We’re cleaning up our room, we’re cleaning up our room, we’re putting all the blocks away, we’re cleaning up our room” to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell”. Parents often sing lullabies and traditional rhymes to their young children. At home and in the car, parents play recorded music
they themselves enjoy. They may play a “kid’s’” tape or CD to keep the children happy and occupied on the road. Music certainly is present in the lives of many young children. Nevertheless, there is a growing awareness that music is underused and under addressed in early childhood education. In the early years, musical aptitude is still developing. Infancy and early childhood are prime times to capitalize on children’s innate musical spontaneity, and to encourage their natural inclinations
to sing, move, and play with sound.
Creating Centers for Musical Play and Exploration
Music is in the air in Ms. Viola’s Head Start classroom. She has a large collection of CDs, most of which were recorded specifically for children. Music often plays in the background during greeting, snack, choice, and nap times.
Music is in use in Mr. Kerry’s pre-K classroom.
“Piggyback” songs remind children of expected
behaviors and add a pleasant dose of calm to
transitions that might otherwise become chaotic.
Music is on the lips of Mrs. Rosetti’s kindergartners. Morning circle begins with a greeting song, followed by children’s selection of two more songs from the class’s impressive repertoire. Afternoon circle is the time for learning and practicing new songs. Each of these teachers might say, “My classroom is very musical,” and each student is providing something of value.
Why does music not receive deeper attention in early childhood education?
Teachers may not recognize the full value and potential of providing for children’s musical development and may not understand the many ways musical involvement can enhance development and learning in other areas. They may believe that musical development is important only for a small number of highly talented children. They may be intimidated by the specialized expertise of music educators or inhibited by their own lack of knowledge about music education or a perceived lack of musicianship.
NAEYC and MENC (National Association of Music Education [formerly the Music Educators National Conference], www.menc.org) are collaborating to promote the full inclusion of music in early childhood curriculum.
Young children engage in music as play. Though many early childhood educators may not consider themselves musicians or music educators, they generally do feel comfortable with the medium of play. When offered a variety of drums and strikers, children play with sound.
By exploring and “messing around,” they discover they can make one sound by striking one drum and a different sound by striking another. Their drum play is supported because adults expect and allow for the “noise.”
When young children hear music, they move to it.
Supportive adults share their joy and delight in their fun, also, listening and moving in response to the music. Once children learn to sing, they create their own melodies and invent their own words to familiar songs. Their song play is supported when adults demonstrate authentic interest, interact with children through song, and engage in their own playful song making.
Play is central to early childhood education, and it is a primary vehicle for musical growth. When early childhood
teachers recognize the playful nature of children’s musical activity; music education may look more like familiar territory. Young children engage in music
as an exploratory activity, one that is interactive, social, creative, and joyful.
Ms. Nora Sierra
Early Childhood Assistant Principal