Last week I took my little granddaughter, Naomi, along to ‘Music and Movement’. We’ve been a few times now. I get to push her in the buggy a few blocks to the local church where it is held and we discuss cats, dogs and flowers along the way. She’s only 16 months so we are keeping to easy conversation topics.
The first time we went to ‘M & M’, Naomi mostly just watched what was going on. Good skills! I could learn something from that. I usually blunder enthusiastically into new situations and neglect the careful observation part. The second time, she enjoyed the tambourine—having seen one of those at our place, she connected with the familiar and liked the sound. She thought the ribbons were pretty fun too. Last week she was right at home and knew how to go and get an instrument and put it back with the others at the end. And when we got home she was rowing her boat and shushing the bear right on cue when we sang the songs we’d heard again.
The next day I was leading a similar session with a group of grandparents, mothers and children in our smaller community outside the city. I’ve been a part of the team which run it for a few years now. When I was first asked to prepare and lead a session I wasn’t too keen. (My only association in the past with preschool music had been to play the piano for ‘M & M’ many years ago. I thought that I would prefer that more demure position to that of leaping around to songs about floppy clowns.) But I took the advice of the leader, who encouraged me to leave my dignity at the door and said I’d be fine. It was good advice and I was. It has been wonderful being a participant in this more active role, as it helps me fully appreciate the value of a well prepared music session.
When you participate with a little person you know and love, you want them to have the full experience and you can reinforce it when you get home too. The framework given is so helpful to the activities you can choose to do. But I’m also seeing a fresh angle on how quickly these little ones absorb new skills through music. And I have found that getting involved with the session with Naomi adds to the experience for both of us and draws us closer to each other too.
As a music teacher I am often asked when is a good time to start a child at the piano. It really is different for every individual and it depends on a number of factors, but mostly how committed the family is to support the child’s learning. The teacher’s role is important, but won’t come to much if not continued at home, especially for younger learners.
In the years before a child might be ready to begin instrument lessons, I would advocate preschool ‘music and movement’ opportunities as a starting point to more formal learning. Children who have participated in these already have a head start with music skills. I’m also a huge fan of having your baby/preschooler listen to a wide range of music. Sing along with them as much as you can. Aside from the fact they are more likely to grow up singing in tune, home is a happier place when people sing!
And I highly recommend the experience of preschool music sessions for budding grandparents.