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Give them a brain workout: fun music activities that boost child development

The latest neuroscience is showing us that active music making – music making that involves seeing, hearing, touching, moving – engages all of our senses providing one of the richest learning environments there is. Scientists have found that music making:

  • Boosts the verbal IQ of developmentally healthy children in early years
  • improves semantics (understanding of language) as well as syntax (structure, grammar)
  • develops phonological awareness:  a key pre reading skill.

Not only does music making boost skills across the EYFS and helps with child development; music has great benefits for physical and social development too.

Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of how to maximise the learning power of music in practise.

Putting the science into practise

Knowing all the science won’t help us unless we can actually use active music making every day in our homes and settings.

The great news is that you don't have to be able to sing like Beyoncé or be a highly qualified musician to support children with brain boosting music activities.  Everyone can lead effective early years active music making activities!

So here is an idea for you to try today:

Rubbish sack songs

What you will need:

1. A cardboard box or bag – a re-useable shopping bag is perfect

2. Some 'rubbish'... different kinds of paper, cardboard tubes, clean food packaging (e.g. plastic tubs of all sizes, black plastic trays that fruit is sometimes sold in, cardboard boxes (e.g. cereal boxes, laundry soap boxes). Basically you are looking for stuff that makes an interesting sound.

  • If you are a childminder or nanny at home you can do this bit with your child(ren) as a sort of 'rubbish' treasure hunt, exploring the sounds that different things make as you go (Supports CL and KUW)
  • If you are a practitioner working in a setting you can ask parents to bring things in. (Supports parent-setting relationship and home learning environment)

What to do:

1. Empty all the rubbish out of the bag/box and on to the floor.

If you are in a setting with lots of children make a circle and put the rubbish in the middle

2. Let the children explore the rubbish – you may find some children make sounds, others use the rubbish for role play, others start folding and packing things away.

3. Now pick a favourite song and suggest ways that the children can use the rubbish to keep the tempo of the song – for example patting a box like a drum, clapping with scrunched up paper in their hands to make a different sound, beating margarine tubs on the floor. Sing the song with the children keeping the beat with their rubbish. (Supports CL, EAD, Maths, PSED, PD coordination and fine motor skills).

4. Now you can ask the children to describe the sound they are making. Is it loud, soft, scrunchy, sharp etc . What does it sound similar to? For example, what animal does the margarine tubs sound like? Could scrunchy paper be the sound of waves or leaves in the trees?(Supports CL)

5. Use this conversation to trigger another song: for example ‘Horsey Horsey Dont You Stop’ with the margarine tubs keeping the beat of the horse’s hooves. (Supports CL)

Other ideas for your rubbish sack

Enliven your storytelling

Use the rubbish sack at story time to really engage with children's imaginations and to get them thinking about, talking about and reproducing the sounds they hear and imagine.

Open the book and look at the first picture. Before you start to tell the story ask the children, what's going on in the picture? Now what do you think that sounds like? How can we make that sound with our rubbish sack? Is there a picture of a dinosaur? Maybe we need to make stomping noises on a box. Is there a picture of a butterfly? Maybe we can rustle paper in the air for the sound of the wings.

(Supports CL, PSED, EAD)

Have a boogie

Use some pre-recorded music and just dance around using the rubbish to keep the beat. With less confident children, just holding a box to bang can provide the confidence to get up and join in. (Supports PSED, PD)

Learn more

Want to learn more about the benefits of using active music making in your setting?

BoogieMites will be holding a workshop at PACEY’s upcoming November conference (Be Happy, Be Healthy: supporting wellbeing in the early years) to give you the chance to:

  • Gain a greater understanding of how active music making impacts children’s development in the early years.
  • Leave with an increased awareness of how to link music making to specific language and literacy learning goals
  • Have more confidence, ideas and motivation for using music making as part of everyday activities
  • Get a FREE CD - a brilliant resource that will engage and enthuse adults and children alike

>>Book your early bird discounted conference place here

About the Author

Harriet Thomas is Creative Director of Boogie Mites UK , specialising in creating music training resources for early years practitioners. For more information email enquiry@boogiemites.couk. You can attend Boogie Mites Training Workshops at the PACEY conference in York on November 7th.

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