If I asked you to recite the Alphabet, would you read it, or sing it? I would automatically belt out the ABCs in the familiar tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, because that was the way I learnt it; music has the wonderful power to help us learn better!
Music plays a major role in young children’s development. Music offers children a variety of enriching experiences, regardless of physical, social, emotional or intellectual limitations. Music also offers children the opportunity for support and/or extension of content areas. ¹
Musikgarten is a leader in early childhood music education, with more than 30 years of research on child development and psychology. Bloom School of Music & Arts has adapted the Musikgarten curricula to offer your children the opportunity to develop holistically:
- Family Music for Babies (FMB) Suitable for newborns to 18 month-old toddlers, and even pregnant mothers
- Family Music for Toddlers (FMT) A parent-accompanied programme for children 18 months to 3 years old
Upon completion of the Musikgarten programmes, your child will be ready for individual music lessons, and they can progress with Bloom‘s Tutti Tots (3-4 years old), and then Tutti Keyboard (4-5 years old) programmes.
The creators of Musikgarten, Audrey Sillick and Dr Lorna Heyge, and we at Bloom, believe that “Music makes a difference”. Parents and teachers alike are recognising that music is being valued as part of any child’s well-rounded education. We believe that children are innately musical, with the ability to sing and move rhythmically. ²
Research and experience tell us that the earlier a child is in an environment of active music-making, the more likely that child’s inborn musicality will be awakened and developed.
– Dr Lorna Heyge & Audrey Sillick
The first 6 years of a child’s life are optimal for development. And the first three years are extremely critical, because this is the time intellectual growth occurs most rapidly, and cognitive functions are set. A stimulating environment promotes a child’s development physically, socio-emotionally, spiritually and intellectually. ²
I have compiled a list of my favourite musical books. Let us also discover more about how children learn:
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
I thoroughly enjoy this animated song version of this book!
This would have been another fun way to learn the alphabet!
The letters of the Alphabet (graphemes) are used to represent phonemes, the smallest unit of sound in a language. Young children associate letters with meaningful contexts; they notice letters in names and in environmental print (on signboards, clothes, for example). Research suggests that children do not learn alphabet letter names in a specific order. The ABC song is used as a strategy to help children reach independence in recognising and identifying letters. Over time, with many purposeful experiences with written language, children will learn to decode unfamiliar words as they read and to spell words as they write (using phonics). ³
One way to encourage children’s alphabet learning is to capitalise on their interest. Music and/or videos which children enjoy can get them to notice the alphabet as they sing and/or read (subtitles). And they will definitely talk about it if they are interested! ³
The Cooking Pot
Levelled books have 3 levels of difficulty ⁴: Easy, Harder, and Harder Still.
The lowest level has
- big fonts, and print is clearly separated from pictures
- few, repetitive words/phrases
- one to two sentences per page
- simple plots
- high frequency words accompanied by content words reinforced with pictures
As the levels go higher, the reading difficulty also increases. Children begin with guided reading (with an adult), and they can select books at their reading level. Over time, with enough exposure and reading practice with the same books, children will be able to read independently. ⁴
A jingle is a short, catchy tune designed to be easily remembered, and usually used in advertising. “The shorter the better, the more repetition the better, the more rhymes the better”, says Tim Faulkner, who explains how commercial jingles work.
With levelled reading books, I pick out repetitive phrases, or look out for rhythmic sentences, and compose a simple melody to sing with. This invites children to sing along, and eventually they remember the words by heart. This eases the transition to reading as children match the lyrics to the words on the book.
Puff The Magic Dragon
When I was learning French, I found the best (and most fun!) way to learn vocabulary, remember phrases, and recognise grammatical structure, was through song lyrics. One of my class assignments then, was to translate Pink Martini’s Sympathique. Luckily for me, it is a song I genuinely like, so it was relatively easy for me to complete the task. 10 years later, I still remember the lyrics to the whole song.
“Puff The Magic Dragon” is a special song to me. I first heard it in secondary school. My favourite teacher let us listen to this song, and we were going through the lyrics to identify feelings and emotions. I fell in love with this song, and over time, whenever I heard it, I would get this wave of nostalgia and happiness. Naturally, remembering the lyrics came easily.
Singing helps people learn words and phrases faster. Music is sometimes used as therapy, as shared by Dr. Anne Fabiny in her article, because it has the ability to reactivate the areas of the brain associated with memory, reasoning, speech, emotion, and reward.
We’re Going On A Lion Hunt
“We’re Going On A Lion Hunt” is similar to the popular story “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt” by Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury. There are repetitive parts which invite children to join in to recite the story. I added the hand actions to aid children in remembering both the vocabulary and the directions “over”, “under”, “around”, “through”. When I read this story to children, it was always a joy to see them read aloud and gesture at these parts of the story.
Songs like The Wheels On The Bus are always warmly welcome by children because repetition allows them to enjoy the fun experience over and over again. Whether it is a song, a dance, or a story that is repeated, children derive pleasure and enhanced “motor memory”, a memory of actions. ²
Finger plays that are rhythmic such as The Finger Family are developmentally sound activities that children enjoy. Finger plays not only help children learn about their own bodies, it also helps guide vocabulary and improve their oral language; hand motions and naming at the same time is a double reinforcement through movement and word. Finger plays also assist in self-expression and self-discovery—the growing awareness of how an action should feel while it is happening. ²
Is your Mama A Llama?
We can learn just about anything through the wonderful medium of books. In “Is Your Mama A Llama”, a little llama goes in search of his mother, and we as the readers, get to learn some information about animals. The illustrations invite children and adults alike to ask questions about the animal mother-child relationship (eg. What is a baby cow called? A calf).
“Is Your Mama A Llama” can be a great book to introduce phonics because of the rhymes, and rimes (word families). Earlier, we learnt that graphemes are used to represent phonemes. When children can choose the duck as an animal whose name begins with a /d/, can identify duck and luck as rhyming words, and can blend individual sounds to pronounce duck, this means that they have phonemic awareness, and developing this skill enables them to read and spell words. ³
In phonics, the emphasis is on spelling patterns instead of individual letters. Sounds can be spelt in different ways, and it is dependent on a variety of factors, including the location of the sound in the word, and the language origin of the words. Children have the opportunity to learn to orally match, isolate, blend, and substitute sounds, and to segment words into sounds, when they sing songs, chant rhymes, play games, and read books rich in wordplay. ³
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
Recognising and identifying colour seems like a very fundamental skill that we just know. Did you know that colour is a key concept for building early numeracy skills such as counting, patterning, and sorting? In this Eric Carle book, children not only get to learn to recognise colours (by name and colour), they also get to admire the artistic techniques used to create the illustrations. There is a pattern in this book (Animal, Animal, What do you see? I see Animal looking at me), so I created a simple 4-beat melody to invite children to clap/sing along with me.
Mathematics is more than just “listen, copy, memorise, drill”, because, to master basic math skills by memorisation alone is no more doing mathematics than playing scales on the piano is making music. Mathematics should be connected to the real world, and learnt with understanding, so that new knowledge can be built from experience and prior knowledge. We want to invite and empower children to be able to express a mathematical approach instead of solely depending on the teacher to offer the approach. ⁵
There are 4 types of heuristics (methods of problem-solving) that children may use for Math: ⁶
- Guess-and-Check (Trial & Error)
- Visualisation (mental models)
- Solve a simpler problem (extending on something simple)
The Oreo Cookie Counting Book
Call-and-Respond songs typically have a melody that is repeated in the response, or a short repetitive answer. These type of songs draw everyone into participation quickly, and allow for individual or group responses. ²
I found “The Oreo Cookie Counting Book” at a secondhand book sale, and it became one of my favourite counting books, mostly because of the rhymes and the realistic illustrations by Victoria Raymond. Each page is actually open-ended, inviting children to shout out the answer, to complete the rhyme. Again, I created a melody that is easy to remember.
Earlier I shared that counting is one of the early numeracy skills that young children learn. The best way for children to interact with numbers is not only through pen and paper, but also through the questions of everyday play: for example, “Do we have enough cookies for the whole class?” “How many more cookies do we need?” “Are there fewer cookies or fewer children?”
Only the sequence of counting is a rote procedure. The understanding of counting cannot be forced; children need to make meaning attached to counting. Counting involves two separate skills, 1. count words in order, 2. one-to-one correspondence, meaning each item must get only one count. And before children can understand that the last count word indicates the amount of the set, they need to first learn how to count. ⁵
I hope you have learnt something useful from these information I have shared.
Music is a universal language, and it has been proven time and again that music improves holistic development, and enhances brain functioning. Listening is not just hearing: Listening is a voluntary act of giving full attention to the sound source. Every aspect of learning requires listening, and learning music can nurture this skill. ²
Let Bloom School of Music & Arts take your children on their most exciting musical journey yet. Contact us to enquire about our early childhood music programmes, or our individual or group instrumental classes. We hope to nurture your children’s love and ear for music, and set them up for life.
Before I go, I would like to share this gem I found! This book can be a great book to introduce the various genres of music. Sung to the tune of “This Old Man”, it is familiar to children, and definitely inviting and compelling enough to clap or snap your fingers along to. I hope you enjoy this too!
¹ Creative Arts for Young Children lesson materials by Belinda Seet
² Family Music Music & Movement Series:
Teacher’s Guidebook and Resource Materials Volume 1: Sing With Me & Dance With Me
by Lorna Heyge, Ph.D. & Audrey Sillick
³ Literacy for the 21st Century (4th Ed.) by Gail E. Tompkins
⁴ Teaching Literacy to English Language Learners lesson materials by Dr Susan Harris-Sharples
⁵ Elementary & Middle School Mathematics: Teaching Developmentally, 7th Ed.
by John A. Van De Walle, Karen S. Karp, & Jennifer M. Bay-Williams
⁶ Developing Problem-Solving Skills & Elementary Mathematics lesson materials by Yeap Ban Har