Music and the Kindy Child

At my studio I teach a programme called Stepping Stones for 2-3s, and 3-5s.  The kindy class, 3-4s is the most popular and I think the most interesting in that there is so much growth that year.  Teaching to that age can be challenging  but I love it!


Preschooler music classMusic walks hand in hand with language development and children love hearing and moving to music. This is the ideal time to introduce them to the joy of music. They need opportunities to move, sing, listen and interact with instruments. Music blossoms in a rich environment of music and children will start to weave it into the fabric of their lives. Many life-lasting attitudes are established at this time so without music it is unlikely that this love will emerge at a later date.

Make music part of your family life!

Music is experienced with the whole body. Movement is a natural part of music so children need to move to music. This also develops the natural sense of beat and rhythm. Creative movement, make-believe, walking, running, jumping, twisting, galloping, hopping, stretching, finger play, use of balls, bean bags, hoops, balancing, dancing, circle games are all part of movement and experiencing music at this age.

Our first musical instrument is our own voice and singing is a delightful way of entering the musical world of joy and relaxation. Children love singing and although only a small percentage of children will be able to sing in tune at three, singing will give them great joy, and their control of the voice will quickly improve.

Quiet listening activities increase their ability to listen in a focused way, which helps accurate learning.

Children love to experience the physical sensation of playing simple instruments. This can be seen from a very early age when small crawling children discover the saucepans! They delight in the physical feel and the cause and effect of their action. Many very simple instruments can be made at home using kitchen equipment, containers, cardboard, paper, scissors and glue.


1. Provide a home environment that embraces music. No need to go overboard here. You just need to enjoy music yourself and enjoy humming along to music on the radio. Play a variety of music from rock to gentle lullabies. Sing some nursery and pre-school songs together. This will show in a natural way that you value music. Your child will absorb this sense of pleasure as part of family life.
2. Listen to CDs and learn the songs by singing along when ever you and you child feel like it.
3. Make some simple instruments at home together. These are actually better than buying percussion instruments which children quickly tire of. Home-made instruments last just as long as the interest.
4. Think outside the box.  Don’t be too rigid in your expectations.
5. If you go to a music class, try some of the activities that were done in class. Look for books of ideas.


These ideas, which help my own parents, may well help you as you explore the world of music with your child.

The class Kindy Kids is designed for 3-4 year-olds and lasts from 40-45 minutes each week. At this age children attend on their own but parents are expected to stay close by. The reason for this is that when parents are present children tend not to participate fully. They are very used to parents doing all the thinking for them and are quite happy watching parents doing everything for them. For many this is the first time they have been valued for themselves in a small group. Some will find this daunting, but with your full support and total confidence in them you will be surprised how quickly they will become a confident member of the group.

They will, of course, copy one another but originality is valued so they will start coming up with their own ideas and the group will flourish. Children this age love to talk and don’t usually need much encouragement!

For the last 10 minutes parents are invited back into the class and the little ones proudly show them what they have been doing and parents join in with a few dances. Circle dances are difficult to do without parents! It always astounds me how children change when their parents come into the room. Sometimes the change is dramatic. Shy children suddenly start bouncing off the walls and outward-going children suddenly become very withdrawn and disinterested. All of this is normal, but don’t judge your own, or other people’s children, by what you see at the end of the lesson. Remember that all children are progressing at their own pace and in different ways. Parents are asked to be encouraging to all children so that the children feel they are in a safe, accepting place and that each is valued by the group.
Parents are asked to join in with enthusiasm. Children don’t notice if you can’t sing very well, or you can’t hop very well. But they will notice if you opt out or look as if you are not enjoying it, and their whole attitude to music will change accordingly. Remember – they see the world through your eyes.

My Stepping Stones programmes have the following broad aims, and you should make sure that any class you enroll your child in has similar aims:

• Build confidence by showing efforts are valued by others
• Develop self-esteem performing alone in small and successful ways
• Develop sense of rhythm
• Develop listening and singing skills
• Increase co-ordination through activities involving gross motor and fine motor skills
• Develop aural memory
• Encourage sharing/cooperation/respect/tolerance/turn-taking/patience
• Musical games and dancing
• Learning songs
• Learning chants
• Playing/exploring a variety of percussion instruments
• Making simple instruments
• Encouraging in-tune singing
• Encouraging solo activities
• Listening activities
• Rhythm/beat activities
• Creativity/improvisation
• Singing what we write and writing what we sing
• Learning about instruments and other cultures

liquorice assorts arranged in row

Life is a game


Each programme in Stepping Stones is designed to meet the needs of children of a particular age from 2 to 5 years and beyond. It is fun, fast moving and child-orientated.
The programme is only loosely structured and will vary depending on the group. While the children are having fun there is much learning going on.

These activities are all planned to introduce and reinforce the following concepts:
1. Beat and rhythm
2. Singing and pitch
3. Memory extension
4. Focused listening
5. Direction of sound
6. Loud/soft
7. Slow/fast
8. Long/short
9. High/low
10. Range of songs
11. Adding music to stories
12. Creative/make-believe/imagination
13. Explore: stringed instruments, keyboard instruments, wind instruments, percussion
14. Build confidence
15. Make each child feel valued

If a child has had these experiences before school they will be well on the way to a joyful life of music.

Typical Characteristics of 2 to 4 Year Olds

child looking through magnifying glass

learning through play

Children of this age can be even more confusing than 2 year-olds! Why? Because your child is now in the midst of enormous growth, physically and mentally as they take in masses of information about the world, sort and label and turn rapidly from baby into a small but fully-functioning person. Your child now has a clear picture of him/herself as individual and how he/she fits into the world around him/her.

Motor coordination, spatial awareness, problem solving and social interaction move on apace. Language development is amazing and many children of this age love playing with words.
In the next two years they will want to know about everything and thinking and memory develop accordingly.

During this time they are acquiring fine motor control – cutting, threading, drawing, fitting toys together. They are also able to use their large muscles with much greater control, marching, running, climbing, galloping, jumping, twisting and stopping more quickly. They learn to throw and catch and enjoy paying with hoops.

They are more anxious to watch and play with others and like to work in groups. They learn much by copying: parents and increasingly other children. This leads to imaginative play and they love pretending. Attention span increases and they have a love and need for repetition of favourite experiences.

The sheer enormity of change and development in the two years from 3 to 5 years is staggering. Their thirst for learning and sheer joy of life is uplifting and we need to cherish this special time.

What a lot is going on inside your miraculous child! Hardly surprising that there are some negative elements that need to be understood and coped with. Children of this age have short emotional spans. Because their skills fall behind their desires, they can easily become frustrated leading to quick tempers and even tantrums. This is normal. The easiest way to cope is to cleverly avoid confrontation. Let your child take their time. Emotions are on a short fuse but luckily things are quickly forgotten if something more interesting appears. Distraction can still work, though stubbornness can start to be a problem, even as they approach the stage of amicable 5 year-olds.

Music and the Preschooler

Young Boy Closing CD Player With Finger


Between the ages of 4 years and 6 years children undergo enormous growth, and they are ready to expand and extend their musical experiences.

This age is certainly a more comfortable age to teach (and parent!) than the volatile 3 year-old.  But they are also more demanding.  The 5 year-old is interested in everything and immensely curious.  They are not only ready for, but actively seek new challenges.  They are also more able to reason and have good control over their bodies.  They can walk on a line, run, stop suddenly, turn, twist, jump, hop and dance.  Their fine motor control is vastly better and they can hold a pencil and write.  This opens up the possibilities of a music programme enormously, and it is a great time to start group music.

At this stage many parents will want their child to start learning an instrument.  Although I have and do teach young children piano, by in large they will endure this discipline but much prefer group music where they can interact with friends and enjoy games.  Keyboard skills can be started very successfully but should be part of a range of activities.

At my home studio I have a 2-year programme which covers the preschool and Grade 1 years. The children acquire a firm music foundation which leads to primary music lessons or piano studies.

During this course, through singing and playing glockenspiel and recorder, children learn to write what they sing/play and sing/play what they write.  The course builds on Kindy Kids and the children learn through games, singing, creative activities, movement and dances.  Building on their knowledge of beat and rhythm they learn about metre.  They play and sing in rhythmic and melodic ensembles, learn to listen to each other and to music of different genres and learn a little about music of different countries and cultures.  We use lots of props, learning through hands-on.   Again I use a mixture of Kodaly, Orff and Kindermusik ideas.

children playing percussion

Exploring music

As well as being a wonderful part of life, music helps to develop higher reasoning skills.  5 year-olds are very active and enjoy plenty of movement, but are also ready for writing down and then reading rhythms and pitch.  This follows naturally on from their Kodaly singing and hand-signing.  I help children write their own music and we look briefly at some famous composers.   We even look at different genres of music such as country music and jazz.  Later I can introduce some of the wonderful computer programmes for children, including programmes for writing down their music.

Parents need to take a keen interest in any course attended and follow-up enthusiastically at home.  Children will be very ready to share what they have learned, especially games!   The variety and stimulating activities of music classes are exciting and will be happily anticipated.  Children need to be encouraged and music needs to be put high up in household importance if music is to become a life-long love.

Teaching Music to Young Children

baby at piano

Starting early

In my music studio, from time to time I stop and look at my own teaching and assess what works, what I could have done better and what makes children smile.  I know all successful teachers are constantly looking at their own performance. It is a necessary part of growing teacher skills. Sometimes I think we focus too much on what we want to teach, and neglect the how, forgetting to adapt to individual learning styles.

Children should be happy to learn.  They learn best through laughter and play.  So if children are not smiling and not enjoying their lesson, they are likely not learning much.

I know this, but I still have to keep reminding myself.

Here are some of my thoughts which I hope will start parents and teachers thinking and reassessing how they deal with children in their care. Parents are their children’s first teachers and teachers can have lasting influences on their pupils.

I am passionately interested in how and why kids learn or don’t learn, so here are some points that worry me:

1. Children have an infinite capacity to learn.  If we unlock the door by capturing their interest at just the right moment, enormous things can be achieved effortlessly.   It feels like riding a huge wave of enthusiasm as large pieces of life’s jigsaw fall into place.   But how to open that door…. Trying to push knowledge though the keyhole of a locked door is very difficult as all parents and teachers know!  Hmmm…

2. How can I unlock this door by my presentation, and generate excitement without dumbing down learning, in the hope that children might swallow smaller bites.   How we bore children – they just stop listening!  What works well in my teaching?   What bores me and therefore everyone else?   These activities can be dropped – there is always another and better way to present.

3. I am lucky to work with quite young children who by their transparency give me instant feed-back of my success.  It is wonderful when teaching through fun and laughter to watch the doors fly open as we all move forward together.  I review the moods and quirks of the children and how much there reactions reflect their own age and home life.  How can I encourage each child to be open and relaxed, so learning can take place?

happy child rolling in sand

happy child

4. I regard the building of confidence to be the key to all learning.   A confident child will take up ideas and run with them.  A confident child will be willing to try new things and take risks.  A confident child will be willing to make mistakes, learn from them and keep trying.  A confident child will be willing to laugh at themselves and encourage others.  A confident child is a future leader.  How can I encourage this growth, knowing it is all too easy to accidentally put a child down and dampen learning?

5.  Do I make children feel happy and secure?  Are they drawn to me by my warmth and understanding?  Are they happy to follow my leads and add their own ideas?  In these days of pedophilia we tend to keep children at a distance. This is understandable, but children need to feel that you care about them as an important person in order to listen to what you have to say. It can be so easy to unintentionally antagonize a child with an unguarded look, a harsh word.  It is so important to respect the dignity of each person.

6. Who will need some special help next year?  How can I make a troubled child feel especially important?

Hope this has given you fodder for your own thoughts and that we will all strive to make this a very special year for each and every one of our children.

Committing to Learning

Yesterday a small incident in my teaching day left me pondering things for quite a while. It turned my whole philosophy of teaching on its head. So I’d like to share it with you, and invite comments.

happy teenage girl

Being joyful but determined

I teach a beautiful 16 year-old  girl who plays like an angel. She really is very good, a joy to listen to and very enthusiastic. My husband had just commented on her wonderful playing and I was telling her. “Why thank you,” she said, “It wasn’t always so – I used to hate coming!” I was stunned but before I could answer she said she would like to share a secret with me. It appears that when she first started coming when she was eight, she cried and screamed before every lesson but her parents took no notice and come she did.

She had arrived from another teacher and technique was poor in every way, but I could see that she was very musical. I do remember her resistance to reading music, but was unaware of her feelings. Apparently this went on until one day when her father pretended to phone me saying she would no longer be coming to the lessons because she hated it, and then she screamed that she did want to come and the tantrums stopped.

Wow! I have another pupil who I do remember kicking and screaming in her lesson with her mother keeping her on the music stool and me very embarrassed, hoping she would give up – but no and seven years later she also is a very competent player. So I was not quite sure what to make of all this. I always feel that if a child is not enjoying playing they should not be playing, and yet here were two extreme cases which have resulted in excellent and very happy pianists.

Young girl playing piano

setting patterns

The conclusions I can draw are that playing the piano is a skill and as such requires regular practice of that skill and perseverance. These parents were cluey enough to realise that it was going to be a hard road and were happy to support and encourage that commitment, even when the going got tough, and it often does at some stage when learning the piano. Parents are the salt of the earth and I admire them greatly. These parents had held firm even when pressure was on and have been rewarded with children who now have a life-long skill which they love.

It’s tough bringing up children, and we all want our children to be happy, but committing to anything is a quality worth learning and the play-offs are enormous, far beyond learning a great skill, no mean feat. It effects character and relationships, trust and abilities and is definitely worth the learning. Committed parents make committed children and strong character. And certainly makes our job as teachers much easier.

Practice and the Beginner

Piano keys

practise means getting better and better

In these free and easy times when we love and respect our children and acknowledge their rights and feelings, it is sometimes hard to enforce the need for self-discipline in order to get homework and piano practice done. In music lessons I see many bright children who make very little progress from week to week. They have not yet realized that they should be practising their set work daily.

The need for daily practice applies to learning an instrument, a sport, a game; in fact any skill that needs to be mastered needs to be practised regularly if it is to be mastered.

Parents make two big mistakes:

1.  They don’t realize the need to practise in order to perfect a skill. Only a few become a professional footballer, or professional musician. Even just to learn an instrument for fun, a child needs to acquire some competence in order to gain much enjoyment.

2.  If the parent realizes the need for practice, they mistakenly think that children will organize their own practice – nothing could be further from the truth.

Your child should practise 20 minutes a day, 30 minutes by the time they have been learning a year. And no buts!! Children thrive on routines, they love to know that life has order, it makes them feel safe. Once a routine has been established it is as easy as brushing their teeth (and lots more fun!) You may need to help plan practice time, especially if your child seems to have finished everything in 5 minutes!

So here are some tips to help establish a practice routine:

1.  Find a set time to suit the child and the child’s age, so piano practice is not competing with a favourite television programme.

2.  Young children, even up to eight and nine will need you to take an active interest in their practice. Older children will still need you to make comments to show that you are interested, and make the whole thing have value for the child.

3.  Very young children, 4-8, will need you to be very enthusiastic and make the whole thing an enjoyable activity that you do together. Be gushy in your enthusiasm!

4.  Tape your child’s lesson so that it an be replayed and remembered later.

5.  Sing as you play together.

6.  Let an older child teach you! This will make them listen to the lesson so that they can teach and not disappoint you.

7.  Be endlessly supportive and encouraging, just how you were when your child was learning to talk.

8. Bribery works well! A sticker chart for good practice – small reward for so many stickers.

young girl excited at playing piano

I love piano!

Commit to giving your child the gift of music for life. Don’t be half-hearted. You invest a lot of money in lessons. Showing interest is the first step. Helping children organize practice is the next.