Setting up a music class for young children can be a daunting endeavour if you’re not used to working with the smallest of our students. Keeping in mind some needs of the developing child will give you a framework within which you can give our little ones an enjoyable start to their musical journey.
Young children need to get up and move! Using this as a tool rather than an obstacle will help you plan your class and keep things running smoothly. Plan to alternate sitting (circle time) and moving, quiet time then active time. This will keep their attention and engage them in each activity. Don’t spend too long on each part, remember you will have a span of weeks to get to where you want to be with them.
Be flexible as well. It’s wise to overplan your agenda in case something doesn’t go as well as you wish. That gives you the option of moving on to something else quickly in order to keep their attention. It might take 2 or 3 lessons to settle into a selection of material that is working for your group. There may be 1 or 2 songs or activities that you put aside, whether it’s because you have too much material or something isn’t working as well as you would like.
Here is an outline of how you could plan your class. Routine is important for the little ones, so try to keep to your plan week by week.
We are fortunate to have a gathering drum in our class. The kids enjoy rolling it out to start the class and we gather around it to explore loud/soft and fast/slow with our hands. Then we will sing a hello song while keeping the beat on the drum with our hands. These are easy to find and it’s also easy to write one yourself. Here is little one I wrote that you can use.
I like to add a song that includes their names. If you want to introduce the drum mallets, you can invent a game where the mallets passes to each child as you sing their name. You can continue with a weather song or any other general song you would like.
After 2 or 3 gathering songs, you will want to do some activities that involve movement. You can sing a song, keeping the beat to a drum while the kids move. Change the movement from walking (slow) running (fast) stomp (loud) tiptoe (soft) galloping (6/8 rhythm), etc. Another possibility is to do free movement to music. Here is a list of ideas for music and movement
Introduce your young students to small percussion instruments, e.g., hand drums, bells, woodblock, finger cymbals, etc. Make sure that you have a variety of wood, metal and skin (drum) sounds. Keep it to one instrument per week with all children playing the same one. That will keep them focused and not wanting to have the other child’s instrument. The same blog above, for ideas on music and movement, has some ideas for instrument play. Have them play it loud/soft, fast/slow. Sing a song or play some music where they can keep a steady beat. A game where they can get up and walk to the beat with their instrument is also a good way to let them move again.
End your class with 1 or 2 songs just for fun. Play guitar, ukulele or piano along with them to keep some variety, do some songs with actions or a singing game. Finish with a goodbye song.
Above all, have fun, keep positive and encourage them every step along. We love to cheer each other on with a happy, “Bravo!” for each accomplishment, no matter how small!