During my music classes, I find it nearly impossible to skip the routine turn-taking activities. I know I’ve strummed the guitar a bit too long when I start to see little eyes wandering! Of course these introductory sing-alongs are the staple of any music class – they have an immediate appeal and are crucial to the class routine. But no matter how enamored a child is when they hear those chords on guitar, their little attention spans are ready to explore the next thing after about 3 – 4 consecutive songs.
As children approach two, it seems they are eagerly awaiting opportunities to test their social skills (and observe others). My class involves many turn-taking opportunities, as I found this is where I see toddlers feeling most proud and engaged with others. There are activities that we do, which require each child to wait as others take turns in the spotlight. For example, “Where is [child’s name]” is sung while each child hides behind one of our scarves. We also take turns learning the C major scale on the piano, one itty-bitty finger at a time.
These are the things that are most readily remembered week after week (and garner the most excitement). These activities are an opportunity for children to observe other kids as they try out new skills. With the social support of the group, I’ve seen children gain confidence through a new found bravery from trying new things. They also feel a sense of accomplishment. These communal experiences are in line with the social needs of toddlers. I find it enriching to the social fabric of the class, as each child is encouraged to take risks and express themselves.
Here are just a few of the songs and activities we do in class:
“Old McDonald” – We spend time in between repetitions, naming farm animals and their sounds. I try to encourage the little ones to participate during class through our familiar song collection. Many children are shy at this age, but are surely paying attention and learning from the ballsy ones! I’ve also observed how quickly a child warms up over the weeks.
“Ba Ba Black Sheep” with a variety colors – A favorite among so many toddlers!
Warm ups with fun sounds and movement – We explore our vocal chords together, using motions and body language to emphasize the difference between high and low notes. We also get our rhythm going by patting our bellies and clapping.
“4 Little Monkeys” – Of course we can’t get away with a class without doing “5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” (because its pretty much everyone’s favorite). But, “4 Little Monkeys” is also awesome – maybe anything with monkeys is fun! This one involves swinging arms and an alligator that inches toward each child during the repetitions.
“5 Little Firemen” with rhythm sticks – This is a new one that has become one of my favorites. Each round adds a “Whoosh!”, and there is a lot of steady repetition, with dynamic pauses, making it a great rhythm exercise for toddlers.
“Row, Row, Row Your Boat” with turns – We do this one in the form of a round sometimes, but the most popular version with the kiddies is the one where a scary animal comes! They love it (we all get to yelp). The tots love taking turns on my lap while we row with the sticks.
There are many more songs that we do and instruments that we play. As I’ve mentioned before, these classes are great for any age. I find that it is best for children 0-2 years old, especially if you’re signing up for multiple weeks. Toddlers are very focused on routines and repetition, whereas a 3 or 4 year old may get a little tired of the same old thing. That said, we’ve had some older children stop by for the day who had a great time! So we really do welcome all ages, especially for drop-ins. Babies do equally as well as toddlers. They are always very happy to have the lively stimulation and weeks to perfect sitting skills, new sounds, and internalizing rhythm and language.
For older children (3-5 years), we are currently gathering interest and names so that we can put together a class for older children (which would involve instrument making, song improvisation, and more technical concepts).
If you haven’t tried out a class, you’re welcome to contact us to set up a time when you can drop in to a class for free. If you’re looking to sign up, our August music classes are just about done (one more week!). September classes will begin on the 16th, and will take place mornings at 9am and 10am. Currently, we are offering Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays (classes will be held based on demand). Keep an eye out for Saturday classes as well! Follow Philly Music Babies on Facebook for class updates and Saturday class announcements. We happen to have a Saturday class on the 30th this month at 10am. You can also find Phillymusicbabe on twitter or text me, Coco, to check class statuses the day of (in case you plan to drop-in).
Happy Singing to you!