All kids love to sing, and music is incredibly important for youngsters. In fact, (according to Gardner and his theory on multiple intelligences) musical intelligence is the first to develop in young children. Edwin Gordon an important figure in the world of music research and education has identified that even infants are able to take in, discriminate, react, and create musical sounds. It is part of creation and expression for little ones, and part of their brain development. On top of this we have all heard the research: children and teens who are in music programs have better grades and higher IQs statistically.
Aside from all of this, music in the preschool classroom can be used in many ways. It can be used for quiet time and nap time. It can be used to keep the atmosphere calm in the room. It can be used as a gross motor activity, a transition activity, a cultural enrichment activity, an opportunity for creation and experimentation, or as just an opportunity for fun.
Since my original college track was in music education, I thought it would be a good time to offer some suggestions for music in your room.
1. Use music with words and without words. While children obviously connect to music with words more quickly than instrumental music or music without words, music without words ensures that children are listening to the music not just the words, which is better for their musical development. When listening to instrumental music children may start to notice harmonies and musical textures that they would not notice when listening to music with words; it is the early stages of "ear building."
This being said, I am not discouraging singing with words, since this is enjoyable and adheres to their insides. :-)
2. Sing and play a variety of music. Present them with music that is fast and slow, major, minor, and even modal. Play music in different time signatures, and different keys, with different rhythmic patterns. Their musical brain, just like the rest of their brain, is a little sponge that takes in and starts to process all of those different things. As Bev Bos, Lisa Murphy, and a hundred other early childhood experts say: children need a variety of experiences to attach words to. We give them hundreds of art, sensory, science, play, motor experiences and more, so why wouldn't we want to give them just as many musical experiences.
3. Sing WITH them. A tape does not take the place of a human voice and the experience of community that comes with creating music with a group of people. They also will learn a lot more from you than a tape, and singing with them SHOWS them that they, like you, should embrace their inner musicality, let it out, and sing! (and dance and play instruments!) Another note: do NOT sing low. Children's voices are not developed to speak (let alone sing) very low and it is not fun for anyone to growl songs. I cannot tell you how hard it is for me to walk past a room where they are singing "good morning preschool friends, how are you?" to "are you happy and you know it" in a key so low that none of the children can match pitch; all I want to do is walk in and take over their singing and first of all sing the real song, because it is more fun, and secondly sing in a key that is kid friendly so that the kids can fully participate! This is not to say you have to sing incredibly high. Somewhere in the middle is perfectly suitable. In general you should not sing much lower than a middle C with preschoolers; For those of you who don't know what a middle C is, just observe how your class is singing. MOST children can match pitch, even infants are capable of matching pitch, believe it or not, in the right range; if most of the children seem like they are growling or aren't matching the notes that you are singing, chances are you are singing too low, and should try singing a little higher.
Lastly I will leave you with a couple song suggestions for singing and playing that perhaps you haven't thought of before.
5 songs to sing:
1. Here we go loopty loo
2. Wickitaw do ya. There's a recording below. We walk around in the circle for the Wickitaw part and then starting at ahshatanayah (I have no idea how to spell it) we rush into the center of the circle and back out. They love this.
3. My name is flow by Shari Lewis: (you have to skip to 1:20 on this clip to hear the song I am mentioning)
4. L is for the way you look at me: An old love song, but they love it
5. Deep and Wide: based on an old spiritual. After singing it the first time leave of the word deep and sing mmm instead, the next time leave out wide, the next time fountain, and then flowing, until you are singing "mmm and mmm, mmm and mmm there's a mmm mmm mmmm mmmm mmm and mmmmm." They think it's hilarious.
Songs to play (instrumental only)
1. Barber's Adagio for Stings
2. Dave Brubeck's Take Five
3. Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue
4. Bizet's Carmen Overature
5. Bernestein's Dance at the gym from Westside Story