“When I hear, I forget; when I see, I remember; when I do, I understand!”
Child’s Play Music’s programs are all about “doing”. Because they are totally hands-on and play-based our incursions ensure that children will understand, deeply and fundamentally.
The evidence that young children learn best by hands-on play is overwhelming, and both the Curriculum Framework and the Early Years Learning Framework support play as the natural way that children learn in the early years. Our incursions directly address the learning outcomes of both Frameworks.
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In our incursions children learn about music and musical instruments through hands on play. The direct music learning outcomes are clear and obvious.
Through play and exploration of the instruments children learn or extend their understanding:
- that there are many instruments that they can play
- that each instrument has its own unique sound and timbres
- that different instruments have different playing techniques
- that many instruments can be played more than one way
- that some instruments are primarily rhythmic, while others are primarily melodic
- that most rhythmic instruments are primarily un-tuned but have a pitched component (high or low)
- that melodic instruments are bass or treble instruments with a characteristic pitch range.
- that melodic instruments can play tunes or scales
- that instruments can be played loudly or softly, fast or slow, or high and low
- that music is pattern-based and structured
- that music can be both a solo and a group experience
By participating in the orchestral activities children learn or extend their understanding:
- the concepts “orchestra”, “conductor” and “baton”
- that the conductor controls the orchestra’s playing by using the baton
- that the orchestra responds to the conductor’s directions to:
- start and stop
- play loud or soft (forte & piano)
- play fast or slow (allegro & adagio)
- get gradually louder and softer (crescendo & diminuendo)
- and they learn these musical terms (actual activities & terms learned vary with the age and year of the children)
- they learn to play music cooperatively as an orchestra, focusing not just on their own playing but on the conductor’s directions and the other players in the orchestra
But there are many other learning outcomes that are not so immediately obvious.
First, and most importantly, children learn attitudes to music. Children learn:
- that playing music is something they can do
- that playing music is fun
- that playing music is easy
- that playing music is exciting
- that playing music is intrinsically rewarding
Secondly, children are spontaneously creating music as they improvise in play, and they rapidly generate ideas and evaluate their own playing and compositions. Most children start with simple and free improvisation; it tends to be wild and uninhibited. But very quickly they begin more systematic experimentation; they slow down and start exploring rhythm, pattern and melody. This is the power of free play at work; children are able to critique their own performance without fear of judgement and external evaluation.
Thirdly, children respond to the other children’s music. Even 3 year olds are very aware of what is being played by children nearby and they respond to it by changing tempo and rhythm to match. Older children are far more conscious of this, and they imitate each other’s play and tend to consciously structure their own and other’s play. The design of the instruments is a big factor in this: many are specifically meant to be played by more than one child at a time and this encourages cooperation and shared play.
Fourthly, the opportunity to explore through free play means that children can rapidly develop and explore different playing techniques and home in on the ones that work best for them. Because there are so few rules or restrictions placed on the children they work things out for themselves. It’s not uncommon to see a child try five different ways of holding a banjo in the space of 30 seconds, or to see a child try first one drum stick, then two, then a 4 or more in each hand! Yet in the end most children end up holding the banjo in one of two ways, and most children go back to a pair of drum sticks. They’ve explored the options and learned which ones work best.
And the learning outcomes extend far beyond music and the arts.
Music is intrinsically pattern-based and the connection to mathematics and spatial reasoning is clear. When children explore the instruments they instinctively experiment with sequencing and order; they pick out simple patterns and repeat them, reverse them and elaborate upon them. Many children will experiment with scales, frequently counting through the successive notes, as can be seen in the videos.