Friday, June 5, 2015

10 Needs Your Nursery Kids May Not Have Discussed With You


The tiny ones need music, too!
Nursery-aged kids are fantastic!  Okay, I do have a two year-old of my own, so maybe I'm biased, but there's something special about sharing music with a tiny person who can barely talk.  

Just over a year ago, I learned how to take my Nursery music up a notch when I attended a workshop by Sharla, over at TeachingPrimaryMusic.com.  Our goal shouldn't just be teaching songs.  We can help with the children's overall development as we sing with them.  Here are some of the principles I've learned, both from Sharla and from my own time with the little-bitties:


1.    Nursery children need routine.


This is a pretty established principle with this age of child, but how do you apply it to music time?  Plan a regular time slot during Nursery, and plan a regular gathering song and closing song for music time.  My favorite gathering song is "Here We Are Together" (p.261), so I can sing all the children's names.  Whatever you choose is fine and dandy, as long as it's consistent from week to week.  A familiar song helps the children know what to expect.  (See also this page on lds.org, under "Gathering Activities.")

2.    Nursery children need a home base.


Children this age cannot be expected to form a circle, or to hand you their instruments and then return to their previous spot without some kind of external help.  My favorite help is the carpet square.  The square becomes the home base.  "Bring me your sand blocks, and then go sit on your square!"  That, they can do.  

3.    Nursery children need to interact with every song.  


Please, please, never have your Nursery children just sitting still, listening to you sing.  They need to march, or watch a puppet, or hold a prop.  For every song.  Always.

4.    Nursery children need repetition.


All of us learn songs through repetition, but this age especially needs a ton.  As in, sing a song until you get sick of it!  I use the exact same lesson plan for Nursery music every week for a full month.  Then, I change it up the following month.  The children won't get bored.  Rather, they'll derive comfort from the familiar.


5.    Nursery children need music with a fast tempo.


This idea was wholly new to me when Sharla presented it.  As I've put it into practice, however, I've found the principle to be true.  Little children's hearts beat faster than adults', and they like to do everything faster.  So, speed it up!

6.    Nursery children need purposeful movement to a steady beat.


Keeping the beat is so much more than just having fun with music.

"The
 frontal
 lobe 
of
 the 
brain,
 so
 important 
in 
controlling 
impulses
 and 
making
 responsible
 decisions, 
is 
developed
 through 
movement 
to
 a 
steady
 beat.
" (ToTeachaChildaSong.com) 
Invite the children to keep the beat along with you.  If they prefer to simply observe, they will still be learning as they watch your movements.  

7.    Nursery children need stop vs. go.


Unexpected stops and gos in music help the children practice self-control.  Have you ever shrieked at a toddler to stop when he was running into the road?  Plan freezes and pauses into your songs and movements, and he'll be better able to stop in non-music situations, too. 

8.    Nursery children need high vs. low.


Children this age are developing their inner voice.  Choosing songs that highlight the difference between high and low notes assists the children in being able to follow a tune as they get older.

9.  Nursery children need to feel the Spirit.


Don't underestimate the ability of these tiny ones to feel the Holy Spirit.  My youngest son requests "I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus" (p. 78) more than any other song.  So sing fun songs, yes, but also include songs that testify!  The children will feel the difference, and they will be drawn to it.

And finally...


10.  Nursery children need to be accepted at their age level.


They are not big kids yet.  They have a huge capacity to learn, but you have to meet them at their stage of development.  Help them have fun with the music, and you'll find that it's fun for you, too. :)


Happy singing!

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