This past summer, the Fayetteville Free Library (FFL) offered several new early literacy programs targeted at improving family health and nutrition. Perhaps the most popular of these were our “Music and Movement” programs for infants through preschoolers. We know that music and movement are important at every stage of a child’s development, and can be made applicable for children who are at different stages. We were especially interested in creating new ways to engage families with babies and toddlers, and this series provided a fun, dynamic way to do that. In fact, libraries are well positioned to provide access to music and movement opportunities for children. As children’s librarians we already sing, clap, and engage in dramatic play through action rhymes in our storytimes. And while there might be other businesses that offer these types of programs, we found that they are often expensive and cost prohibitive to some families. I don’t claim to be a music educator, but I do think that, as librarians, we can instill in children a love of music in much the same way that we encourage a love of reading.
So why is it important to offer a music and movement program? Research shows that “movement education is basic physical education that emphasizes fundamental motor skills and concepts such as body and spatial awareness, but that it is also a philosophy of physical education in that it is success-oriented, child-centered, and non-competitive” (Pica, emphasis mine). We also know that childhood obesity rates in American are at an all time high. Music and movement programs not only aid a child’s physical development, they help children “feel good about their movement abilities, [thus] they are more likely to make physical activity part of their lives” (Pica). An active lifestyle is essential for a child’s overall physical fitness and health.
Benefits to Movement
- There are many obvious physical benefits to movement, including cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition.
- Children need 60 minutes of play with moderate to vigorous activity every day to grow up to a healthy weight (letsmove.gov).
- Movement also has social and emotional benefits, as it helps children unleash creativity through physical expression like dance. Certain games and activities can also teach them cooperation and help them work together with peers and adults.
- Finally, movement also helps children develop cognitively; “studies have proven that they especially acquire knowledge experientially–through play, experimentation, exploration, and discovery. Though a developmentally appropriate movement program, instructors can help nurture the bodily/kinesthetic intelligence possessed in varying degrees, by all children” (Pica).
Benefits of Music
- Music is vital to the development of language and listening skills. We know from Every Child Read to Read that singing is an important early literacy practice, and is a key way children learn about language.
- Music’s melody and rhythmic patterns help develop memory, which is why it’s easier to remember song lyrics than prose text. This is why we learn our ABC’s in a song.
- Music engages the brain, stimulating neural pathways that are associated with higher forms of intelligence such as empathy and mathematics. (National Association for Music Education)
- Music and language arts both consist of symbols and ideas; when the two are used in combination, abstract concepts become more concrete and are therefore easier for children to grasp. (National Association for Music Education)
Hopefully, now you’re convinced and wondering how to implement a Music and Movement program of your own. Chances are you already have most of the ingredients! I used a combination of acapella singing and children’s CDs for the music. I then broke the 30-45 minute program down into different activities and skills, for example, exploring up and down/ stretching and jumping; clapping and rhythm; clapping/singing and tempo; etc. Many of the songs and rhymes I used to correspond to these activities are familiar and beloved: “Pop Goes the Weasel” for jumping, “If You’re Happy and You Know It” for clapping, “Row Your Boat” for rhythm. For each song we sang as a group, I also played a song from the CDs. Other favorites included stop and go, or statue games. Children dance and move until the music stops and then have to freeze in place! Playing “statue” develops listening skills and helps children distinguish between sound and silence. It also helps them practice self control, starting, and stopping. “Stop and Go” by Greg & Steve and “Bodies 1-2-3” by Peter & Ellen Allard are perfect songs for this activity, but you can really use any song and then manually stop the music unexpectedly!
In the second half of the program, we explore an instrument. Shakers and bells are perfect for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, and rhythm sticks are fun for older groups. There are tons of great shaking songs, including “Shake Your Sillies Out” by Raffi, “Shake, Rattle & Rock” by Greg & Steve, “Shaky, Shaky” by the Wiggles. “Frere Jacques” is a classic if you’re using bells. If you can’t afford a large set of instruments, you can also make your own and explore the sounds of common household items. I sometimes intersperse this half of the program with movement activities like jumping jacks and toe touches. Finally, we end with the parachute activities. We bought a 12’ parachute for $25-30 and a smaller 6’ one for use with the babies and toddlers. Not only are the parachutes endlessly entertain to children of all ages, they have a myriad of uses and promote teamwork and coordination. If you have bean bags, small balls, or a beach ball to add, even better.
Our Music and Movement Program at the Fayetteville Free Library was wildly successful with 40-50 attendees at each session. It was the perfect way for us to reach families with young children of all ages and support family health and an active lifestyle at the same time. Do you offer a music and movement program at your library? Tell us about it in the comments!
Resources for Music and Movement Education
- Pica, R., & Pica, R. (2010). Experiences in movement & music: Birth to age 8. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
- Early Childhood Music and Movement Association
- National Association for Music Education
(Photos courtesy guest blogger)
Stephanie Prato is a member of the ALSC Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee. She is the Director of Play to Learn Services at the Fayetteville Free Library in NY. If you have any questions, email her at email@example.com.