We can at last feel it – summer is just around the corner! I have a suitcase of clothing in the language corner of our classroom and I was finally able to retire the rainboots and rainclothes for this year, and replace them with the swimmers, sunhat, tshirt, flip flops and swimming arm bands. #signsofsummer
After all these years of writing blog posts, I don’t think I have ever written about the music area of the classroom. I have to confess to not being naturally talented in the music area. Fortunately babies, toddlers and preschoolers are such enthusiastic participants and without judgement, that I have never felt shy playing music, dancing and singing with them.
Montessori and music
Music can touch us in a way that nothing else can. No better gift can we give to the children than to open this door for them.”
– Dr Montessori
Music is so rich in terms of history, culture and the effect it can have on our minds and body. There is almost nothing sweeter than seeing a baby starting to rock its body or move its arms when you sing together.
Music and the absorbent mind
The young child has an absorbent mind and has the ability to easily absorb and take things in from their environment. We’ve talked before about providing a rich environment for the child – a beautiful and engaging home environment, rich language spoken around them – and this includes exposure to music.
In the same way as it is important to be in a language environment to learn spoken language, we can create and provide a musical environment for children where they absorb the words of songs, the rhythms, and the appreciation for playing musical instruments.”
– Judi Orion, Montessori trainer
Some examples of musical instruments in our classroom
Just as other materials in the classroom, we value beauty and quality in the instruments we provide. I remember buying a wooden xylophone for my son when he was a baby. And the sound of the xylophone was terrible – no difference in tone, just a clunky sound no matter which note you hit. So I eventually replaced it with a metallic xylophone and the sound was much more beautiful.
We are lucky to have now inherited in our classroom an instrument that is like a cross between a xylophone and chime bars (see below) – I’m informed it is a 10-tone block metallophone. The sound is just magical ✨.
Here is a selection of musical instruments in my classroom at Jacaranda Tree Montessori.
- Tone Block
- Rain stick
- Melissa & Doug Instrument Puzzle (with sound)
- 10-tone block metallophone
- Tapping sticks
- Scarves – used for dancing, movement and 101 other things the children create
* if you use these links, a small amount of the proceeds goes to Jacaranda Tree Montessori at no cost to you :)
How should I show my child how to play the instruments?
I find that I don’t need to give many formal presentations of the musical instruments in our classroom. The instruments I have chosen are intuitive to play, the children learn from watching the others, and I don’t want to be too prescriptive in how a child makes music.
However, it can be useful to show them how to make the sound of a guiro, rubbing the stick along the ridges, or how to hold a triangle so that it can vibrate more easily.
Sometimes I sing along as the child plays an instrument. However, my favourite moments are when I copy the child’s movements, we play the same rhythm, we stop at the same time, we start playing again together, we smile.
After all, playing music is a creative expression without rules.
Just as the child must have a desire to speak to learn spoken language1, we must foster in the child that music is a way of expressing feelings and thoughts inside us – a way of communicating – and support their musical expressions.”
– Judi Orion, Montessori trainer
How should I display instruments in my home?
I’ve seen musical instruments be displayed in various ways. In our class, I have a shelf dedicated to music with a basket or tray for each instrument including any beater that may be needed. I generally have out instruments that are played in different ways, for example something you can shake, eg, maraccas; something you can strike, eg, a drum or triangle etc.
You could have a variety of instruments in a large basket or a table with a variety of musical instruments.
In a Montessori class, we like the child to have long uninterrupted work periods where the child is free to choose what they work on and can reach deep concentration rather than being disturbed for group activities throughout the session.
In our class, we use a short singing time to end our session together. I hum “come and make a circle” and we begin to pack away for singing time. I never force a child to join and they are welcome to observe from the side, or continue to keep playing quietly. They will still be absorbing the songs.
I choose a lot of action songs and sing very slowly so the children have time to follow along. We also repeat the same songs for a few weeks so they have time to master them too.
Every other week we use tapping sticks where each child has a pair of tapping sticks and we tap our sticks in various ways along to the songs. You could present other instruments – if you had 8 children you may then need 8 of the instrument, or ideally one musical instrument for each child. If not, you could also take turns and pass the instrument around.
Music in utero
It is now well-known the effects of playing music to a baby in utero.
Amongst other benefits, in Montessori we talk about points of reference once the baby is born. Music played in utero can be one of these points of reference as a new baby comes to orient themselves in the “outside” world.
The baby in utero can also have an auditory and physical memory of a state of relaxation inside their mother, if their mother relaxes when playing, listening to or singing music.
What kind of music should we play with our child?
Any kind of music can be played for a baby in utero and after birth to give the child a broad base of music. It may be best not to play just rock or strong, violent rhythms but include classical music, baroque classical music and the music of your culture/s.
What about playing background music?
In my Montessori training, the trainer recommended not having background music on all the time. It was recommended that it would be better to have a time for listening to music – then you and your child actively focus on the music being played, there are moments of silence and quiet during the day, and the child’s brain does not need to filter it away if they are concentrating on something else.
I’m not dogmatic about these things so if you like having music on from time to time as background, please continue to do so. Perhaps you may choose to take some breaks now and then.
You could also include a CD or music player where the child can put on some music to listen. This is something I would like to introduce one day in our classroom. You can even have a dancing mat which you could roll out to dance on while listening to music.
All this talk about music, makes me want to get up and move. Have a fun time making music, singing and dancing with your child.