Whether your child attends a Montessori school or you’re just interested in implementing the Montessori method in your own household, you may wonder what you can do to expand your child’s sensory world.
While much discussion of the Montessori method centers around the tactile sensory activities that tend to be popular with preschool-, kindergarten-, and early elementary-aged students, from magnetic sand to water play, activities that challenge the aural senses can also be invaluable in inspiring your child to move beyond his or her comfort zone.
Read on to learn more about five music-based activities that can help your child develop a lifelong love of music and rhythm patterns.
#1: Introduce Classical Music at an Early Age
The myriad benefits of early exposure to classical music aren’t limited to Montessori teachings; however, many Montessori schools do use classical music as background noise when introducing new concepts like walking on a taped line or sounding out letters.
Indeed, while it may seem counterintuitive to adults who find themselves unable to work without turning off any musical distractions, listening to classical music while attempting to master new skills can actually improve focus and concentration.
Reading stories to a background of quiet classical music can help babies and toddlers gain more from the written (and spoken) word.
Because children’s brains and thought processes are so malleable at this young age, many believe that coupling classical music with non-music-based activities like reading or working on motor skills can also help them better multitask later in life.
#2: Using Rhythm Instruments During Circle Time
The proliferation of brightly colored xylophones, tambourines, and maracas in just about every toy aisle is a sure sign that today’s children aren’t lacking in the availability of age-appropriate rhythm instruments.
However, when employed during “circle time” at a Montessori school, these rhythm instruments can take on a new role, allowing students to work together to create a unique sound all their own.
You can reproduce this experience at home by buying (or making) your own rhythm section and having a number of different rhythm instruments available for your child’s play.
These don’t need to be traditional instruments, and for the creatively-inspired, the sky is the limit: anything from an empty bottle filled with a few rattling beads to two thick pencils being rapped together like drumsticks can help provide the base rhythm you need to begin making music with your child.
#3: Encourage Spontaneous Dancing
Your child’s baby and toddler years may be the last time you’ll be able to uninhibitedly dance in public without hearing your child’s embarrassed groans, so you’ll want to take full advantage of this opportunity while you can.
In addition to providing you with the chance to “shake it like a salt shaker,” encouraging your child to make up his or her own dance moves to various songs and melodies can build confidence, strengthen the all-important core muscles, and help you create some priceless memories.
You may want to invest in a few “world beat” CDs or mp3s to expose your child to an even wider variety of rhythms and instrument sounds.
Once your child gets a bit older, you can move toward some more structured dances, like folk dances, line dances, or even more formal ballroom dances. Seeing the dance patterns unfold in time to music can add some extra depth to your child’s musical experience.
#4: Use Music Boxes to Teach Tempo
Using a hand-cranked music box can not only help your child improve his or her pincer grip, but it can allow him or her to experiment with different tempos for the same song. You and your child may want to dance or step along to the music, moving in slow motion as the music box winds down and then quickly running or jumping as the music speeds up.
This can help your child conceptualize the relationships between slow and fast beats, and using a single song to illustrate this concept can allow your child to see firsthand the differences in tone and mood created by slow and fast versions of the same notes.
#5: Incorporate Signing Into Your Music Time
Signing words can be one of the first expressions of language, with many babies learning to sign words like “milk,” “more,” and “play” before they’re even able to sit independently. For younger children, using signs to underscore spoken (and sung) words will help build their vocabulary while creating a multi-sensory approach to music learning.
Older children can brush up on their sign language skills with more complex songs or even make up their own signs for different words and phrases, giving you some insight into their thought processes as they explain why they’ve chosen a set of motions to express a certain concept.
Seeing the world through a musician’s eyes can provide a unique and invaluable perspective. By making music fun and exposing your child to a variety of different sounds and musical sensations at an early age, you should be able to inspire a lifelong love of music.