Toddler Homeschool: Music Week

J and I focused on all things music a couple weeks ago, and it was so much fun! J has a natural inclination toward music (although I think that most preschoolers do in some way); A month or so ago we started Musikgarten classes once a week, and I have seen such a transformation in J. First of all, his language (which was on-par for his age, but I felt had room for improvement) has exploded since we started Musikgarten - J started talking in two- to three-word sentences, whined less, and expressed himself verbally to us more often. In the class itself, he has shown great self-regulation and control; he listens to the instructions; and stays on task. Music clearly is a language that speaks to him.

And Music Week was born out of this interest that J has shown in music! We did a lot of things that you would probably imagine could be done while studying music, but I'll still share them here.

Books:
Music Everywhere!, by Maya Ajimera, Elise Hofer Derstine, and Cynthia Pon
Animal Music, by Harriet Ziefert
The First Music, by Dylan Pritchett
Snow Music, by Lynne Rae Perkins 
Window Music, by Anastasia Suen
Music Is..., by Brandon Stosuy


J's book picks from this week are Snow Music and Music Is... In fact, we still have Snow Music because J loves it so much and didn't want to return it to the library yet. My husband will disagree that Snow Music is all that great, but it does have some really good elements of what nature sounds like (although to make it more interesting I improvised a bit, i.e. the sound of the snow plow). 

Music Is... is definitely a winner in my opinion. It's geared toward young children (it's a board book, in fact!) and has really wonderful illustrations (done by Amy Martin). It showcases different instruments and different musical/technical terms (hello hi-fi!). I didn't mind reading this one over and over because it was very visually interesting and appealing.

A book that we were not able to check out was Carnival of the Animals by Jack Prelutsky and Camille Saint-Saens. If you're like me, you recognize that title from grade school music class, where you likely were introduced to the classical music that made this title famous. We may revisit this with this book at some point, because the music is a great addition to the book, adding visuals of animals (which provides another slew of activities!).

There weren't a ton of actual activities that we did; this week was more focused on making instrument, and and experiencing sound in many different ways. So this post will focus more on the instruments you can make/listen to, and how you can incorporate music into your toddler's life and create an environment that celebrates music and sound in different forms.

Instruments:
Guitars

Materials:

  • Shoe box
  • Cool Whip container 
  • Tissue box
  • Rubber bands
  • Dowel rods

These are so easy to make, and we even tried making three different ones and testing which sounds were the best. We made guitars out of: a shoe box, a plastic Cool Whip container, and a tissue box. I cut holes in the tops of the shoe and Cool Whip container, and the tissue box already had one, so I didn't need to do anything! Then, we took rubber bands and wrapped them around each container. To help with the sound, we used dowel rods to raise the rubber bands near the hole. Each made a different sound! The best "guitar" we created was probably the tissue box. The sound was the clearest, and we could actually strum it without problems.












Shakers

Materials:

  • Toilet paper roll
  • Construction paper
  • Tape
  • Empty spice container 
  • Beans

We made shakers out of toilet paper rolls as well as empty spice containers. What I liked was that each container made the shaker have a unique sound. With the toilet paper roll, I took construction paper and taped it to one end, placed some beans inside, then covered the other opening. With the spice container, we simply filled it with some lentils (and luckily J couldn't figure out how to open it when we were playing with it, so no lentils escaped!).

Rain Stick

Materials:

  • Plastic container
  • Packing peanuts
  • Rice 
  • Beans
We didn't have a chance to make this yet, as we don't currently have any packing peanuts, but I look forward to when we can! Simply fill up a plastic container (such as a bottle) with packing peanuts, rice, and beans. When you turn it side to side, the beans and rice will fall through the packing peanuts, making a cool sound. Jack's Musikgarten teacher gave us this idea!


Drum

Materials:

  • Empty container, such as an oatmeal or whipped topping container
I think this is pretty self-explanatory! You can pretty much make a drum out of anything hollow. You can cut the bottoms out of the containers, or leave them; either way, they are fun for toddlers to bang and hit!

Along with making instruments, I gathered together and made a discovery basket with the following instruments:
small guitar, harmonica, wooden flute/recorder. My mom also recently had given me an old small music box that plays the theme song to Sesame Street, and I included that as well, because inside the box (which you can see on ours), you can see how winding it makes it work; inside is a thumb piano, which is engaged when the cylinder with different bumps moves across it. J enjoyed watching this as well, but was disappointed that we couldn't stop it at will and had to let it run its course!

In addition to the books and instruments, I created picture cards of 12 different instruments, and labeled them. I placed them in a basket on J's bookshelf for him to explore at his leisure. It wasn't until we had moved on to our following theme that I realized J was actually paying attention when we looked at the different picture cards; in a book we were reading, there was a picture of three people playing instruments, and he pointed to each instrument (piano and bass) and told me what it was (excepting for a trumpet, which he simply made a trumpet sound!).

Along with all these activities, I often put on engaging children's music where we would have to "act out" what was being sung. Great songs we listened to and sang (many of which are classics we all learned as kids):
  • The Wheels on the Bus
  • Hokey Pokey
  • Open Shut them (this is a great one, we listened Hap Palmer's version)
  • The Green Grass Grows All Around (Jewel has a great version on her children's songs album)
  • Row Row Row Your Boat
  • Are you Sleeping?
All-in-all, music is a great way to help toddlers to focus on what you're doing, and also calms children down considerably. Just incorporating more music into our daily routines has helped immensely with J, and I've seen fewer tantrums since we've incorporated it into our days.

Forgive the bad pun, but Music Week was a big "hit"! I hope you have as much fun with Music Week as we did!