Music with Twos
By Kitti Pecka, Head Teacher
Music touches our lives in unique ways, a process that is particularly evident with two-year-olds. Many of the children in Twos come to school knowing numerous melodies, lyrics, and dance movements. We begin in this familiar realm to involve them in music with their new friends in a new environment. Recognizing familiar tunes spurs the children to participate on different levels and helps them adjust to the group. But singing is only one aspect of their involvement. Some children move while they sing, others emphasize the beat with body parts or instruments, and some make up songs and hum or sing as they work or play
Teachers introduce new songs, instruments, and movements at formal group times and more spontaneous events throughout the day. Increasing their repertoire, children develop a group culture of songs and dances that they share. We try to expose them to the traditional songs of our culture that they will continue to use in the future, but we listen to their interests to choose songs and recorded music unique to the character of the group. At the end of the first quarter, all the families received a book of these songs to enjoy together. In return, some parents contributed songs from their own languages and cultures. Of course, many songs are familiar across cultures: melodies such as Frere Jacques and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star have been significant to children through the centuries and have been passed down through many generations.
One reason to sing the songs of one’s own culture to children is that they have special meaning. Don Campbell, author of The Mozart Effect, observes that “information embedded in emotional context seems to stimulate neural circuitry more powerfully.” The rhythm and language of music transmits a vocabulary well before speech. When the children in Twos form a bond with teachers, this emotional content is also important.
In the Tuesday-Thursday PM class, a child had been reluctant in his speech, but when his favorite teachers Quan and Angelica sang “Slippery Fish” with him, he not only learned much of the new vocabulary but sang the song in perfect pitch and with appropriate inflection and rhythm.
In Frames of Mind, Howard Gardner notes that music is one of the earliest intelligences to emerge. Nurturing this intelligence in infancy by singing to children and playing excellent music prepares their brains for making music. Mimicking the sounds a baby makes and then elaborating with simple tone changes encourages the child to sing more and increases the musical bond between parent and child. Soon children begin patterned movement to music or beat in any form. Their bodies move rhythmically and sounds can accompany these movements. These activities require complex brain connections that help form the corpus callosum, the connection between the right and left brain.
Music is based on intervals of sound that have been systematized in Western and Eastern cultures according to mathematical patterns. These patterns are introduced to the baby in the womb and later interact with the development of mathematical and spatial intelligences. Each child acquires musical responses differently and at an individual rate, but the development is undoubtedly influenced by encouragement and exposure.
My own experience with two-year-olds convinces me that music fosters communication, collaboration, and self-expression — the most important aspects of two-year-old learning. Before they can speak, they can sing. Before they can share, they form a chorus and a dance troupe. Before they can play an instrument methodically or master technique, they can sing their own song and dance their own dance accompanied by joyful, rhythmic percussion. Together we sing and dance in joy and sharing in the Twos room. Join us!