Tot Tunes

Tot_TunesOne of the things that the Music Group has become aware of is that many churches struggle to find good musical ways for working with children. Therefore when we organised our national music event last year we invited some people to give workshops which demonstrated current good practice in a secular context. We hope that this can inspire those working with children to find out a bit more about these methods and resources and then explore how to apply them in churches. The rest of the post brings together material from a workshop given by Mairi Munro, a Kodaly instructor in primary schools who is based in the North-East of Scotland and previously worked for the Wild Goose Resource Group. The session was about how she approaches working with children under five and their parents or carers. At the bottom of the article you can find the handout as well as recordings of the workshop which are well worth a listen as it was great fun for all involved!

Tot Tunes is a baby and toddler music programme which began in 2006 because it seemed important to offer a music making experience for young children and their parents. The classes would last about 45 minutes each with twelve children in each class. The inspiration was a combination of a lack of musical activities for young children in the town where I lived and at the same time becoming aware of the principles of music education espoused by the Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály. Kodály was also an educator, philosopher and an avid collector of Hungarian folk music. He had a vision of a musically literate society at a time when people had lost their passion for their own folk music and he wanted to reinvigorate the practice of singing in local villages. He felt that music should be taught from a very early stage, that singing was the basis of music education and that singing activities should be appropriate to the age of the child. Above all it should be manageable and achievable and it should be fun! He advocated that all music making should first of all happen unconsciously through singing games. These games contain musical concepts which can then be made conscious and practiced.

Human beings are innately musical, despite what has been said to some people in the past by educational practitioners or unkind family members. Babies respond to music in the womb, young children imitate the songs and rhymes they hear and the positive impact music making can have on children in the early years is well documented. Singing games and rhymes are an excellent way to nurture this musicality in young children as well as an invaluable vehicle for developing the whole child - motor skills, social skills, turn taking, listening and focussing, pre-reading skills (literacy) and building numeracy. The interactive element can enhance the bonding experience between parent/carer and child and help build emotional security and empathy - the latter being increasingly recognised as important in assisting cognitive learning later on. When music making with the under fives, it can be helpful to hold in mind some simple musical concepts (such as pulse, tempo, rhythm, pitch and dynamics) which young children can first of all experience unconsciously, then later develop an understanding of. Those who lead musical activities can embody these within singing games and rhymes in a very intentional, yet fun way.