We live in an increasingly noisy and busy world, with endless visual stimuli and plenty of opportunities for sensory overload. It is understandable that expectations of an early childhood music class might include lots of instruments and class sets of all kinds of big, busy and brightly coloured props. Consequently, we are sometimes asked why we don’t incorporate more “stuff” into our classes.
This is a conscious decision which is made for some really important reasons.
Firstly, we avoid the over-use of props, particularly with the youngest children and especially in our initial lessons, because for some children it is already stimulating and overwhelming enough for them having a stranger in the room singing songs with them. Props are often a distraction from engaging in quality music making together, and can detract from the rich learning experiences and interactions that happen in our classes. Sometimes props can even be used really disrespectfully – we would never wave a feather duster in a baby’s face or shake noisy instruments right up close to their ears. We are careful and respectful in everything we do.
Secondly, a reason the majority of the music in our classes is simply live, unaccompanied singing is that our fundamental philosophy is that the voice should be the first and primary instrument used in early childhood music education. Every child has a voice, and they all know how to use their voice in some way or another. Physiologically, the only instrument children are ready to use in any meaningful way at this level is their voice. This is also why we ensure our teachers are exceptional singers who can provide a perfect vocal model for the children.
With that said, our teachers use a variety of props, including puppets, felt board stories, picture cards, bubbles and a range of percussion instruments. Through our classes we gradually introduce the children to a range of percussion instruments (triangles, drums, maracas, egg shakers, castanets, claves) as the program – and their relationship with their music teacher – progresses.
And the props we DO use are exceptional. We use instruments that make a beautiful sound, puppets that are wonderful to touch, look at and interact with and quality children’s literature. When we use recorded music, it is carefully and sensitively selected Art Music and Indigenous Music that is paired with beautiful poetry, thoughtful movement and active, engaged listening.
Part of our aim at Hush Little Baby is to make the world a better place, one child at a time. One way we can do this is by providing moments of peace, gentleness and thoughtfulness in our classes. We are so lucky to have the opportunity to do this with thousands of young children every week, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for entrusting us with their music education.