Teachers have noticed it’s harder to get / hold younger children's attention. "What do you do to hold their attention?" they ask. The main point is the children being inquired about are much younger than the age teachers used to work with. Parents put children (who haven’t learned how to sit still yet – and shouldn’t be expected to) into programs. Often there are situations they aren’t ready for. Teaching to this group is different than teaching to children who are 4. And, teaching to a 5 yr old is different than teaching to a 4 yr old. Each group has a different attention span and needs a different plan.
A toddler has just learned to move and likes it. Then, he’s in a situation where he’s expected to sit still. How is that supposed to happen? Use songs that help teach how to sit still and pay attention. Some won’t be doing exactly what you ask, but they’re listening. Toddlers love fingerplays and songs where they move their fingers. “My Fingers Are Startingto Wiggle” is a song by Carole Stephens - Macaroni Soup. (She's fun!) My song, “"Shake it! Shake it!", is a song that teaches focus on body parts and control. This age group also loves any kind of freeze dance because they get to work on that moving and stopping they love so much! Here is a link to infant/toddler CDs.
When I teach the Music with Mar. program in preschools, I only go to their classrooms for 15 minutes. The ability of a 1, 2 or 3 year old to sit in circle time is minimal. One or two songs is what they can be expected to sit for. Some will argue they work with 2-year-olds and it’s possible. Yes. It is, but it's a lot of work and not necessarily age appropriate. Rather than a special person appearing to teach 'music', the classroom teacher / caregiver should integrate music into what they are already doing. My philosophy is “You aren't teaching music; you are using music to teach.”
When you work with this age, be sure to mix up. Use a lot of props (books, puppets, instruments and their own bodies). Move first, then sit. Get them back up. Sit them back down for a quiet song. I love Miss Jackie’s “The Touch Game”. It's great for focusing them and settling them. Click on her link for volumes of information about working with Infant/Toddlers.
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"Learn Every Day: Infant / Toddler Curriculum" by Kaplan. (Oh, and, I did the music for this program. Such fun!)
Those little sponges hear everything you say. They’re just moving and processing. Some leave the circle and walk off. Yet, still sing what you are singing. What’s important than them 'listening' to you is that you’re there, exposing them to activities that help them learn. Let go of the music teacher you are with older children. What you do here is just as meaningful, just on another level. They probably aren't going to do it the way you planned it anyway. (That's why they’re called 'lesson plans'.) What they know is, you’re there, paying attention. That's what’s important. Remember, children spell love T I M E
Keep it simple. Watch their faces and sing, sing, sing!
Sometimes music is the only thing that brings a smile to a child’s lips.
Please visit this page for daily brain facts about music.
Founder of Music with Mar., Inc.