January, Also Known As “Square One”

This post doesn’t have a picture to illustrate it. That’s because when I looked up “preschoolers fighting” or “preschoolers angry” or “preschoolers not listening to you” all I found were photos of attractive child models who were looking cute-angry. Actual preschoolers don’t look that cute when they’re  hitting somebody or lying on the floor, very ostentatiously ignoring you. So you’ll have to imagine the picture. But if you’ve been teaching preschool the last two days, that shouldn’t be too hard.

January is like September lite. The children seem to have forgotten all the rules and all the routines. Most of all, they’ve forgotten how to cooperate with the teacher and with each other.

Music activities can really help with all this. Why? Because singing, dancing and playing instruments together as a group helps children to bond again, to enjoy being part of a classroom. Music activities also promote social skills like listening, taking turns, and respecting others’ ideas, as well as their physical space.

Any activity in which children keep the beat of rhythmic recorded music (I’ve been using Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” this week) with rhythm instruments involves something called entrainment, in which they adjust and attune their movements to the rhythm of the music and to the movements of the people around them. Entrainment has actually been found to promote empathy and understanding.

Activities involving children “rowing” together in a circle, holding hands, (using “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” or other boat songs) will get them moving and acting as one to accomplish something (in this case, rowing a boat) and increase social bonding. Those large stretchy bands are wonderful for toddlers, who might not be up to holding hands for several minutes at a time but are delighted by the stretchy, colorful fabric. There are several available at West Music.

And don’t forget to dance! It’s social, a release for “indoor-day” extra energy, and it’s fun. Some of my students’ favorites are “Dance with Me (Baila Conmigo) by Greg and Steve, “Twist” by Patty Shukla, and “Get Ready to Wiggle” by (of course) The Wiggles. Make time for dancing every day – it’s been shown in several studies to relieve children’s stress and help them feel happier. (It’s good for us teachers too!)

Music helps with just about everything, but especially with unsocial, all-about-me behavior. It leads both children and grownups to the it’s-all-about-us place.



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