Solfege Driving

There are many ways to teach young children about music theory. For the younger child, I use colors to teach pitch, recognize notes, and enhance ear training. I like to use toys to teach a variety of musical concepts, because it engages the child, while teaching them at the same time.

carsFor this activity, I used cars to reinforce the concept of the Solfege scale. Students were given cars of a variety of colors. They were then told to play the different cars onto the notes with the same color, singing as they did so. Following this, they were told to “drive their cars” on the staff at various tempos.

cars1For this activity, we drove Adagio (slow), Moderato (medium speed), and Allegro (fast). After this, they were told to drive their cars at different speeds to different notes. For example, they would drive the yellow car “slowly” (Adagio) to Mi (the yellow note). They would also drive the light blue car rapidly (Allegro) to So (the light blue note). Doing activities like this enables children to play as they learn!



Eighth Note Fun

One activity involved learning all about eighth notes. There were five components to this activity. First, students would clap out the rhythm Titi. They were then directed to “walk” their fingers across a tabletop. The first “steps” of their fingers entailed them chanting Ta Ta Ta Ta and then finishing with Titi Titi.

ellapianoFollowing this, they were given a variety of blocks to first create one eighth note, and then two together.


emilyeight1They were then given play dough and were instructed to create two eighth notes.


ellapiano1Next, they were given a white board and were told to draw an eighth note.

ellapiano4Lastly, they played several exercises on the keyboard, aimed at helping them feel the rhythm of Titi in their fingers. They would initiate the exercise with the red note (or Do), chanting Titi as they did so, progressing up the solfege scale (playing Titi on each note), and then returning back. Providing several learning activities enables different learners (whether visual, auditory, or tactile) to grasp material more effectively.


Solfege Fine Motor Transfer

One activity that helped your little one identify pitch was a game that I call, Solfege Fine Motor Transfer.

solfegefinemotor3In this game, students used pom poms and tweezers to add “notes” to the Solfege scale. As they added the pom poms to the staff, they sung the pitch.

solfegefinemotorTo encourage musicianship, students sung and placed pom poms on a variety of musical intervals, such as Do-Mi-So and Re-Fa.

sofegefinemotor3This enabled them to both recognize and apply their understand of common musical intervals.

solfegefinemotor2We did this, first with the treble clef, and then with the bass clef.

solfegefinemotor4Following this, they played these intervals on their keyboards.


Colors of the Wind

Color and shape are two very noticeable attributes of the world around us. When you look out your window, you may not be saying it … but your mind is noticing and identifying the green trees, brown rectangle buildings, square windows, and blue sky. Color and shape are ways children observe and categorize what they see. These very recognizable characteristics encourage children to define and organize the diverse world around them. For this activity, we used rainbow ribbons, and the song Colors of the Wind (from Pocahontas) to talk about colors!

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We also looked at a variety of bug pictures to describe the variations in color among the different critters. Students first played a memory game, where they were told to memorize a variety of disappearing items of same and differing colors. They than sang a song about the color yellow. Following this, they listened to the song Colors of the Wind as they danced around the room with rainbow streamers. After that, they looked at a variety of bug pictures. Lastly, they drew a picture of a rainbow! Developmentally appropriate music activities (such as music and movement) involve the whole child-the child’s desire for language, the body’s urge to move, the brain’s attention to patterns, the ear’s lead in initiating communication, the voice’s response to sounds, as well.


Sound and Water

Sound in water and sound in air are both waves that move similarly and can be characterized the same way. Sound waves can travel through any substance, including gases (such as air), liquids (such as water), and solids (such as the seafloor).


Did you know that sound cannot exist if it doesn’t have something to travel through? For example, sound cannot travel through outer space because it is a vacuum that contains nothing to carry sound.


Even though sound waves in water and sound waves in air are basically similar, the way the sound levels in water and sound levels in air are reported is very different, and comparing sound levels in water and air must be done carefully.


When we describe a sound as loud or soft, scientists say that the sound has a high or low amplitude or intensity. Amplitude refers to the change in pressure as the sound wave passes by.


If you increase the amplitude of a sound, you are making it louder, just as you do when you turn up the volume on your radio. If you decrease the amplitude, you are making the sound softer, just as when you turn down the volume.


We wanted to see how this happens in the real world, so we did a music experiment with water, drum sticks, and metal bowls! First, we placed some metal bowls into the water table. Using drum sticks, we tapped the bowls, and talked about some of the sounds we heard.


We used words such as ping, loud, soft, echo. metallic, and thunder. Next, we added water to the water table, and placed the bowls inside. We again tapped the bowls, and talked about any differences we observed. Some students found that they sounded softer in the water, while others thought they sounded louder. For this half of the activity, we used words such as amplitude, sound waves, liquid, and air to describe what we were hearing.



Gross Motor Music (for the two year-old)

Gross motor skills are movements that help children develop large muscle control in arms, legs and the entire body. As a toddler, it is important for young children to keep exercising these muscles to enable them to run, jump, throw, climb, etc. To target this skill, your little one participated in a gross motor activity that helped them learn the notes on the piano!


For very young children, music has power and meaning that go beyond words. First, and most important, sharing music with young children is simply one more way to give joy and receive joy. Music and music experiences also support the formation of important brain connections that are being established over the first three years of life.


Because note reading is not typically introduced until the elementary school years, our class uses a color system to delineate between different notes. For example, middle C is red, D is orange, and E is yellow. Before starting the gross motor portion of our music class, your budding pianists played around with these three notes, experimenting with the different sounds that they made. They then used a bean bag that they tossed onto a piece of butcher paper. A staff, complete with notes C. D and E, were drawn, and students had to use their “big” muscles to throw the bean bag onto the correct note.


Phonemes and Music

Music allows your little learners to acquire information naturally. It does this by presenting information as parts and wholes. A song gives students a chance to reduce the information into parts yet work with it as a whole. Learning music is an important developmental activity that may help improve the ability for preschoolers to carry out spatial-temporal tasks. Research in this area has concluded that singing even produces long-term modifications in the underlying neural circuitry of the brain. Music also benefits children’s oral communication.


They learn to be attentive listeners, which is a skill that helps their phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, and overall fluency. When used in the classroom, music expands vocabulary, promotes sight words, identifies rhymes and retells stories. To help increase our understanding of the letter L, we played a musical game that required your little one to not only sing about the letter L, but recognize what it looks like, understand its function, and cooperate with their classmates with the goal of finding the L in mind.


We started with a song that included the lyrics, “Where is L, where is L? Here I am! Here I am!”. While singing this song, your little one scoured the room for hidden Ls. With the help of their classmates, they located one L, brought it to the board, and finished the second half of the song. The lyrics for this second half consist of “How are you today, L? What sound do you make, L? La la la. La la la”. Your budding vocalists enjoyed searching for their letters, and cheering their classmates on as they learned about this most exciting phoneme!

An Ensemble of Pots and Pans

Two-, three-, and four-year-old children need an environment that includes a variety of sound sources, and opportunities for free improvised playing.  An exploratory approach, using a wide range of appropriate materials, provides a rich base from which conceptual understanding can evolve in later years.


A variety of individual musical experiences are important for children at this age. As a result of their experiences with music, young children should initiate both independent and collaborative play with musical materials, and they should demonstrate curiosity about music. To continue our exploration of sound, we experimented with pots and pans.


Using rhythm sticks and pans suspended from the bars outside, we practiced making noise! As they banged happily, your budding musicians learned that sound changes. In addition to this open-ended play, Miss Carrie initiated and call and response game. Using our listening ears, we listened to Miss Carrie play to rhythmic phrase on our new instruments. We then repeated this sequence!


By doing so, students accessed a variety of developmental skills. By watching their teacher, they practiced reading visual and verbal cues. By creating their own  sounds, they experimented with cause and effect. Lastly, by collaborating, they enjoyed the social benefits of performing as a group.

Melodic Bean Bag Toss

Running, jumping, throwing, climbing, and running – and all kinds of active play – are very important for young children’s development. Young children are not only strengthening their muscles and improving their coordination when they engage in physical play; every game and physical activity is a chance to learn concepts and to practice getting along with others. To incorporate these skills into our curriculum, we looked at it’s connection to music.

20141009_110234Music involves both the large and small muscles of the body. Music also includes a cognitive component that is significant to your child’s growing critical thinking skills. Incorporating and facilitating musical development through planned opportunities for play enables your little one to integrate these gross motor skills with their budding sense of melodic awareness (the cognitive component).

20141009_110148For this activity, one child would play one of three notes (C, D or E), while a second child would listen. Once they heard that tone, they discriminated between the three different notes. After their selection was chosen, they tossed a bean bag onto a musical staff with pre-drawn notes in red, orange, and yellow.


As a result of this activity, students were able to collaborate and work on positive social skills. Through listening, they were able to access their ability to process linguistic cues and body language, as they experienced the benefits of working together toward a common goal.

Keyboards in “Kolor”

Instrumental music helps build important cognitive and motor skills which are just starting to develop in the young child. For example, left and right are concepts that are essential in life as well as the piano, and the keyboard is a fun way to demonstrate ideas like these (plus an endless array of other developmental tasks). Our piano classes are so fun, your little ones don’t even realize that they are learning!


During circle time, we incorporate a color-coded teaching method that uses color-coded notes on a traditional music staff to teach beginning piano to our students!


A color strip sits on the keys and guides the child to the correct key for each note.

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This method of teaching preschool music allows children to begin playing piano as soon as they know their colors. To acquaint your little one with the various colors and their associated fingers, we matched and inserted color-coated golf tees into a styrofoam “hand”.


This reinforced that our thumb presses the red key, our index finger presses the orange, our middle finger presses the yellow key, the ring finger presses the green key, and the pinkie presses the blue key.


Piano could, and should be the starting point of the music education beginning from the age of two years old, because the piano is considered to be the ‘king’ of all instruments.  Considering its advantages, we will continue to hone our musical skills on this most wonderful instrument.