Song, Rhyme & Playtime - An early years music project based at Bideford Bay Children's Centre
Song Rhyme & Playtime is a project I have just finished delivering for Devon-based folk and community arts organisation Wren Music. The project was based at Bideford Bay Children’s Centre and worked with children under five and families in the Bideford area.
I set up the project after becoming involved with the children’s centre as a mum with a new baby and attending the children’s centre sessions. I liked the way that the sessions differed from other toddler groups because they always finished with structured singing which brought a closing focus to the groups and encouraged parents to sing with their children.
After talking to the staff and professionals, and also the parent’s forum, it became clear that the Bideford area has issues around the early development of children, particularly to do with language and communication and the children's centre staff felt that a music project would help them to look at some of these issues in a different way.
We put together a project proposal that would bring music and song into the sessions just as another play activity, like playing with cars or play-dough! The focus was partly on encouraging children and parents to try out musical instruments and “join the band” and also to develop new songs that were relevant to the children, ideally with word substitution so that they could be used to introduce new words. The project also involved training sessions for the children’s centre staff and volunteers which we also opened this up to interested parents and other early years workers in the area.
Over the two years we have really seen an increase in engagement from families in the sessions and it has been lovely to watch children become confident with trying different musical instruments and exploring their own voices. We have created some new songs - ‘The Dinosaur Song’ (based on Rock Around the Clock) has become a particular hit! - and introduced several songs from other Wren Music projects that have now found their way into the children’s centre repertoire alongside the more traditional nursery rhymes.
The training sessions with centre staff have been particularly successful with reports of “spontaneous outbursts of singing” through the building and the centre manager intending to make singing a regular part of the staff team meetings! Centre staff have adapted some of the new songs introduced to make them relevant to their play sessions and the families that they work with.
Other outcomes have been more specific to individuals who have taken part in the project. One family we have worked with has started to use the singing warm-ups to help their child through his daily physio routine. Other families have reported that they have noticed their children’s concentration increasing and there have been lots of reports of children singing the new songs at home and teaching them to the rest of the family.
The children’s centre is now keen to develop this project further and look at other ways they can promote and support singing and music-making within other early years settings in Bideford - I will keep you posted!