Planning spaces and resources for children's music play

  • by Anonymous (not verified)

    Wednesday, 16 September, 2015 - 16:02

Making opportunities for children’s musical play, with and without adults, needs to be specifically and carefully planned. Sometimes, planning is limited to making a box or trolley of mixed instruments accessible to children at all times. Thoughtful planning includes:
•  thinking carefully about which instruments or sound makers will add value to the session
•  thinking carefully about how the instruments are displayed and set out
•  having an adult interacting with the children
•  sometimes using a separate room or area if possible
•  linking it to previous observation and documentation
•  linking to more structured activity rooted in previous experiences
Carefully thought out music environments can stimulate and inspire music making.  Changing environments both subtly and more fundamentally can change how children behave musically and interact with each other.  For example, putting instruments on a low table instead of the floor can encourage children to move more freely in their musical play. Sometimes, your planning may solely focus on planning a music environment – a place where musical things might happen.
Little people do not necessarily mean little instruments!  Some toy instruments have no engaging sound quality. We would not give children pens that did not work to draw or write with – the same applies for musical instruments. Children will of course make music with all sorts of everyday items and instruments are not always essential to music sessions. However, it is essential that instruments work, make sounds that will interest and engage the children, and are presented attractively to the children.
Click on the dots for information on how to create a stimulating environment for children's musical play

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Making opportunities for children’s musical play, with and without adults, needs to be specifically and carefully planned. Sometimes, planning is limited to making a box or trolley of mixed instruments accessible to children at all times. Thoughtful planning includes:
•  thinking carefully about which instruments or sound makers will add value to the session
•  thinking carefully about how the instruments are displayed and set out
•  having an adult interacting with the children
•  sometimes using a separate room or area if possible
•  linking it to previous observation and documentation
•  linking to more structured activity rooted in previous experiences
Carefully thought out music environments can stimulate and inspire music making.  Changing environments both subtly and more fundamentally can change how children behave musically and interact with each other.  For example, putting instruments on a low table instead of the floor can encourage children to move more freely in their musical play. Sometimes, your planning may solely focus on planning a music environment – a place where musical things might happen.
Little people do not necessarily mean little instruments!  Some toy instruments have no engaging sound quality. We would not give children pens that did not work to draw or write with – the same applies for musical instruments. Children will of course make music with all sorts of everyday items and instruments are not always essential to music sessions. However, it is essential that instruments work, make sounds that will interest and engage the children, and are presented attractively to the children.
Click on the dots for information on how to create a stimulating environment for children's musical play


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Nurseries (permanent, purpose-built environments)

A nursery is likely to be divided into different areas (sometimes but not always separated by walls): an art area which might double as a place for sand and water play; a construction area with large blocks; a role play area with a play house and dressing up clothes; a quiet area for books, reading, puzzles and games; a technology area with a white board and computers; an outside area; and, a place for mark-making and early writing.     

Thinking about creating an enabling music environment in the nursery...

  • Where will the music activity take place?  Is it an area that the children currently access frequently?
  • Will the sound of music activity disturb others and other activity?
  • Would you like some instruments to be more accessible than others? How will you manage this?
  • Would you like the children to be able to move as well as make music? If so, putting instruments on a table or low rise may encourage children to move freely as they play the instruments.
  • When are the instruments and other sound-makers accessible to the children?
  • Are the instruments presented attractively to the children?
  • In the area where music activity takes place, is there room for the children to move and dance?
  • Are there resources for the children to dance with such as ribbons and scarves?
  • If the activity involves sitting on the floor with the children ¬– is it clean and comfortable?
  • Is there a quiet place for children to listen to music CDs of a diverse range of styles and cultures or their own musical creations on headphones? For example, a comfortable corner under the stairs with a rug and cushions.
  • How could the outside area be used to support children’s musical learning and experiences?  For example: outdoor instruments; sound-makers hung from a fence or washing line; a garden with plants chosen for their sounds.
  • Is there a space for more focused small group music activity without other distractions?  This could be anywhere from a specially designed music space to a spare small room inside or out.

Documentation

Documentation from previous sessions is available for staff and children to look through providing continuity.

Baskets

Using baskets to contain smaller instruments such as bells and shakers allows for simple transportation to the ‘music block’ and prevents the instruments becoming scattered.  .

Doors

Being next to a door to the outside isn’t ideal but it does mean that the music area is very visible to the children.

Felt beaters

Good quality felt beaters are a must. These are stored in a pot and can be moved easily.

Shelving

Simple attractive shelving with sections allows the instruments to presented in different groups. The instruments are easy to access for the children and easy to tidy away

Effective Storage

Have a place, near to the music area, which is inaccessible to the children for storing instruments. Instruments can be stored here if you want to limit which instruments are being used, those which require extra adult supervision and those which are more fragile.

Drums and other more fragile musical instruments are visible to the children and can be requested. Adults can chose what to have in the musical space depending on the number of children in the space, which other instruments are out, and the individual interests of the children.

Shared space

The music area shares the room with the art studio

Defining areas

The carpeted block creates a defined area to put the musical instruments on. The carpeted surface means that instruments don’t bang on the surface. Children can stand, kneel or bring chairs over to sit on to play the instruments.

Base areas

This area is a base area for a key group. Once the screen is moved the space is a great place for dancing and for extending musical activity.

Chairs

The children like to sit on chairs to play and encourages them to spend more time in the music area.

Laying out instruments

The instruments are set out attractively with clear ‘places’ for children to stand or sit. The set up encourages the children to make music as a group. The xylo and metellaphone bars are simple to rearrange into different size groups depending on how many children are the music area.

Robust instruments

Just as we would provide children with quality pens and paper the same consideration needs to go into musical instruments. An initial investment in quality robust musical instruments is a good idea. Though some instruments are expensive others (like eggs) are very cheap. Using the right beaters will help to preserve the life of instruments. Quality instruments will encourage quality music-making.

Quality beaters

Quality beaters are fundamental to making the acoustic environment work. They may be expensive but they are fairly durable. The quality of the beater effects the quality of the sounds the children makes. If you beaters out the children will use them on everything so think carefully before putting drums and beaters out at the same time.

Range of sounds

The musical instruments offered here have a range of different sounds, are made from different materials and different ways of playing (stroking, tapping, shaking). Some are pitched and some not.

Range of instruments

Children frequently create patterns and sequences of sounds using different instruments. The range of instruments here offers them opportunities to create sequences.

Children playing together

Sets of similar musical instruments set out opposite each other encourage the children play together  - taking turns, joining in with each other, comparing and matching each others musical

Spare equipment

Children like to use two beaters as their musical ideas are physical ones to involving both arms. Having spare beaters allows new children to join in.

Other thoughts on instruments

• Sometimes limiting the number of instruments will encourage deeper exploration.
• Setting up an environment with sets of similar instruments allows for children to compare, imitate and share ideas
• Changing which instruments are available to the children will avoid over familiarity.
• Children also enjoy exploring blown instruments. You could use Kazoos or Bontempi have some fun toy wind/brass instruments.

Stay and Plays (temporary, shared, multi-purpose environments)

Stay and Plays or other informal early years groups mostly take place in school halls, church halls and community centres. These places often have multiple uses so storage space is minimal and equipment must be taken out for each session and put away at the end of each session. At best, there will be a notice board where children’s artwork and photos can be displayed. Nearly always work-in-progress will not be able to be left out from session to session. Different activities will be set up around the room –  water play, a craft activity, soft play, bikes and an area with cushions and rugs. Some Stay and Plays will have instruments though these are often toy instruments.  Some will have access to an outside area, some will not. More recently, Stay and Plays have been set up as part of children’s centres and have excellent facilities.

Comfort

There comfortable cushions for the children to sit on and mark out the music space.

Displaying instruments

Some instruments are invitingly displayed in baskets.

Comfort

The floor is clean and warm

Setting up interesting areas

This set-up makes a big feature of music. It is still able to sit alongside other activity in the space. It would be easy to create a smaller set-up using similar ideas.

Delineate space

Rugs and fabric are used to put the instruments on and again delineate the music space.

Range

There is a range of different instruments with different sound qualities, materials, ways of playing and cultures

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