Is music dying a death in Early Years? It certainly seems to have done so further up in school and often appears to be something only accessible through after school clubs and private lessons. It feels like music is slowly slipping out of Early Years too now that the agenda of ‘school readiness’ has taken its grip. There seems to be little time to pursue music and dance with all its joy and movement and song. Instead we find ourselves slogging reading, writing and mathematics. We succumb to the expectations of school-ification. Musicality gets pushed out to the fringes and I can say this because to my shame, its exactly what can sometime happen in my own setting in spite of good intentions.
It’s a huge shame because after all, with its inherent rhyme and rhythm, pattern and repetition, music has such a significant connection to literacy and communication skills. I keep coming back to the idea that all writing, reading and mathematics is about ‘message’ - the notion that it should be personal and purposeful with an intended audience who may respond - and this could also very easily be applied to music too.
Music is message. I can’t think of any instance in which it isn’t. It is writing and it is mathematics and arguably the most personal type of message you could hope to find. Music comes from the soul - it is an ephemeral expression of something deep from inside the psyche and it’s power is that it can literally move the listener and transport them. Arguably there can be no purer form of the imagination than music, this rich blend of instrument and voice, of ‘language’. And ‘language’ is why it’s so vital to children. Music is enrapturing and has such a huge potential for children to lose themselves within or to connect with one another. It is expressive and free.
Yet this freedom is music’s curse. Because it offers freedom, it offers threat. It doesn’t ‘fit in’ to the adult world perspective of ‘learning’. If an adult walks into a setting, how might they perceive children engaging in dance or in musicality? Most would dismiss it. It might be fun but is there ‘learning’? Engagement in music and dance isn’t about order or system or grading or analysis or book scrutiny or learning walk or anything adult world. It is primal. It is an outpouring of the magic that we as adults have left behind long ago. So mentally we attempt to shut it down. We discourage. We put the instruments in the basket and back in the store cupboard - too noisy, too wild, too out of control. In seeing music in this way, we are showing ourselves to still be living with the hangover of 19th century views of children - seen but not heard, to be silenced, to be controlled.
Our image of the child is critical. Do we really want our children to be unable to express their joy? Do we really want the ‘quiet life’? Do we really want to shut music down or steer it into the cold, joyless adult version during carpet time singing the same song about a teddy that not one child in the circle actually gives a care about? Shouldn’t music be part of play instead? Shouldn’t it be integral to our day? Should it not be wild?
Let’s get the instruments out of the cupboard. Let’s sing and dance together, sometimes allowing ourselves to be led by the children, at other times modelling skills and vocabulary and all the time doing so without an eye on the clock or an impulse to go and write with Red group? Maybe, no, not maybe - definitely it’s time to listen to the music both inside ourselves and the children and let it roar...
Can I Go Play Now..? is committed to widening the understanding of the magic of children's play as an educational tool. Child-centred, play-based learning is where it's truly at....