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Wings to the Imagination


Tuesday 16 May 2017

Plato is said to have believed ‘Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.’

I love this quote and I believe that music is a powerful, enjoyable and fun way for children to experience movement, listening, playing and sounds. But, probably like many of you I have been in settings where all I wanted was headphones to block out the din made by 20 children all creating sounds of their own, that no one can hear properly, in the name of music! On the other hand, the thoughtful, considered use of music in all its forms can add immeasurably to the children’s experiences on a daily basis.

In her book Sounds like playing, Marjorie Ouvry applies the principles of early childhood education to music. On the same line, I am going to look at the four themes of Aistear in relation to music!


Well-being: soothing music, like lullabies, help make everyone feel good. It is calming, relaxing and induces well-being. The experience of hearing and watching music being played in real life, not just on devices, supports children to experience the arts.
Identity and belonging: most settings have children from different countries, cultures and traditions. Enabling all children to experience the musical traditions from these places, including Ireland, make all the communities visible and promotes respect.
Communicating: music is a key means of creative expression. As we listen to song words or music we can know how the composer was feeling. Children can express themselves creatively as they sing, respond to music and make music. Some children may even be interested in the written language of music!
Exploring and Thinking:  though music in all its forms children can explore and express themselves. They can explore how to make sounds on a tin whistle, key board or guitar. They can dance and move to different types of music…ballet, marching, hip-hop, jiving or waltzing. They can sing and hum and beat to different rhythms. They can make music of their own with percussion instruments. They can think about the type of sound comes from particular instruments or what move best matches a specific type of music.


So, making this happen! Look around the play space, inside or outside, are there children humming, singing, talking about music? Do you have a music area, where children can explore sounds and music and maybe listen to CD’s or music on a tablet?

Is music playing constantly? If so, it is likely that no one is ‘really’ listening to it. Make music more intentional.

Engage with children in small groups, music is not a large group activity! In the baby room, for example, put on a CD, draw the babies’ attention to it. Watch how they respond: do they sway, smile, clap hands? With a small group of toddlers again put on some music…watch their response… how do they move, do they move fast if the rhythm is quick, do they move slowly if it is ballet music? Children over 3 can be introduced in a similar way, maybe asking them what the music sounds like, how does it make them feel, how do they want to move to the music? Sheet music can be introduced so children see what music looks like written down.

Do educators in your setting play an instrument? Do parents play? Invite them to bring their instrument to the setting. Suggest they just start playing and watch the reaction of the children, whatever age. The children will be curious, let them touch the instrument, let them see how it makes sounds. Enable them to explore and feel it. Encourage families to share they music they listen to or play at home. This exposes all children to music from different cultures and traditions and makes all children visible in the setting. Use the names of the instruments, composers, singers and genres.

Music should not be confined to indoors: go outside! Make music and sound exploration areas. This can be done with recycled materials.

Early Childhood Ireland was involved with the Tiny Voices music initiative a few years ago. This was a music project with preschool children. The report of the project is here, along with some of the music from the initiative. I particularly love the song Beautiful Rain!

How do you use music in your setting? We would love to share your thoughts, ideas and photos!

1 comments Comments

One Response

  1. Naomi King says:

    A lovely read! I have just completed a dissertation on the impact of music on children’s holistic development. While it was completed on a small scale, the findings were very interesting!
    Sadly, one of the greatest obstacles for practitioners in implementing music more in to the curriculum, is lack of confidence, due to lack of training. Coming from varied educational backgrounds across various pedagogical apporaches, almost all of the participants said that very little weight was given to music throughout their training. This really is a hugely missed opportunity for practitioners, particularly now, when they are upskilling their qualifications. Music supports all areas of children’s development, and as you also explained, it hits every aspect of what we try to achieve in the Aistear curriculum – so why is it still, barely addressed in training. I hope this changes sooner rather than later.

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