Music in Nursery

June 28, 2004 | 12 comments
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Music has charms to soothe the savage breast,
to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak

Congreve

We have a very orderly nursery in our ward, as a rule. It even perpetuates itself. A new child comes in, sees everyone else following the rules and the routine, cries for a bit and then settles in. But in the last couple of weeks we lost some regulars and had a big influx of new children. The barbarians are overwhelming our social institutions!

We’ve tried playing some background music to calm the kids down during playtime, puzzle time, lesson time, and snack time. To date we’ve just used primary tunes and its too soon to say whether its made any difference. Has anyone had any good experiences with playing any particular kinds of music to calm children in nursery, or before going to sacrament meeting, or elsewhere?

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12 Responses to Music in Nursery

  1. Kaimi on June 28, 2004 at 11:30 am

    Adam,

    In my experience (which was in a very transient ward with lots of imcomings and outgoings), most primary songs are too advanced for nursery kids. They will just sit there and stare at you as you sing Popcorn to them.

    We used a variety of more participatory games. Where is Thumbkin was very popular. Also, Five Fat Sausages Sizzling in a Pan. And, “Here is the Church, Here is the Steeple.” When they need more energy expended, a few good games of Ring-Around-the-Rosy. We did often do Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam, with little suns on sticks — the kids liked those, and they were supposed to wave them in the air on the word Beam. It was never quite that simple, but it was usually a pretty fun chaotic mess.

  2. BTD Greg on June 28, 2004 at 11:50 am

    Hmm. I always thought it was “soothe the savage beast.” Shows what I know.

  3. Adam Greenwood on June 28, 2004 at 12:09 pm

    Thanks for the tips, Kaimi. Do you any experience with playing music in the background while kids are doing something else?

  4. Julie in Austin on June 28, 2004 at 12:21 pm

    This doesn’t exactly address the music issue, but–a good friend of mine is in private practice in early childhood issues and she said the biggest problem with nurseries is that the kids (who generally have a hard enough time making transitions) enter a loud room with 9,000 choices (i.e., toys all over the place). She said a calm room with one choice (a snack on the table, or playdoh, or a story being read–but only one thing!) is a much calmer way to start.

    Good luck.

  5. cooper on June 28, 2004 at 12:28 pm

    I have wide success with several unruly children by playing Mike Rowland’s “The Fairy Ring”. It is very soothing and can be great background music. Be careful though. It seems to have the opposite effect on older women. There have been reports in my circle of putting it on after a stress filled day and being reduced to a puddle of tears.

  6. Kaimi on June 28, 2004 at 12:33 pm

    Adam,

    Just that the CD of primary songs that the church issues — sung by those nasal-voiced tykes — has no calming effect whatsoever on real world children.

  7. Adam Greenwood on June 28, 2004 at 12:33 pm

    Good point, Julie.
    Instead of playtime first (with toys strewn out all over) we’ve switched to puzzle time first, where everyone sits at a seat and works on a puzzle and we’re having better results.

  8. Kaimi on June 28, 2004 at 12:49 pm

    Adam,

    We also had great success with room-switching. Play in the play room, then file gently down the hall to singing time in the singing room, then back to the play room — now cleaned up and toys put away — for snack time.

  9. Kingsley on June 28, 2004 at 9:02 pm

    Whatever music Indians use to calm cobras. I can see you, Adam, stripped to the waist & wearing a turban, your fingers dancing lightly over your flute as all the children stare at you like Kaa staring at Mowgli in Disney’s The Jungle Book.

  10. Adam Greenwood on June 29, 2004 at 12:04 am

    A white turban, of course.

    And no beard!

  11. Kristine on June 29, 2004 at 8:58 am

    Adam, this is based on no actual research of any kind (my status as some kind of music expert around here is utterly undeserved!), but my sense is that there’s no such thing as “background music” for little kids–they’re either paying attention to music, or doing something else. Also, I think recorded music often fails to connect with kids; they’ll prefer mommy’s bad live singing to Julianne Baird’s lovely recorded voice every time. If you or somebody in your ward can play an instrument (not piano–too many notes), you’ll likely get more effect.

    In my kids’ school, where my children and others are as calm as I’ve ever seen toddlers be, they use singing for transitions: instead of announcing that it’s snack time, the teacher just starts singing a song as she sets the snack out, when it’s time to go outside, she starts singing a different song as she puts on her coat, etc. The key seems to be that it’s the SAME song matched with the same activity in the same order every day. Boring for grownups, but it works for the kids.

    And I heartily second Kaimi’s suggestion of finger games. They’re magic. The old “Activity Songs and Verses” supplement to Sing With Me (published in the late 70s, but probably still floating around your ward library or music closet) has some good ones and some churchy ones.

  12. Adam Greenwood on June 29, 2004 at 5:27 pm

    Well, that’s two witnesses: I guess we’re going to have to try finger games.
    We already do the transition songs and it works like a charm.

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