Music education is one area that I feel like we have really slacked in over the years. It was always hard for me to stay consistent, even though I knew in my head how important it was. It was just difficult to keep it up and stay motivated, especially with a lack of materials and a lack of much knowledge on my part.
Which is why I’m really, really excited about this Kickstarter campaign from Teaching-Children-Music.com.
She has taken the Doman philosophy (which is, in a nutshell: you can teach a tiny child absolutely anything that you can present to him in an honest, factual, and joyous way), along with her degree in vocal performance and years of teaching piano lessons to children, and created a lot of fantastic music resources that make music theory fun and accessible to young children.
All of the materials of hers that I have tried are great. They are well-made, fun, and easy to understand – for both the parent and the child.
In the near future she plans to start an inexpensive, membership-based website where she will be working on making more of these great materials, plus many more, full time. Tutorials, videos, games, activities, lessons, and so on, that are accessible for toddlers to big kids.
For her music theory materials, for example, the stated goal is “to make advanced, college-level theory accessible to children.” How cool is that? And I know she can do it and do it well.
I’m really looking forward to the site. It will be kind of like paying a few dollars a month for a music teacher for your kids, except the one being taught is you so that you can teach your kids in fun, creative ways with high-quality activities based on solid theory. That sounds like a pretty good deal!
I hope if you have any interest in teaching your child music, whether they are a two-year-old or a ten-year-old, that you will go check out and support the Kickstarter campaign. You can currently get two fantastic music programs (Beginning Rhythm and The Solfege Train) AND a 6-month membership to the upcoming website for just a $30 pledge. That is an incredible deal that you won’t want to miss.
Reviewing Sample Materials
Here is a sample of some of the great types of materials that you can expect, which you can currently download here for free. My kids had a lot of fun with these and we are looking forward to trying out even more:
This rhythm sorting game was Damien’s (age 3) favorite, which he has asked to play again and again.
I thought it was really clever: sort the notes from “biggest” (whole note, which is four counts) to “smallest” (eighth note, which is a half count) to match the biggest to smallest animals.
This can be used as a reusable matching game or a cut and paste activity. I thought the appeal for toddlers and preschoolers was great!
Another great game that taught notes and their value was the Egyptian Rhythm Pyramid.
The pyramid showed the “levels” of the notes: the first level had eighth notes (eight of them), the second level had quarter notes (four of them), the third level had half notes (two of them), and then at the very top was the singular whole note.
This was a big hit with both boys, especially Hunter (age 9). It is a great visual to understanding the values of the notes and their relationship to one another.
Next we tried out the nursery rhyme rhythm activity. There were several different options for play.
Matching game: The first option, as seen in the above picture, was a matching game / puzzle. There were four cards with different notes representing the four measures of the song, which you would match to the correct location on a song sheet.
This was a pretty simple visual-discrimination activity for my puzzle-loving three-year-old. We also clapped to the beat, talking about the count value of each note, as well as singing the words.
Blank matching game: The same as the game above, except the spaces were blank, so a child (who is has been learning music notation and rhythm) would have to figure out where each card goes on his own.
Fill in the blank: A child who has been learning music notation and rhythm can use the blank sheet to write in the notes with either regular notes or “stick notation” (as seen in this video).
The nursery rhyme pictured, Ring Around the Rosies, is free with the ebook, but the paid product (Beginning Rhythm), which is currently available as part of the kickstarter campaign and will be available in the member’s section once the site launches, included quite a few other nursery rhymes in several different time signatures.
Next we played the “Rainbow Castle” game which is a bit like Candy Land, only much more educational.
My three-year-old ADORES Candy Land (and my nine-year-old loves playing it with him), so naturally the Rainbow Castle game was a big hit.
The game is pretty simple: mix up the playing cards and put them in a pile face down. Take turns drawing the cards and move your game piece (we used flat marbles) to the color you drew. If there’s none of that color left on the first row you get to travel up the rainbow to the next row. If you’re on the second row and there is none of that color left, you get to go to the castle and win the game.
Now, the educational aspect is this:
- Teaching your child the solfege names as he draws a card: “Oh look, you got a ‘DO’.” when he draws a red.
- Learning & reinforcing the solfege locations on a keyboard (the game board is colored like a piano keyboard).
- Becoming familiar with reading music on the grand scale (each card has a written note).
- Sight reading (advanced play): as a child learns to read music, you can trim off the colored border so that there is only the written note left. Then, they have to read the note and determine which color to move to.
The next activity was a fun solfege singing activity.
The rhythm blocks contained eight differently shaped block-sections to illustrate all of the possible note combinations for a 4/4 time signature piece (song with four counts in each measure).
For example, the simple whole note (four counts) which was four blocks high, or a dotted half note (three counts) with a quarter note (one count) following, or a half note (two counts) followed by two quarter notes.
These are a great visual as you clap or sing (in solfege) along while touching each part of the block. You can see a video demonstration here.
I also printed out a second copy of these, and cut them into individual blocks, because my three-year-old wanted to built “stairs” and “buildings”:
This provided a great opportunity to talk about how many counts each note was worth and see equivalents!
Another fun game / teaching material was the bingo cards.
They can be used in SO many different ways!
- Bingo: clap (or play with an instrument) the rhythms, and then the child puts marble on the rhythm that was played until they have five in a row. You can also trim these to make smaller cards (i.e. 3×3 or 4×4) for easier play.
- Clap or play to the beat: child can clap or play to the beat a single row, or more rows as they become more advanced.
- Rhythm solfege: say the rhythms by their rhythm solfege names (i.e. “ta” “ta-ah” “ti” – see here) and play bingo this way.
Besides the games, there were a lot of great materials, such as this “ear training board”.
A simple grand staff, you can laminate it and use dry erase markers with it, or you can use manipulatives such as the pictured flat marbles I used.
You can help your child practice ear training by playing or singing a note, or saying a solfeggi name, and having them mark that note on their board.
Another really cool material was this chord wheel.
You can see a video here of how it works. I haven’t done much in the way of teaching my kids chords yet, but Hunter had fun spinning this wheel and playing the different chords. It was also really cool to see the “pattern”.
Next, these piano inserts, which are great for younger kids. I used to have colored stickers on my piano keyboard keys, but I took them off since they got so dingy and gross looking.
I don’t know why I didn’t think of doing something like this, with a colored insert that you can just rest directly behind the keys. It doesn’t damage the instrument and stays nice-looking since you don’t have fingers pressing on them constantly!
The ebook also included some samples of simple sheet music that was color-coded (to go along with the color-coded key inserts) to make it easier for very young kids to play.
I love the quality of this sheet music and would love to see more of it once the membership website is up!
Lastly, the ebook has these oversized music notation flash cards. There are 25 cards in total, covering all the basic notes on the grand staff.
This size cards is great especially for the younger crowd, as little kids generally seem to enjoy the big images that are easy to see, and the large cards that are easy and fun to handle. If you have an older child, you can always set your pdf printer to print two or four sheets per page if you wanted smaller cards.
Phew! That’s all for now. Tamsyn sent me a full copy of the Beginning Rhythm program as well as The Solfege Train program to view as well. Many of these activities, games, and materials are samples from those programs.
I did look through all of the contents in both of those programs and I was impressed. There were so many great activities, especially The Solfege Train which is an entire curriculum (based on the Kodaly method). I’m looking forward to trying more activities with both of my kids.
I decided not to do an in-depth review of EVERY single item in those programs at this time since this post is already quite long. You can click on the above links to see videos and pictures all of the great materials that are in those programs.