Engagement Tricks to Help Your Child Participate

I love Music Time, because it helps encourage the skill of self-control in children.Everybody gets to participate in planned, structured activities. My goal is to help my children gain an appreciation for the structure and how the order can bring peace and security, especially when interacting with others. However, I do not like to bore my children and then expect them to sit still and be a good sport. High enthusiasm, consistency, and age appropriateness are key, and it seems unfair to expect children to engage when those 3 things are not met.

But what do I do when my child STILL will not participate?

No child is exactly the same.Regardless of a well planned activity, they do not have the same interests, and attention spans vary not only from age to age, but from child to child. I actually love the challenge of finding what makes each individual child excited and engaged. However, in larger groups, and when interacting with kids in general, it is unpredictable and sometimes you have to adapt on the spot. I cheat a little by sometimes planning how I will adapt on the spot and overtime, a lot of little engagement tricks have become habits.

I want to share a few little engagement tricks that I use with my music time groups. Some of these may seem like common sense, but they actually take some practice to develop them into a habit.

1.Say Their Names!

This is what can separate a music time vs. a library group. You can know every child by name! I try not to call attention to a child that is choosing not to participate, however, when they choose to be excited about a song or focus in to do an action, I love to use positive reinforcement and SAY THEIR NAME! I use their name when I say Thank You, when they bring their prop or visual to me at the end of a song. Everybody loves their name! My favorite name trick is to utilize songs that sing their individual names. My opening and closing song both address each child specifically. Plus, a few of my prop songs say their names as well.

2. Sing Similar Songs!

Especially with younger children, repetition is key. Short similar songs are winners in kids (especially under 3). I try to sing the same songs for a month. In the first week of the month, I expect a little more restlessness, but then slowly see my kids get excited about the familiarity.

3. Use a recognizable prop!

I bring my box of rhythm sticks to every single music time! I don’t always use them, but mostly I do. These rhythm sticks have the best chance to engage everybody of all ages. (plus one of my songs that I sing with the rhythm sticks uses their individual names. I cannot recommend these rhythm sticks enough.

4. Utilize Movement!

All kids need to be up and moving. Children were not meant to sit still. This can be done by actually planning a movement song often, or even adding a movement such as jumping or marching to a song that doesn’t even sing about movement. Sometimes you are trying to teach a specific song and you don’t have the luxury of changing the song just to appease a couple of kids. However, adding a simple movement, or better yet, letting them take turns to pick the movement can help immensely.

5. Cut Transition Time!

This may be the most important, yet hardest one to get into the habit of. When you are changing activities, you want to do it quickly and efficiently so that you will not ‘loose’ the kids engagement as you are switching. I remember leading music time to my little siblings during family night. If I would take too long switching up my song, or spent to much time reading my notes, or putting the last activity away, my mom would say “YOUR LOOSING US!”. Interacting with kids is high energy. Know what is coming next and be willing to move and think fast. This tip does take practice, be patient with yourself as well as your kiddos.

These are my simplest, most used tricks. Even after years of practice I still look over my plans to make sure I am encompassing each one, or at least have a plan of how to ‘utilize movement’ on the spot if I need too! I hope you find these tips useful and can find ways to use them when interacting with your kids.

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