Rules sometimes seems like such a harsh word to me. Especially for an activity where the main component is fun! However, when working with a group of kids and practicing structured activities, they are necessary. Or at least ‘guidelines’ are necessary. I can’t decide if I want to call them guidelines or rules. However, we will stick with rules because even my 2 year old understands what a rule is.
The following rules have guided my music time since the very beginning. I start enforcing these rules/guidelines as soon as they can crawl. Like anything, introducing a new routine to a child takes time and adjustment. The first time you sit down with your group you may be singing very few songs and positively enforcing these rules most of the time you have. However, I promise with time and consistency it gets better and the focus becomes the songs and what we are learning from the songs.
4 Simple Music Time Rules for Children
Participate On A Designated Spot
We use carpet squares as our ‘designated’ spots. (you can sometimes get free outdated samples from carpet stores). However, in the past we have used folded blankets. This designated spot is essential to the little bit of order needed to have a group music time. From the time my babies are little and can crawl away. We help them know that this is their music time spot. We redirect and bring them back over and over again. You have to make sure you are doing engaging, age appropriate activities while they are on the carpet square or the square will lose it’s appeal. For engagement tips please refer to this post. However, over time, I have seen my little girl’s eyes light up when we lay out their carpet square. They crawl right to it ready for some songs! As the kiddos get older enforcing this rule looks a simple as a reminder. Sometimes during a song, a child gets excited, will jump off the carpet square and that is okay. However, when there is a short break I gently remind and we move on.
2. Wait On Designated Spot to Receive Prop or Visual
This little rule is directly linked to the one above. I try to give children as many choices as I can! This empowers them and actually helps them engage in the end. However, with all choices there are good and bad consequences. Nobody is forced to participate, however, if they are not on the designated spot they do not receive the current prop or visual. Enforcing this rule is key with younger children all the way down to 9 months. Even they can understand a positive or negative consequence. They may not care at first, but that is their own choice. However, overtime they will care. I have seen very few kids who do not want to try out a prop or visual.
3. Put Props or Visuals Away When Song is Over
This is another SUPER important rule that can have very little exceptions. Some props children want to play with after an activity is over, however, this cannot happen in a group setting where it needs to keep moving to keep children engaged. When a song is over, we stand up, and come put the sticks, bells, visuals, scarves etc. in the box or bag PERIOD! (except for young young babies, if they need a visual to keep occupied, especially if they have a slightly older sibling that the parent may need to give their current attention to than by all mean KEEP the visual). However, I have found that if I start early with enforcing this rule and help the children put the prop away themselves that they love this part of music time. To be honest, kids under two, putting away the props may be their favorite part of music time.
4. Treat Props and People Kindly
This is a common sense rule for adults, however, sometimes with certain props you have to anticipate what could happen. With my rhythm sticks I have to be strict that if we hit another kid with it we put it away and try again. I laminate my visuals for durability and don’t mind that kids are not careful, they are kids! However, purposefully destroying items is not okay. This rule is fairly self-explanatory. Just keep your materials and the kiddos safe! A safe environment is key to engagement.
These are the simple rules that guide my music time. Most aren’t even explicitly taught or said aloud as I start music time with young babies. They are mostly gentle reminders and actually getting up to help your child back to their spots. Depending on the age and experience of the child helps me know how ‘strictly’ I enforce the following rules. With my 3.5 year old, who is older and a very experienced music time attender I do, not put up with much outside of these rules, and I rarely have to say anything to her. SHE KNOWS! We are mostly working on different types of rules like ‘it is not your turn to talk’ or ‘your not the teacher yet’. 🙂 With my 2 year old, I am more patient, but also FIRM. I expect her to respond to my reminders. When she does throw a fit because we are taking turns or she has to put a prop away, she usually just needs a little break on my lap in a different room with a little hug and a reminder and she is good to go.
Each child is different, be patient with them and yourself. Think about what your goals are for your child and help them reach those goals through patience and consistency.