I had a beautiful time the other day hanging out with my good friend, Jaclyn. Jack, as she is known to her friends and family, is an inquisitive and intelligent two year old who happens to already have a great sense of internal beat.
And that ended up being a good thing because steady beat was what we were working on that day!
Steady beat is one of the most important components of music education so it's important that your child engrains it to the point that it can be done naturally, as a second-nature activity. These three activities are designed to be flexible and functional in a variety of circumstances, at a variety of ages.
First things first: pick a song.
This song can be anything. Literally anything you want. For us, it was a song she was learning at VBS this week. The only criteria for this song is that your child has internalized it to the point that he or she can sing it without any help.
Steady Beat #1 - with our bodies
This is by far the easiest way to practice steady beat. You can do this any time, any place. What I love about working with steady beat this way is that if a child can move in any way at all, he or she can practice steady beat.
If you have a pulse, you can keep a pulse.
These are the three easiest ways possible to practice steady beat. . .
We started by patting,
Then it was Jack's turn to decide what we should do. She choose hitting our heads.
* This part is important. As much as possible, always try to involve your child in the decision making process of musical moments. When a child is allowed to make decisions, she is crafting her own musical experience. Even at this age, Jack can take an active role instead of a passive role in her music education.
#2 - With Instruments
In all the toddler music classes I've taught, nothing makes this age more excited than pulling out instruments. (It's not just toddlers, by the way. I've never met a human who didn't love breaking out some instruments and jamming out.)
For this activity I brought two things:
and an inexpensive tambourine
Using rhythm instruments is very valuable when it comes to training steady beat demonstration. When we add instruments like rhythm sticks, we are extending our music making apparatus past the hand an into an inanimate object. This means that a child must make judgements about space between objects and the rate at which they should meet to produce a steady beat.
#3 - With Props
This last category is kind of the catch-all of items. If something can be held, touched, or moved it can be used to practice steady beat. This includes but is not limited to:
stuffed animals, pots and pans, pillows, tennis shoes, bean bags, action figures. . . .
If your child has had a negative musical experience of some kind (a negative teacher, embarrassing performance. . .) and is shy or resistant to musical activities this can be a way to make music more approachable by allowing room to add some non-traditional creative elements to music time.
In this case, we used a ball. This adds another level to the need to judge distance between two objects.
Your turn: #'s 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. . . .
Any of these three ways to practice steady beat can be adapted, enhanced, or expanded. For older kids, consider creating steady beat patterns - for instance, *snap*, *pat*, *clap*, *stomp* or another variation.
Though it may seem too simple to devote any amount of time to, steady beat is one of the two crucial building blocks of a musical future. Even if it seems silly to take time out of your day to toss a beanbag to a steady beat, it is very very worth it. If your child needs some intentional work on this skill, these are some great ways to start!
Happy music making. :)