Raising children involves sharing our everyday experiences with them. We gradually introduce them to situations which they may face one day, providing them with skills for independent, successful lives. By relating to children’s everyday experiences, it is possible to broadly cover the goals of history, geography and science, even in the early years. Howard Gardner’s theory on multiple intelligences (1983) indicates that presenting information in different ways creates more opportunity for children to learn successfully. He suggested that people learn in different ways, and may even have a preferred learning style. His later research confirms that this does not mean we should be taught exclusively in one way, and external research agrees with this: we learn better when information is presented in multiple ways.
Gardner originally described seven types of intelligence, and 20 years later, identified another two (Gardner, 2003). Briefly, these are
- Verbal-linguistic intelligence: well-developed verbal skills especially in sounds, meanings and rhythms in words
Skills: listening, speaking, writing, teaching
- Mathematical-logical intelligence: thinking conceptually and abstractly, finding logical and numerical patterns
Skills: problem-solving, performing experiments
- Visual-spatial intelligence: thinking in images and pictures, visualising accurately and abstractly
Skills: puzzle building, painting, constructing, fixing, designing
- Bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence: control body movements accurately, handling objects skilfully
Skills: dancing, sports, practical experiments, acting
- Interpersonal intelligence: detecting and responding to others’ moods, motivations and desires accurately
Skills: seeing other perspectives, empathy, counselling, co-operating
- Intrapersonal intelligence: self-aware and in-tune with inner feelings, values, beliefs and thoughts
Skills: self-worth, reflective, aware of inner feelings
- Naturalist intelligence: recognise and categorise plants, animals and natural objects
Skills: recognise connection to nature, apply scientific theory to life
- Existential intelligence: sensitivity and ability to consider questions on human existence, e.g. meaning of life, why we die, why we are here
Skills: reflective deep thinking, design abstract theories
- Musical intelligence: produce and appreciate rhythm, pitch, timbre (instrumental voice)
Skills: sing, play instruments, compose music
All of these intelligences and skills can be seen in the development of the Early Learning Goals (‘Early Years Foundation Stage Profile – 2021 Handbook’, 2020), with various recommended approaches as to how these may be achieved. Developing an awareness of past and present through a musical approach provides an enjoyable, inclusive way to explore these new ideas.
Early Learning Goal: past and present
Talking about people in children’s lives and the jobs they do gives children opportunities to explore new interests. Recognising differences between past and present helps children to recognise the process of change within the world. Stories about people in the past help children to become aware of the effects that change has on individuals, and the power that individuals have to create change. With many potential songs that could be used here, we have chosen a selection of familiar and unfamiliar folk songs.
Baa Baa Black Sheep
Baa baa black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full
One for the master and one for the dame
And one for the little boy who lives down the lane
This old favourite originally ended with “one for the master, two for the dame, none for the little boy who lives down the lane”. This suggests that it developed in the 1500s during the time of the old English Wool Tax, paying the owners, but not the shepherd doing the work. This songs presents an opportunity to discuss how farming has changed over time.
Mummy loves and daddy loves
And everybody loves little baby
Grandma loves and grandad loves
And everybody loves little baby
This lovely Russian lullaby is about generations within families. It can be used to rock little ones, either in your arms or in a blanket between two adults. Older children may like to rock a toy in blanket.
Cobbler, cobbler mend my shoe
Get it done by half past two
Half past two is much too late
Get it done by half past eight
This chant-type song is an opportunity to talk about old trades and ways of life. It is a great song to develop rhythm, as children can tap one person on the knee while being tapped on the knee. This allows them to feel the beat and also tap the beat at the same time, perfecting their timing.
How Many Miles To Babylon?
How many miles to Babylon?
Three score and ten
Will I get back before you do?
Yes, and back again
Open the gates and let us through
Not without a beck and bow
Here’s a beck, here’s a bow
Open the gates and let us through
This call-and-response song uses old language, like “score” for 20 and “beck” for curtsey. It is played by both people/groups standing opposite each other and swapping sides by going through “gates” – either raised hands or crawling through legs (like “stuck in the mud” game).
Creating new opportunities in safe spaces allows children to explore and play in ways that they may not usually feel free to do. Games provide a way to explore characters and feeling, and once they have ended, return to friends and daily routines. Music holds a unique ability in effortlessly attracting and holding attention in an enjoyable way. Using these three ingredients creates an opportunity to develop a lifelong love for learning, preparing children for school and beyond.
- Early years foundation stage profile – 2021 handbook. (2020). Department for Education, 27.
- Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. Basic Books.
- Gardner, H. (2003). Multiple intelligences after twenty years. American Educational Research Association, Chicago, Illinois, 21. http://www.kvccdocs.com/FYE125/lesson-resources/Gardiner-MI-Article.pdf
About the author:
Musician, researcher and author, Frances Turnbull, is a self-taught guitarist who has played contemporary and community music from the age of 12. She delivers music sessions to the early years and KS1. Trained in the music education techniques of Kodály (specialist singing), Dalcroze (specialist movement) and Orff (specialist percussion instruments), she has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology (Open University) and a Master’s degree in Education (University of Cambridge). She runs a local community choir, the Bolton Warblers, and delivers the Sound Sense initiative aiming for “A choir in every care home” within local care and residential homes, supporting health and wellbeing through her community interest company.
She has represented the early years music community at the House of Commons, advocating for recognition for early years music educators, and her table of progressive music skills for under 7s features in her curriculum books.
Frances is the author of “Learning with Music: Games and Activities for the Early Years“ “Learning with Music: Games and Activities for the Early Years“, published by Routledge, August 2017.