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Independence is considered to be a great asset in the West. The ability to make our own choice is greatly valued, partly because it frees up the time of others and partly because doing what we want generally makes us happy. Many activities in preschool are aimed at helping to develop independence by improving children’s confidence in trying new activities and facing challenges with resilience and perseverance (‘Early Years Foundation Stage Profile - 2021 Handbook’, 2020). Many of these skills are learned through self-regulation skills, and music is a fantastic way to support this.

A study (Hautakangas et al., 2021) in Finland considered the effects of a popular self-regulation programme on a group of 28 children over 10 weeks. As an essential skill that helps us to control our attention, thoughts, feelings and actions, it uses working memory, behavioural inhibition and task-switching to help us do this. Studies have shown that children with high self-regulation skills achieve highly academically, which affects their self-esteem and beliefs about themselves. On the other hand, poor self-regulation skills have been linked to aggression and poor relationship skills.

Research shows that self-regulation skills can be taught to children, and that in areas of high deprivation, these taught skills can help children to achieve equally as well academically as their more affluent peers. Self-regulation develops from repeated experience: from the external, it becomes internal. It relies on the teacher’s consistency in achieving goals, rules and strategies, with regular feedback and reflection to the child.

Many courses have been developed to support this skill, but often they require specific instructions, equipment or finance that is not easily available. Comparing the intervention group with a group that had not been through the course, a statistical difference in self-regulatory behaviour was found, showing that it could not have been coincidentally more effective – the children had changed their behaviour because of the course. In fact, these changes were evident, even when checked 5 months later, with children showing interest in wanting to learn even more new self-regulation skills.

Repetition appeared to be key to the success of this programme – teachers referred to activities and reminded children throughout the day, as opposed to limited times. Interactive support by a suitably trained teacher was also found to be instrumental in its success, with a focus on problem-solving and the ability to apply the programme personalised to each child.

Practically, self-regulatory skills can introduced through developing experience with personal care, addressing basic hygiene like dressing, toileting and healthy food choices. There are a number of musical ways that help to introduce these skills as fun games.

Here We Go ‘Round The Mulberry Bush

Here we go ‘round the Mulberry Bush

The Mulberry Bush, the Mulberry Bush

Here we go ‘round the Mulberry Bush

So early in the morning

This is the way we brush our teeth

Brush our teeth, brush our teeth

This is the way we brush out teeth

So early in the morning

This is the way we comb our hair

Comb our hair, comb our hair

This is the way we comb our hair

So early in the morning

This is the way we put on our clothes

Put on our clothes, put on our clothes

This is the way we put on our clothes

So early in the morning

This lovely traditional song is sung with children walking in a circle around an imaginary Mulberry Bush. It could go on forever with the activities that children could demonstrate, with the others copying the actions.

Do Pity My Case

Do, do pity my case

In some lady’s garden

My room to clean when I get home

In some lady’s garden

Do, do pity my case

In some lady’s garden

My face to wash when I get home

In some lady’s garden

Do, do pity my case

In some lady’s garden

My toys to tidy when I get home

In some lady’s garden

This game could be played in a few ways: walking behind each other in a line “through the lady’s garden”, where the child at the front chooses the activity, e.g. my face to wash, and then goes to the back of the line so all have a turn; rolling or bouncing a ball to a circle of children in turn, giving each a turn to catch and think of an activity; passing an instrument, and the one with it has to choose the activity.

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Head, shoulders, knees and toes

Knees and toes

Head, shoulders, knees and toes

Knees and toes

And eyes and ears and mouth and nose

Head, shoulders, knees and toes

Knees and toes

This traditional children’s song has its roots in an even older tavern song (!), but has been used to teach body parts to young children for a number of generations. Younger children will enjoy matching the words to the body parts, while older children will enjoy the challenge of using it as a memory song, leaving out one or more of the words. Along with self-control, this way of singing also teaches musical timing, as children need to have a sense of how long not to sing in order to accommodate the left-out words.

Independence is considered an important part of self-identity, with research showing that it leads to not only academic success but also personal and relationship success, too. Self-regulation is an important part of developing independence, and cannot be taken for granted. Music makes the process of developing these skills so much more enjoyable!

More songs like these can be found on Musicaliti’s account on Soundcloud https://soundcloud.com/musicaliti/sets/learning-with-music, and You Tube https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLXcjujGUVdOU6vQv5NS7mgT4lL_Egu_0j as part of the Learning With Music https://www.routledge.com/Learning-with-Music-Games-and-Activities-for-the-Early-Years/Turnbull/p/book/9781138192591 series.

References:

Early years foundation stage profile—2021 handbook. (2020). Department for Education, 27.

Hautakangas, M., Kumpulainen, K., & Uusitalo, L. (2021). Children developing self-regulation skills in a Kids’ Skills intervention programme in Finnish Early Childhood Education and Care. Early Child Development & Care, 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1080/03004430.2021.1918125

 

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.

www.musicaliti.co.uk

 

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