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Child Development Through Music & Movement - Movement is an important part of early years music education and can help to identify not only potential child development but also future strengths and natural abilities. Movement is also a natural human response to the world. We naturally want to explore, to learn, to dance, to share. To love and can we do all that through musical movement. 

Many dancers’ parents claim, as the ABBA song line says: “Mother says I was a dancer because I could walk”. And the same can be said of singers, singing before they could talk. This isn’t so surprising. From the earliest days, adults have been using singing and dancing to relax and calm little ones, to capture their interest and imagination as children grow older, and ultimately to enchant and inspire as adults. 

One of the ways that we can check child development progress is by using the ASQ3 questionnaire: sets of interview questions that identify child development milestones, including communication, gross motor movement, fine motor movement, problem solving and personal social skills. This article focusses on using early years music to support the development of gross motor movement. 

At 2 months, most children will: 

  • Wave their arms and legs while lying on their back 
  • Raise, move and turn their head side to side 

At 6 months, most children will: 

  • Lean on their hands when sitting on floor 
  • Roll from their back to tummy 
  • Crawl on hands and knees 
  • Stand while holding their hands 
  • Sit unsupported, and stand while holding onto furniture 

At 12 months, most children will: 

  • Bend/squat to pick things up while holding on
  • Hold on to furniture to lower self 
  • Walk beside furniture while holding on 
  • Take steps while holding hands 
  • Stand up without help 

At 18 months, most children will: 

  • Bend/squat to pick up things
  • Move around by walking with few falls
  • Climb to reach things
  • Walk downstairs while holding hands
  • Kick a ball by swinging their leg 

At 24 months, most children will: 

  • Walk downstairs holding hands
  • Kick a ball by swinging leg 
  • Walk upstairs
  • Run without bumping into things 
  • Jump up with both feet 

At 36 months, most children will: 

  • Kick a ball without holding on for support 
  • Jump up with both feet together
  • Walk upstairs using alternate feet
  • Balance on one foot
  • Throw overhand 
  • Jump forward with feet together 

At 48 months, most children will: 

  • Catch a ball with 2 hands 
  • Throw overhand 
  • Climb a playground ladder 
  • Hop, jump forward with feet together 
  • Balance on one foot 

At 60 months, most children will: 

  • Throw overhand 
  • Catch a ball with 2 hands 
  • Balance on one foot 
  • Tiptoe 
  • Skip 

All of these activities can be accomplished with a song or piece of music to inspire and help child development.

Songs for Child Development Through Gross Motor Activities

 Thula Thul’ 

Thula thul, thula baba, thula sana,  

(Toola tool, toola baba, tool a sana) 
Thul'ubab uzobuya, ekuseni  

(Tool-oo-baab,  oo-zo-boo-ya e-koo-ze-nee) 
Thula thul, thula baba, thula sana,  

(Toola tool, toola baba, tool a sana) 
Thul'ubab uzobuya, ekuseni 

(Tool-oo-baab,  oo-zo-boo-ya ekoo-ze-nee) 
 
There’s a burning star to lead your daddy home 

He'll come from afar, no matter where you roam 

Rest your angry heart, my baby, don’t you cry 

Soon we’ll see him come beyond the bended sky 

This traditional African lullaby is ideal for younger infants, rocking in arms or in blankets, to the relaxing rhythm of the melody. 

Twinkle Twinkle

Twinkle, twinkle, little star, 
How I wonder what you are! 
Up above the world so high, 
Like a diamond in the sky 
 
When the blazing sun is gone, 
When he nothing shines upon, 
Then you show your little light, 
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night 
 
Then the trav'ller in the dark, 
Thanks you for your tiny spark, 
He could not see which way to go, 
If you did not twinkle so 
 
In the dark blue sky you keep, 
And often thro' my curtains peep, 
For you never shut your eye, 
Till the sun is in the sky 
 
'Tis your bright and tiny spark, 
Lights the trav'ller in the dark: 
Tho' I know not what you are, 
Twinkle, twinkle, little star 

This well-known rhyme works really well with ball play. Children sitting opposite each other, roll the ball back and forth, learning how to control how quickly and slowly the ball moves, and how they can control their response. Toddlers can develop their kicking skills, kicking balls high into the air. Older children can practice overhand throwing, launching the ball into the air like stars, all helping child development.

What A Wonderful World 

I see trees of green  
Red roses too  
I see them bloom  
For me and for you  
And I think to myself  
What a wonderful world 
 
I see skies of blue  
And clouds of white  
The bright blessed day  
The dark sacred night  
And I think to myself  
What a wonderful world 
 
The colours of the rainbow  
So pretty in the sky  
Are also on the faces  
Of people going by 
 
I see friends shaking hands  
Saying, "How do you do?"  
They're really saying  
"I love you" 
 
I hear babies cry  
I watch them grow  
They'll learn much more  
Than I'll ever know  
And I think to myself  
What a wonderful world 
 
Yes, I think to myself  
What a wonderful world  

This lovely modern lullaby could be used with intergenerations: older generations may remember the first time it was played; younger generations will enjoy the colourful imagery of the words. This would be a wonderful song to create an adventure path for, finding objects that remind children of the ideas in the song. Older children may be more challenged to perform dramatic play by using their bodies and limbs to become trees and rainbows. 

Movement can be so much more than PE. It can be a source of relief from stressful situations, an escape from fearful situations, and a magical world far away from realities that children cannot control. And combined with music, movement becomes a physical reminder of joy, peace and love while all aiding towards child development.

About the author:

Frances Turnbull, a musician, researcher, and accomplished author, boasts a skill set that encompasses both music education techniques and a Master's degree in Education from the University of Cambridge. Frances' literary contributions shine a spotlight of music, dance, and movement within early years education.

About the author:

Frances Turnbull, a musician, researcher, and accomplished author, boasts a skill set that encompasses both music education techniques and a Master's degree in Education from the University of Cambridge. Frances' literary contributions shine a spotlight of music, dance, and movement within early years education.

About the author:

Frances Turnbull, a musician, researcher, and accomplished author, boasts a skill set that encompasses both music education techniques and a Master's degree in Education from the University of Cambridge. Frances' literary contributions shine a spotlight of music, dance, and movement within early years education.

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