Some kiddos arrive to their session full of pep and raring to go! I often think to myself, “Wow, I wish I had half the energy of this child.” Here at Music Therapy Connections, I work with a lot of students and clients between the ages of 3-7 years old in individual and group settings. This age seems to bring a lot of energy, as well as joy and excitement for music!
Along with this enthusiasm often comes difficulty listening and following directions. This can lead to some not ideal, and even dangerous, situations. Thus, I have come to discover some effective ways to channel this energy into listening, respecting other participants, and following directions.
Turn Your Listening Ears On
This is one I have seen used in many different settings. When my young students and clients are having trouble following directions, I always do this first: I put my hands near my ears, say “turn your listening ears on”, turn my hands like I’m switching my ears on, and make a sound effect. It catches their attention and they usually mimic you. I have found it to be an effective and quick way to get everyone back on track.
Stay in Your Bubble
This one is particularly nice for movement activities. The participant(s) tend to be very passionate about their dance moves. In order to keep everyone safe, I assign a certain area in the room to each person and tell them this spot is their “bubble”. We can dance all we want in our bubble, but we cannot leave it or else it will pop! This allows the participant(s) to express themselves while also preventing injuries.
My students this age come to class with lots of ideas of what they want to do during music time. Fortunately, my groups are often in agreement about the special activity they would like to do. I take this and roll with it. If everyone keeps their listening ears on and follows directions, then we can do the special activity at the end. If things start to get out of hand, I simply remind them of the special activity and they get right back on track. This use of positive reinforcement has worked wonders for my groups and individual sessions!
There are lots of different ways to encourage young music makers to stay on-task without diffusing their excitement. These are ways that I like to use in my groups and individual settings. Do you have any tricks up your sleeve? Let us know in the comments!